The 1970 One Rupee Coin : Circulation/Business Strike

I haven’t read much about the 1970 Rupee coin because there simply isn’t much to read. Krause lists the 1970 Rupee coin mintage as “included above” within the 1962 Rupee business strike mintage which is roughly 3.2 million. There is no official data that is publicly available for the 1970 Rupee coin to my knowledge. We do know that the mintage for the 1970 proof issue is between 2,900 and 3,100 sets which includes the Rupee coin. We also know that between 1971 and 1974 there was no Circulation/Business strike for a One Rupee coin.

All of the “so called” business Rupee strikes between 1971-1974 are after market fakes or fantasy issues. They were never minted for circulation. Ever! The 1962 Rupee was probably a frozen year for at least two years, and minted into the year 1964 in anticipation of the Commemorative Nehru Rupee. But keep in mind that the 1962 Rupee was “re-struck” as part of the 1967 strip pack set, the 1967 Proof Set, and the 1967 Uncirculated set. What is interesting is that the 1970 One Rupee coin makes three similar guest appearances in: Proof, Strip Pack, and a Business/Circulation strike as well. One of the reasons the 1970 Rupee may not be readily available in present day may have been because of the brief perceived worldwide Nickel shortage of 1969.



The price of Nickel remained somewhat consistent between the years of 1957-1966 per pound at a median price of .77 USD The first year the commodities market saw a median increase per pound in Nickel was 1967 to .88 USD, and then the following years are applicable in lieu of median price: 1968 .95 USD, 1969 1.05 USD, 1970 1.29 USD, 1971 1.33 USD per pound. There are three primary reasons for year over year increases in Nickel prices : growing global stainless steel demand, The Vietnam War, and of course speculation. On November 21st 1969 the price of Nickel stood at a record $7.70 per pound! This was a 500%+ increase in price from a year ago, and the worst Nickel shortage since World War II The United States fervently was scrapping metal for Nickel to fulfill domestic demand, and secured an ample supply sometime in 1970. Somebody at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI/Government) possibly elected not to buy additional Nickel supply in 1969 for the 1970 mintages, and maybe the RBI/Government bought very sparingly.

Some of you may be saying/thinking, “The 1968 25 Paise has a big mintage, look at the mintages for the 1969 50 Paise, 1969 Gandhi 50 Paise, and the 1969 Gandhi One Rupee which are all pure Nickel.” They are massive mintages in total as we know, and the metal was probably bought in advance at favorable prices. The government had to take delivery of the metal at port, ration the metal to the appropriate mints, smelt it, prepare the dies, produce blanks, and then get ready for production/distribution. Imagine the logistics involved, and I’m sure I missed many points. Father Time. He’s always against us, and what did we do to him? Nothing. We simply exist on his watch.

The amount of Nickel on hand at the RBI’s reserve in 1970 is unknown. But the RBI did have some Nickel on hand to mint 1970 Rupees, and 50 Paise Coins. The circulation strikes were minted in small quantities, and nobody has the answers but the RBI themselves of what was actually minted per se. The only pure Nickel circulation coin produced after 1970 was the 1971 (C) 50 Paise coin which had a mintage of 57,000,000 I suspect this was a “planned mintage” as I don’t see so many of those coins from my experience, but i’m uncertain about its present day availability. In addition, the 1971, 1972, 1973, and 1974 Proof Rupees were the only other pure Nickel coins issued by The Bombay Mint.

The following 1970 coins were minted in pure Nickel: 1970 Rupee “B” business strike, 1970 Rupee “B” Proof, 1970 50 Paise “B” Proof, 1970 50 Paise “B” business strike, and the 1970 50 Paise “C” business strike.

Here are mintages from Krause

1970 Rupee (B) Circulation Strike : “included above with 1962 Rupee mintage” which essentially means unknown

1970 Rupee (B) Proof Striking : 3,046

1970 50 Paise (B) Circulation Strike : “included above with 1969 50 Paise mintage” which essentially means unknown

1970 50 Paise (B) Proof Striking : 3,046

1970 50 Paise (C) Circulation Strike : “included above with 1969 50 Paise mintage” which essentially means unknown

How many stories have we heard/viewed/watched from the past or present about coins being melted for whatever reasons over decades in India? The main reason for these behaviors were rising metal prices. “Lets melt all this stuff down, and make some ingots which we can resell for triple the price!” Sounds like a plan to me, but I would rather go to jail for stealing the “Mona Lisa.” At least I would have a good story to tell in prison, and I wouldn’t be any better of a criminal than the guy sitting next to me that got caught (s)melting coins. We both sucked at what we did hence our simultaneous incarceration. Where was I? Yes, yes, yes…coins….coins…Some of these 1970 coins have probably made their way to the smelter.

People always save(d) coins for novelty, and I’m sure some of these coins are sitting in a “cupboard” or “Kabart” as my cousins say. I can say from my experience that I don’t have many 1970 50 Paise UNC coins so I don’t have much clarity as to what is available, I am in the United States, and a collector in India may have a different experience. I speculate The Bombay Mint produced small quantities of the 1970 One Rupee coins in comparison to the surrounding mintages such as the 1962 or 1969 One Rupee coins.

1972 was the inaugural year when the RBI choose to use Copper-Nickel as the choice metal for the 25 and 50 Paise denominations which was 75% Copper and 25% Nickel for many years to come, and 1975 marks the reintroduction for the circulation/business strike Rupee coin as well with more to come. The RBI had enormous cost savings by using a fraction of the Nickel they were using previously for circulation coinage, and Nickel is a very durable metal. The metal is not as cheap as it was, the median price of Nickel from 1968 had risen by almost 50% on average to 1972, and the RBI probably bought Nickel in 1971 when the prices plummeted from the speculative bubble a few months/years back to normalized levels.


Most of the 1970 Rupee circulation strikes that I have handled are not struck very well from my experience, and on rare occasion I will find a fleur-de-coin. Nickel in general is a problem metal to strike because of it’s hardness. Any weak strikes are not tolerated in general by the metal itself, and we will see many 1962’s that are not the most stellar strikes riddled with planchette flaws in various places. I’ve seen many problem 1962’s, and those coins have been impossible for me to find in eye pleasing technical grades. The obverse is always struck weakly in the eyes, ears, face, nose, toes, whiskers, and high points in general.


The 1970 Rupee falls in the same category as the 1962’s minus all the plachette flaws. But it’s not the metal’s fault entirely for the poor strikes, and Indian Mint’s are/were notorious for recycling dies. Could a sparingly used obverse die from the 1962 Rupee be paired with a 1970 reverse die? It’s very likely or it could have been a recycled die, and a new die. Could a 1970 obverse proof die been used for a circulation strike? Possibly, but very unlikely, and if you find one it is a mule. Could the obverse die from the “strip pack” be recycled for the Proof die? Probably not, but anything is possible, and I have never seen one. The strip pack dies for 1970, and the circulation/business strike dies are both in fact the same design for the Rupee coin just as they are for 1962. This gets very confusing but this is what all of this means: The “Small Lions Obverse” die design for 1962 was used for 1970 without any changes until the 1970 Proof coins were struck which has a “Big Lions Obverse”. The “Big Lions Obverse” was used for the 1971 Proof Rupee issue as well, the mint very well could have recycled the 1970 obverse die for 1971 easily, and then the mint elected to go back to the “Small Lions” design for the entire 1972 Proof Rupee.

Here are the rough specifications for the “Small Lions Obverse” and the “Big Lions Obverse”:

Small Lions middle of the head to bottom of the pedestal base measurement: 23mm
Big Lions middle of the head to bottom of the pedestal base measurement: 24.5mm

Small Lions measurement taken from the nose tip of the left flanking Lion to the nose tip of the right flanking Lion: 14mm
Big Lions measurement taken from the nose tip of the left flanking Lion to the nose tip of the right flanking Lion: 15mm

Small Lions measurement taken from bead or bar flanking the Horse on the left to the bead or dot flanking the Bull on the right: 12mm

Big Lions measurement taken from bead or bar flanking the Horse on the left to the bead or dot flanking the Bull on the right: 13mm+


The overall differences between these obverses can be seen with the naked eye if you put them side by side, but with a quick glance it’s hardly noticeable. One distinct characteristic of the “Big Lions Obverse” is one of his engraved whiskers almost touches the bottom eyelid underneath his left eye. I first discovered these differences while looking at my 1973 Proof Rupees, and I thought I was seeing things late at night. But yes, there are two Proof Rupee varieties for the 1973 issue. How did it happen? One possibility is that The Bombay Mint used the “Small Lions Obverse” until it was exhausted, and went to the “Big Lions Obverse”. I speculate they may have ran out of the “Small Lions” dies, and used possibly the leftover “Big Lions” from the 1970/1971 dies, and probably made dies on demand when necessary. I have a Proof Rupee with a sizable die crack, and it should have never been sold in a set. These coins are the supposed cream of the crop, and flawless. It is what it is.

Is the Small Lions Obverse a muling for 1973? Tricky question. Is the Big Lions a muling for 1973? Another tricky question. The Bombay Mint used the Small Lions Obverse for the entire 1972 Proof Rupee issue, and the mint may have had every intention of using the Small Lions for the entire 1973 issue. But, the demand possibly exceeded the dies on hand, and they didn’t have enough time to make more dies. They were scrambling, and found a swift solution : Release the Big Lions Obverse from it’s cage. The Big Lions were again on the prowl sometime in 1973, and they walked the entire year of 1974 by themselves. Maybe the Small Lions and the Big Lions roamed together from the very beginning in 1973.

When did the Big Lions and Small Lions specifically roam out of The Bombay Mint in 1973 : indeterminate

The Bombay Mint issued two 1973 India Proof Set versions: a 9 coin set and 10 coin set. Both sets contain both versions of each of the coins, and it is difficult to determine which version is scarcer. Keep in mind that the 1973 India Proof set had the highest mintage out of all the 1970’s Proof sets produced for reasons unknown, and The 1974 Proof set only contains the “Big Lions Obverse” for all Proof Rupees minted that year to my knowledge. Most of the 1974 Rupee obverse strikes are a hodgepodge of quality. Some of the 1974 Rupees I have seen are really bad in the facial area, and little detail can be seen. No matter what scrutiny is mentioned within these writings we must be satisfied that these coins were minted, and give thanks to Paramount International Coin Corporation in Ohio that first brought us these coins.


Why did The Bombay Mint elect to mint Proof Rupees from 1970 to 1974 in lieu of steadily rising Nickel prices? They were making money, no pun intended, and Paramount International Coin Corporation was paying them something to buy these sets in 1970 which they were retailing at an issue price of $15 within the United States. Another reason may have been that the set may not be/look complete without the main coin: “The Rupee” The total run of Proof Rupees from 1970-1974 was about 29,000-31,000 coins, and each coin weighs 10 grams. In “ore” terms the total weight was roughly 300 Kilograms or 661 pounds which cost let’s say $1.45 Per Pound =ing $958.45 Compare this to what the RBI would have had to spend making pure Nickel circulation Rupees as they did back in 1969 which they struck about 11.8 Million.

The price of Nickel had risen sharply since the 1969 Rupee coins entered circulation, and the 1970 Rupee didn’t stand a chance of being minted in the millions or even hundreds of thousands. Sheer economics hindered a large scale 1970 Rupee coin mintage, and the 1970 One Rupee paper money option was much cheaper to produce than it’s metallic cousin.

The 1970 Rupee circulation coin doesn’t come up very often on eBay, but that is only one viewing venue, and I am mainly searching the USA site. What I do see are many 1970 One Rupee notes up for sale in comparison to the One Rupee coin. Possibly the RBI may have injected/printed more paper money to account for the deficiency of 1970 Rupee coinage because of the high Nickel prices. But that needs to be researched much deeper, and there was a similar scenario which occurred back in 1940 that I wrote about in my analysis of the 1939 Rupee.

Within the last calendar year of browsing eBay I have seen over 75 1938 One Rupee coins for sale graded/non graded in all grades. You know how many 1970 One Rupee coins I’ve seen in the last year in all grades? Less than 7, and all of those examples were UNC/BU+ within the United States only with the exception of one which was Au. The remaining examples I saw on eBay India were not as good quality as the USA examples. There were very few UNC examples, and most were Au or in lower grades. Now that’s not true about the examples I saw in the auction house catalogs from India.

These coins recently started showing up in Indian Auction houses because they now have more value than they did in the past. Maybe there is more demand, and more collectors are seeking this coin. The auction house examples were pretty much on par with the USA eBay examples in quality terms, and seeing coins in person is always advisable when you are potentially buying. How did these BU coins end up in the USA? That’s a bigger mystery than this story so far, and I have not a clue.


See how many 1970 Rupees you can find in the next year(s), and then compare it to the availability of the 1938 Rupee as well. They are two different coins with two different strikes, varying popularity, and limited supply. But I think it’s an interesting comparison for scarcity/availability purposes. What is scarce is not always on par with price or vice versa. With collector demand increasing for coins of India in general, the demand for this particular mystery date coin will build further, and only time will show us how difficult or easily the coin may be to obtain. I’ve had a difficult time finding this coin, your experience may vary, and best of luck hunting your metallic Lions. big or Small-