The first thing that immediately stands out is that this was a man who was clearly in love with the earliest coins of India. The silver punch-marked coins (c. 6th/5th to 2nd century BCE), which are the earliest coins of India, are represented in large numbers and constitute more than 20 per cent of the collection. Although there are institutional collections which comprise a larger number of these coins, they are mostly built through treasure troves.
Very few individual collectors, on the other hand, are interested in these coins which bear no inscriptions and are difficult to attribute to specific rulers. However, this does not seem to have been a deterrent for Lance Dane. He saw beauty in the antiquity and symbols of these coins and collected them in large numbers. In all probability, he started collecting them considerably early on in his career, which allowed him to build such a vast collection featuring such a diverse series of coins.
The other striking feature of Lance’s collection is that save a few fanams and some others, gold coins are virtually absent from the collection. Some readers may therefore be astounded by the use of the adjective ‘striking’ because in our country, particularly among the fraternity of coin collectors, the strength or richness of a coin collection is judged by the number of glittering gold coins present in it. But Lance belonged to a rare breed of collectors who are not enamoured by the glitter of gold.
This overview of around 35,000 coins that the late Lance Dane bequeathed to the Hinduja Foundation Antiquity Collection, Mumbai, is at best a preliminary one.
What enchanted him perhaps were the ordinary base metal coins (copper, alloyed coppers, lead, etc.) — the common man’s currency. This could have impelled Lance to build one of the finest collections of early uninscribed cast copper coins, issued at least from the Mauryan period if not slightly earlier, and the large variety of many series of post-Mauryan coins from the north, central and Deccan parts of the country. This could also be attributed to his interest in the coins of this period, which were predominantly struck in cheaper metals, but we cannot be sure. However, what is beyond doubt is the fact that Lance’s bequest contains a large proportion of coins in copper, bronze, lead, etc. and that it possesses one of the most important collections of post-Mauryan issues.
Apart from the above, the Deccan appears to have been an area of special interest for Lance. Like north and central India, the Deccan saw the issuance of several types of inscribed and uninscribed coins by many local states and rulers in the post-Mauryan period. Owing to numismatic evidence, one can clearly discern that at several places there were rulers issuing coins in the pre-Satavahana period.
These disappear once the Satavahanas, one of the major dynasties of the Deccan, emerge as a major political power in the 1st century BCE. The Satavahana currency system is characterised by what Shailendra Bhandare — who did a masterly PhD dissertation on these coins wherein he incidentally utilised a large amount of important numismatic data from Lance’s collection — calls the ‘regiospecific’ types. What it actually connotes is that for the different regions under their control, the Satavahana rulers issued different types of coins. As a result of this, the Satavahana coinage is characterised by large varieties of coin types. Thanks to Lance’s interest, this is one of the finest collections featuring coins from the pre-Satavahana and Satavahana periods, along with those belonging to the contemporaries of the Satavahanas in the Deccan.
The Western Kshatrapas, partly contemporaneous with the Satavahanas and some of whom also ruled and issued coins in the Deccan apart from western India, issued a remarkable series of silver coins over a period of about 350 years. It also influenced others like the Traikutakas, Guptas and the early Kalachuris to issue similar silver coins. Besides silver, some Western Kshatrapa rulers also issued coins of many types in cheaper metals like copper, bronze, lead etc. The Western Kshatrapa coinage appears to have been another of Lance Dane’s favourites, and he collected them in large numbers.
From his collection, it can be surmised that Lance’s interest in ancient Indian coins was generally limited up to the Gupta period. Although he was not interested in the Gupta gold coins issued in the north, he collected their copper coins, which are rarer, and the silver and lead coins from western India. A few post-Gupta series like the coins of early Kalachuri ruler Krishņaraja, in silver and particularly in copper, the Vishņukuņdin type coins found from Prakasha and surrounding areas in Dhulia district, and several others issued by local dynasties were collected in large numbers. But except for these, Lance does not seem to have made a concerted effort to collect coins of other series of post-Gupta and the early medieval period. Hence, many of these coins may be found in the collection, but rather sporadically.
Lance did not evince much interest in the medieval period, in coins where certain mainstream series are quite profuse. As a result, a few coins of the Sultanate and Mughal period may be found in the collection, but they were not collected systematically. However, some small and rare series like the coins of the Gonds of Devgarh interested him. It is in the post-Mughal period that he shows some interest in the coins of some independent states like Mysore, those of the Maratha empire as well as some princely states. Coins of these states make up the bulk of the medieval coins present in the bequest.
Speaking on behalf of students of Indian numismatics, it must be said that we are all grateful to Lance for collecting these, keeping them intact and bequeathing them to the Hinduja Foundation so that these important markers of our history are preserved for posterity.