Punch Marked coins are the earliest coins issued in India. Dating to between about the 6th and 2nd centuries BCE, these coins are a fascinating yet mysterious part of the Indian Coinage. As the name suggests, the coins are metal sheets with symbols punched on them. The punch-marked coins care called as Karshapanas or Pana in Puranas.
The study of the relative chronology of these coins has successfully established that the first punch-marked coins initially only had one or two punches, with the number of punches increasing over time. Several of these coins had a single symbol, for example, Saurashtra had a humped bull, and Dakshin Panchala had a Swastika, others, like Magadha, had several symbols.
The above coin is a Punch Marked Coin of the Nanda Dynasty of Magadha. Magadha's earliest coins were dumpy silver 35-mashaka pieces of roughly 7.6 gm. that featured a single "6-arm symbol" punch. Around 420 BCE, the 25-mashaka denomination was replaced by a karshapana standard of roughly 3.5 gm. At first, the karshpanas continued to feature four punches, but quite soon this was changed to a five punch design.
The five symbols on this coin are the Sun symbol, six-armed (Magadha) symbol, a bull on a hilltop, Indradhvaja flanked by four taurines, elephant. The obverse is plain with a single punch of three-arched hill topped by a crescent.
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