Abu Dhabi: Most of us hardly ever go beyond the few courteous words of greeting we exchange with our watchman every morning. Our reserved nature might just be keeping us from getting to know some very interesting people with some very interesting facets to their lives.
Saeed Roshan leads a simple life as a security guard but ask him about his passion and he opens up about a treasure trove he has built up over 17 years — his coin collection.
“It all started in fourth grade when I walked into a grocery store to buy candy. The store keeper gave me an American dime when returning my change
“It all started in fourth grade when I walked into a grocery store to buy candy. The store keeper gave me an American dime when returning my change,” says the 27-year-old Indian national. “I could not say whether he did so by mistake or to cheat me, but I did not give it back. I was hooked,” he says.
Despite never having travelled anywhere outside his country besides the UAE, Roshan has swelled his collection to currencies from 180 countries over the years. He owns over 500 bank notes and more than 40 kilogrammes of rare coins.
He built up his collection by networking with a number of people, including notable individuals and coin collectors whom he met while he was studying computer science and then working as a textile salesman before he became a security guard.
“My first ever banknote was a 1969 American dollar given to me by my uncle,” he recalls. An year later, he had become an avid collector. “In fifth grade, my teacher hosted an exhibition to showcase my small collection of around 40 coins. I felt like a celebrity,” he said.
Roshan’s interest never waned. “I remember walking five kilometres to get a French coin my friend was always promising he would bring to school,” he revealed.
Even as an adult his eagerness to add a coin to his collection remains as strong as ever. Early last year, when Saeed went home for vacation, he chanced upon a family speaking in an unfamiliar language. Upon asking a woman in the group, who was with her husband and son, he learned that the family was from Kazakhstan.
“A light-bulb suddenly lit in my head. I went after the boy and asked him for money,” he recalls with a smile. “Of course, the boy thought I was about to rob him and went to call his mother who informed the police.”
Luckily, Roshan was carrying his big bag of coins and currencies and was able to explain himself and wriggle out of the situation. “The family was very understanding and sympathetic, and that’s how landed my first Kazakh bill,” he says.
One of the most significant items in Roshan’s collection is the first official Dh50 coin which was shared among the GCC countries, followed by a very unique 90s Elvis Presley coin from the Marshal Islands.
“My first gold coin was found by my wife, who shares my passion, last year in the rubble of a demolished building,” he said. He later found that it dates back to the 1600s when Emperor Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal reigned.
Roshan has what can be a considered a starter’s kit for those keen on starting a collection of their own. “It includes coins which I do not need and which I sell for a price of Dh2 or Dh3,” he says.
“Currencies are always on my mind. I always carry at least one coin or bill with me at all times,” he said.
Asked if he would be ready to sell his collection, he replies: “I cannot live without my heart.”