This summer I met a friend in Mongolia and for the occasion he gave me his book about his biography. He is about fifty years old but already published his boigraphy and other numerous books. I read his two books and he writes well that his readers have to read from front to back. His name is Bayarkhuu Dashdorj. I am putting his interview about his hobby. I was lucky to contribute a bit to his grand collection and still have to send him couple of Portuguese escudos.
Ambassador Bayarkhuu Dashdorj from Mongolia was invited as a guest to the Arabic Republic of Egypt. We introduce him as a numismatist with a rich collection of notes and coins from ‘almost 190 countries’ (actually 187 countries). Therefore we invited him via online to visit our magazine office for a brief but interesting interview.
We heard that you are a famous numismatist and therefore invited you for an interview. We are hoping to get some answers to the following questions. It was interesting to note that you have a coin and note collection from ‘almost 190 countries’.
There was an exhibition of my collection at the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2006. Then my collection was published as a series by the ‘Business Times’ newspaper. Thus, people got to know me. In addition, I was interviewed by the ‘Today’ newspaper and the ‘Mongolia Today’ magazine in English.
Exactly how many notes and coins are in your collection and from which countries did they come?
At present, by June 2010, I have banknotes from 198 different countries and coins from 103 countries. I know that my banknotes number over 1 000. However, I have never counted my coins. I left most of them in Mongolia.
I am going to ask you for a brief history. When did you start collecting?
I started collecting when I was first appointed to work at the Mongolian Embassy in Beijing in 1984. I increased my collection during the 1990s when I traveled a lot. Unfortunately, in 1998 a thief stole my collection of banknotes from my home while I was working in India - I guess the coins were too heavy to handle. Since then, I have continued to collect tirelessly for 12 years.
Why did you start collecting - did someone encourage you or did you inherit?
I used to be a curious boy when I was young. My father left me his postage stamps and medals. However, I did not continue that collection but finally chose coin collecting. I had opportunities to collect coins as I am a diplomat and traveled to foreign countries more than other people did.
What were your first notes and coins? Were they precious and historic?
On arriving in Beijing I collected Ten ‘red’ Yuan, Waihui Juan (foreign exchange certificates) surrogate currency, as well as Hong Kong and Macau dollars. I added to this when I visited Hungary in 1987 but lost them all in 1998. You could describe them as ‘Precious and Historic’ and as a ‘magnificent collection’. I recognized that it was the hobby for the elite. According to history a long time ago, Caesar Augustus of Rome liked collecting. In addition, many European kings and saints were collectors.
Is it bulky to keep such a collection? Where and how do you keep the banknotes? Are there any methods for storing? Do you have some of your collection near you?
Since the theft I never leave them. Of course, I have them with me for a long time staying in foreign countries. I use no special storage methods as such and, as you can see from the photograph, I keep them in a simple folder. Generally, there are special albums but a practical folder has some advantages as it can include many notes. My special coin-collection album in Ulaanbaatar is as heavy as a rock.
What is gained by having such a collection?
There are many advantages. Firstly, it is an intellectual labor. Secondly, these banknotes display the history, nationality, development, politics, people, nature, ecology, flora and fauna of their countries. We can develop our knowledge by studying them and there are many banknote experts in western countries. We can study some of those professions and, in addition, we can become money historians. We also get intellectual satisfaction. We will relate more closely to foreigners and become friends through our collecting and investigating. We will learn collection technology and management and then we will have to perfect these. My understanding is that sharing is the main idea of collections. Therefore, I enjoy collecting and sharing items on the basis of enthusiastic friendship, rather than trading, so it will moreover strengthen mutual understanding and friendships.
How many countries have you visited and collected from?
If you are asking about the number ‘187’, I have been to over 40 countries on official visits. Then, how this became ‘187’ is interesting. I have also bought or exchanged notes from other countries. But there is not only one type of note for a country. For example: Germany includes the three countries - Kaiser Germany - the Federal Republic of Germany - and the old Socialist Germany. Japan includes the Second World War’s Japan and the modern Japan. In addition to that, Brazil and Peru have twice changed their currency units. Thus, the number increased to ‘187’.
Are there any rare coins and notes and which ones do you have?
I cannot say exactly as I do not have them in Cairo. However, I have some examples of banknotes, such as Kaiser Germany’s 1914 Mark, the 1931 French Frank, and the 1944 Netherlands Rupee, Japanese Dollars that were used in their conquered countries during the Second World War, the Japanese Rupee, 100 Rubles like unfolded notebooks from 100 years ago, 1930 Chinese Dollars, etc. Franks, Liras, Marks, Gulden and Escudo are all considered rare. In addition, I have Zimbabwean Dollars currently in use. I also have 50 million and even 50 billion notes which are considered the rarest notes. Iraqi 250 notes and Tunisian 30 notes are also interesting as these have become extremely rare. The old Turkish I million Lira banknote is also rare. I have all of these.
How about the most valuable and most attractive examples?
Our family visited Rome winter of 2009 for a holiday. During that time, I bought and exchanged over 70 currency notes. There are 7 currency exchanges around the Termini Railway Station in the center of Rome. There is an exchange outlet called the Cambio. I spent a lot buying currency notes from Zaire, Surinam, and Turkmenistan at the ‘Dom Knigi’ souvenir chamber in Moscow. There is usually no way to buy such valuable items, and I exchanged most of these for Mongolian Tögrög. Our 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500, 1000 Tögrög notes are very useful. In addition to that, I have foreign currency note reserves which I also use for exchanges. As to attractiveness - every country’s currency notes are attractive, only differing from each other by what the note represents. It seems that Latin American and African currency notes are too patchy to be attractive.
Did you mention Tögrög 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 currency notes? That is wonderful.
Yes, I keep these in packets and take them wherever I go for exchanges.
I took part in the ‘Hawaiian Collectors 16th Annual Expo’ during 2006. I advertised and sold some Tögrög. I had some 10, 20 50 Tögrög notes but was short of 500, 1000 Tögrög notes. They do not know about Mongolia and our Tögrög was accepted as rare. I received many Kaiser Germany’s 1914 Marks in exchange for 10, 20, 50 Tögrög notes. This person had enough Marks and needed Tögrög. This way I exchanged a lot in Bangkok, Berlin, Geneva, London, Rome, Kuwait, Beirut and Cairo.
How well do you stay connected with other countries’ collectors?
I am a member of the International Bank Note Society (IBNS) that has 1 700 members in more than 90 countries. I do not know of other Mongolian members but can get this information when I receive their directory of this year. The organization publishes IBNS Journals that contain all the information and it has its own website that can be entered freely to get information. I have ordered and read a copy of the 1961-Present Directory on World Paper Money, which includes information on all countries’ money with pictures.
I have many numismatist friends from IBNS. I always communicate with friends from England, US, Brazil, Portugal, Hong Kong, Oman, Lithuania, Croatia, Canada, France, Norway, South Africa, Finland and Vietnam via E-mail and sometimes they send me paper money by insured mail. For example: Kath and Steve from England, Dale Leslie form Hawaii, Anil Jain from Hong Kong, Alexandre Costa from Brazil, Greta Minikevičiutė from Lithuania, and Tomislav Rajkovic from Croatia,etc.
Also in Cairo alone more than 30 diplomats with the same hobby are my friends. We talk about establishing a coin collectors’ club in the diplomatic corps. Some of these friends will leave their collections to their children. I have my own way of collecting them. The Angolan Ambassador in Abu Dhabi and Ambassador of Bhutan in Al-Kuwait have contributed to my collection. Swimming club friends, such Godson Ogbonna from Johannesburg, Vahid Tofighi from Iran, are also keen collectors. I also have Egyptian friends, even in the Foreign Affairs Ministry. These are the heads of departments and Ambassadors who support my collection.
Do you have relatives who have such a collection?
None. Nevertheless, some of my friends support me by donating banknotes or coins collected when they travel abroad on diplomatic service. Even my students working in Europe, US, Australia, Emirates and Turkey send me money. In addition, I hope that after this interview people will donate to me.
Sorry to ask this but, if you were to sell your collection, how much would it cost? You may sometime have to make such a decision.
I will never sell my collection. I will leave it to my youngest son. I cannot say how much it would cost - I think it would not be that much but perhaps its value will increase sharply in say 10 or 20 years time.
Have you ever felt sorry for not buying a coin or paper money, or for losing some?
Almost none - I felt sorry for once in 1998 when I lost the whole collection that I had collected so tirelessly. Sometimes, I feel sorry for not collecting all the notes before changing them for Euro. Nevertheless, if I search I might find them again. I found Portuguese Escudos, French Franks, Italian Liras and Irish Pounds during the last half year.
Do you have other hobbies?
I like swimming, photography and filming. My father was a famous director and moviemaker and my mother was a photographer and I make films about my family history. I started swimming in the sea after arriving in Hawaii during 2006. I like collecting clams, shells, whelks, oysters, cockles and rocks from the deep sea (Red Sea). I have compared seashells collected from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Swimming in the sea and being hit by waves is wonderful. Do you know how interesting it is when dolphins swim near you? This is the most wonderful hobby for all men.
Thank you for this interesting interview. May your collection increase!