Punch-marked coins are a type of early Coinage of India, dating to between about the 6th and 2nd centuries BC. It was of irregular shape.
The first coins in India were minted circa the 6th century BC by the Mahajanapadas of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, and certainly before the invasion of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. The coins of this period were punch-marked coins called Puranas, Karshapanas or Pana. Some of these coins were struck by a single punch, thus carrying only one symbol. For example, Saurashtra had a humped bull, and Dakshin Panchala had a Swastika. Others, like the coins of Magadha, were struck by several punches (often five) and thus carried several symbols. These coins were made of silver of a standard weight but with an irregular shape. The blanks (un-struck coins) were made by cutting up silver plates into pieces of appropriate size and then cutting each piece down to a desired precise weight, typically by cutting off one of the corners.
Mauryan Period (322–185 BC)
During the Mauryan period, punch-marked coins continued to be issued in large quantities. Shortly after the establishment of the Mauryan dynasty in Magadha, the Magadha kingdom morphed into the Mauryan Empire. Similarly, the coinage of the Mauryan Empire was a continuation of the punch-marked coinage of Magadha. Each coin contained on average 50–54 grains of silver depending on wear and 32 rattis in weight Manusmriti, and earlier coins are flatter than later coins. Punches on these coins count to 450 different types with the most common the sun and six-armed symbols, and various forms of geometrical patterns, circles, wheels, human figures, various animals, bows and arrows, hills and trees etc. Many are barely discernible for what they could be.
The basic coin is called the Karshapana (pana) in numismatic terms but the Arthashastra stated there are at least 4 denominations of silver coins in pana, ardhapana (half pana), pada (quarter pana) and ashta-bhaga, or arshapadika (one-eighth pana). But only the Karshapana is found. There are no issues found of the other denominations even though cut coins are found.
Longevity of the punch-marked coinage
Punch-marked coins are mentioned in the Manu, Panini, and Buddhist Jataka stories. They continued circulating in the North until approximately the beginning of the first century CE, but lasted three centuries longer in the South, i.e. until about 300 CE.
In the North, following the fall of the Maurya Empire and the increased influence of the Greco-Bactrians and Indo-Greeks, punch-marked coins were replaced by cast die-struck coins, as visible in the Post-Mauryan coinage of Gandhara.
- http://www.med.unc.edu/~nupam/ancient1.html accessed 15/2/2007
- "Puranas or Punch-Marked Coins (circa 600 BC – circa 300 AD)". Government Museum Chhennai. Retrieved 2007-09-06.