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Said Roshan with a small part of his foreign currency collection. Mr Roshan has been collecting banknotes and coins for 16 years and has money from 140 countries. Silvia Razgova / The National
Said Roshan with a small part of his foreign currency collection. Mr Roshan has been collecting banknotes and coins for 16 years and has money from 140 countries. Silvia Razgova / The National

Security guard collects currency from around the world

Said Roshan has collected 200 different currencies from various countries, some dating back to the late 19th century.

ABU DHABI // When he is not working as a security guard at the Rocco Forte Hotel, Said Roshan can often be seen walking around town with a backpack full of money.

That may sound suspicious but Mr Roshan's money is not for spending, nor for personal gain.

It is money that will go into a collection he has been compiling for the past 16 years.

He took up his hobby in 1995, when he was nine years old.

"I was buying a toffee from a cafe in India and the shopkeeper gave me back a dime," says Mr Roshan, 25. "I really liked the way it looked and from that point I started collecting."

Mr Roshan spent the first 14 years collecting banknotes and coins in his home country, India. He tries to expand his collection with every person he meets.

His collection grew significantly after he moved to the UAE in 2009 because of its diverse population.

Now he has 200 bills and coins from about 140 countries, including Nepal, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Mr Roshan keeps his bills carefully protected behind plastic sheets, taking special care of the older bills.

His most precious pieces include an Egyptian bill from 1898 and coins dating to the Raja Raja Chola dynasty in India more than 1,000 years ago.

But Mr Roshan's efforts have not always been well received. Nearly a month ago, one encounter almost landed him in jail.

"I was at the Sharjah Airport waiting at the gate for my flight and I saw people come my way," he says. "It was a family and they were speaking a strange and unfamiliar language."

Too shy to ask the adults in the group, Mr Roshan decided to approach one of the children.

"I asked him, 'Where are you from?' He replied that he was from Kazakhstan. So then I asked him, 'Do you have money?'"

The message was lost in translation. The child ran back to his parents and his family called for security.

"I then took out my album and showed them that I collect currencies," he says. "The family was very understanding and handed me a Kazakhstani bill."

Most experiences have been pleasant, with people intrigued by his fascination with currencies.

At his previous job as a guard at the Higher Colleges of Technology's central services building, Mr Roshan often talked to faculty and staff.

"We would always see him around the area and he would always play with our kids," says Aaron Sorensen, an English and maths teacher.

"One day he was showing the kids and my wife his collection and she found it very interesting."

The next day, Mr Sorensen's wife, Mineko Meakawa, brought two Japanese bills for Mr Roshan.

He also searches for missing pieces to his collection online and joins collector groups. In India he is a member of a group called Relabia, also known as the House of Collections.

But Mr Roshan says the people he meets through these channels are not so generous.

Another one of his most prized possessions is the limited-edition 1953 Mahatma Gandhi rupee. These rupees were designed differently from the ones used today, he says.

"They only came in sets of three: a 1 rupee bill, a 2 rupee bill and a 3 rupee bill," he says. "I had the 2 and 3 rupee bills, but I was missing the 1 rupee bill."

After a lengthy search, Mr Roshan tracked down the bill from a collector in India. But it came at a hefty price.

"I had to pay Dh1,400 from my own pocket for that bill," he says. "But it was well worth it."

That worth cannot be measured in dirhams, as Mr Roshan has not had his collection evaluated.

He continues his search for notes and coins, particularly older ones that reflect a country's heritage.

"You can tell so much about a country just by looking at its currency," Mr Roshan says. "One day, I hope to have the currency for every country."



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