Majority of Kenyans keep old coins for a while before throwing them away. Others use them for decoration, but for Benson Muriu, these old coins, including colonial-era relics, not only put food on the table, but also educate his children. Muriu was arrested in February 2016 and charged in a Kiambu court for melting down currency. He pleaded guilty and was fined Sh2,000. The lover of old coins told Hustle Gang, “I dropped out of school in Form Two and joined a technical college in Machakos where I trained as a mechanic. I pursued that line for three years”.
Muriu then rekindled an old interest in old coins passed from his grandfather and went to the Central Bank of Kenya where he was given coins that are not legal tender. Like 10 cents and coins from foreign countries.
“My love of old coins started with my grandfather who died in the 1960’s. He used to make rings from old East African coins collected during construction of the railway,” says the man who once worked as mechanic for three years before landing a job as pump attendant at a petrol station along Mbagathi way for nine years until 2009.
“This ‘gift’ was passed to my uncle who also followed in his footsteps until he died in 2008,” says Muriu.
Residents of Kiambura village in Thogoto, Kikuyu, Kiambu County started trickling in his house, offering to sell him old coins. Others gave him for free. Armed with a hacksaw, sandpaper, pliers, hollow bearings, and old coins, Murui waded into the unknown.
“The first rings were not that good, but with time, I perfected and managed to hammer engagement and wedding rings. I buy old Sh10 cents coins and those from others countries for Sh10. I’ve also started using old Pegler water taps from England to make rings,” he says.
The Pegler taps are made of brass. Muriu sells a wedding ring for Sh2,500 to Sh3,000 depending on the materials, and pair for Sh5,000. Engagement rings retail for between Sh3,000 to Sh4,000 since they are decorated compared to wedding rings. Muriu who uses word of mouth advertising and wedding committees has no employees.