SCOTT SEMANS WORLD COINS

THAI COMMEMORATIVE BULLET COINS    (112)



       Today, Thailand is a prolific issuer of commemorative coinage. Prior to the 1860s, her coinage consisted of round balls of silver and gold, similar to musket balls, called pod duang, and though not listed or properly identified in general references, some of these were either issued for or given in conjunction with special events. Today they would be called commemoratives.

       Occasions calling for special coins included dedication of Wats (temples), royal cremations, inauguration of a new reign, and 60th birthdays. It is generally believed that 1/2, 1/16 and 1/32nd bahts as well as multiples and most gold bahts were mainly or exclusively made for gifting. The 1/8 and 1/4 Bahts of Rama III except for Prasat were all made as gift coins. There are also 1/8, 1/4 and 1 bahts with unusual versions of regular-issue marks. We can not rule out that distinctive punches were prepared for each gifting occasion, but more likely a stock of special-mark coins was kept and drawn from as needed. in 1880, long after western-style flat coins replaced the bullets in circulation, an impressive set of two through eighty Baht Cho Rampeuy bullet coins was issued to honor Rama IV's mother.

       More in line with Western ideas of a true commemorative coinage are the special-type and multiple-mark bullets. Special types include the Krut Sio for the cremation of Rama II and Prinyit Unalom for some unknown occasion. Probably as early as King Taksin, bullets already bearing marks of current or earlier reigns were stamped with additional marks, probably for specific occasions. Perhaps historical research will yield a list of occasions on which coins were scattered, or even a linkage of event and particular coin. Pieces which include a mark from a prior reign, suggest an event honoring that reign, such as a 60th or 120th anniversary of birth, coronation, cremation, etc.

       Presentation coins were given to those attending ceremonies; many were also given to the public and thereafter used in circulation, accounting for the heavy wear found on many pieces. The American Numismatic Society Museum holds two bullet coins in their original "packaging" for scatter: one in a cloth pouch, another attached to a small umbrella. Coins were also sometimes tossed in limes. Bullet coins were sometimes mounted with a looped bar attached to the underside and worn as charms. These could be enhanced with engraved marks of either fanciful or known coinage types, so multiple-mark pieces bearing elephants or symbols other than Bangkok era reign marks are likely private charms.

       Pioneering author Reginald LeMay recognized and described a few of these coins, and today's Standard Catalog of World Coins lists a random handfull of them, but the only serious discussion and catalog ever done appears to be "Siam Silver Baht Presentation Pieces" by Albert J. Ruh, published in World Coins Magazine of January, 1972 p.26. Following is a catalog of multiple-mark commemorative bullet coins based on Ruh's article and including his "P" numbers. In augmenting his listings I have made up my own "Craig." numbers, leaving gaps for undiscovered types. Marks are listed with front & back positions first, then sides, and "+" top mark (almost always Chakra). I would greatly appreciate information on additional multiple-mark and other largesse bullets.
C# Denom Marks Ruh Oliver Other Sources
195 1 B Wheel (LeMay mark #10), Lotus Bunch (mark 17 or 31) and 7 others ST15 #4
201 1 B Tri x 2 P20
203 1 B Unalom x 2 + Chakra CR;Eur16#699
204 1/4 B Same ST15#13
205 1 B Unalom x 4 + Chakra P21b 3 Sm13, Bu2.6
208 1/8 B Same P21a 3a Sm8, Bu2.6, GS#79, ST15#14;
212 1 B Krut x 2 + Chakra P22 5 Sm20, Bu3.5, GS#75, ST15#15; M&KE39
213 1/4 B Krut, Unalom + Chakra M&KE40#2
215 2.5 B Krut Sio x 2 + Chakra M&KE15
216 2.5 B Krut Sio x 4 + Chakra M&KE15
218 1 B Prasat over Rachiwat & Wheel of Law (LeMay #24) Cs
220 1 B Prasat, Yantra + Chakra P23 LM p.80
222 1 B Prasat, Tri + Chakra M&KE38
223 1 B Prasat, Tri Eu
225 1 B Prasat, Unalom + Chakra P24 14 Sm32, Bu4.13, GS #72, LM, Eu5#2387; Eu13#641; Eu16#700; Eu17#542; M&KE38; CR
228 1/8 B Same KM44.1
230 1 B Prasat, Krut + Chakra P25 15 Sm33, Bu4.14, GS #76, LM; M&KE38; Eu13#639,640
233 1/8 B Same KM44.2
235 1 B Prasat x 2 + Chakra P26 13 Sm31, Bu4.12, GS #73, LM; M&KE39;ST16#1031; Eu8#8643
236 1/2 B Same Eu6#3612
237 1/4 B Same SS1/09
240 1 B Prasat x 4 + Chakra P27b 12 Sm30, Bu4.8, GS #74; M&KE18;Eu17#546
241 1/2 B Same P27a 12a Sm28, Bu4.9, GS #77; M&KE18; Eu4#1580; Eu6#3611
242 1/4 B Same 12b Sm26, Bu4.10, SS40; M&KE18
243 1/8 B Same 12c Sm24, Bu4.11M&KE18
247 1 B Prasat x 2 + Dok Mai (+ Chakra?) Lp9/87#896
250 1 B Dok Mai x 4 17 Sm58
255 1/4 B Bai Matum x 5 P28
262 1 B Prasat, Tri + Chakra (1 ham mk) Eu8#8644
265 1 B Prasat, Unalom, Bai Matum x2, + Chakra + Arrow Head (tiny) on each leg. 1+1 ham. mk. & Padi-seed nick Cs
268 1/4 B Pra Tao x 4 + Chakra P31 24 GS #78, Cs
269 1/8 B Same M&KE40#6
271 1 B Anchor & 5-spoke Wheel (G.Studies #19) + Large Pra Tao x2 at sides
273 2 B Unalom, Tri (Front & Back); Prasat x 2, Mongkut x 2 (Sides); Pra Tao x 2, Bai Matum x 2 (each leg) Cs 29.78g
275 80 B Mongkut & Chaleo (engraved) P3
280 1 B Mongkut , Prasat (+ Chakra?) KM137.2; DB; Eu12#702
281 1/2 B Same 28a KM136.1
285 1 B Mongkut x 2, Prasat x 2 (+Chakra?) 28
286 Mongkut, Pra Tao x 3 + Chakra Eu14#782 Genuine?
288 1 B Mongkut x 2 + Chakra P29 27 Cs; M&KE39; CR; Eu3#1281; Eu6#2622; Eu9#9415; Eu13#655; Eu14#794
289 1/2 B Same Cs; SS1/09
290 1/4 B Same Cs; M&KE40#3
293 1/4 B Mongkut x 2, + Chakra x 2 AB-genuine?
294 2 B Mongkut x 4 + Chakra M&KE25
294A 1.5 B Same PN:22.91gm
295 1 B Same P30b 26 LM xx #19; M&KE25
295A 3/4 B Same RB10.23gm; M&KE25; AB
296 1/2 B Same P30a 26a GS #68, Cs; ST16#1046M&KE25
297 1/4 B Same 26b Eu6#3623;M&KE25; SS1/09
298 1/8 B Same 26c
305 1 B Mongkut x 4 + Elephant SS59T-genuine?
310 1 B PÕra Kieo x 2 P4
193 80 B Rampuey, Mongkut + Chakra, engraved P5f 30
192 40 B Same P5e 30a C192
191 20 B Same, punched P5d 30b C191
190 10 B Same P5c 30c C190
189 4 B Same P5b 30d C189
188 2 B Same P5a 30e C188


Sources:
Oliver Oliver, Tony, Twenty Centuries of Coins: Thailand's Currency Through the Ages; Bu Rien Kasap Thai by Sataporn Bunket (1999) and Sm Standard Catalog of Thai Coins by V. Smitasin (2005) list Oliver's #3-15, but not later types.
M&K Mihailovs, V., Krisadaolarn, R & Lubo-Lesnichenko, E. Siamese Coins: From Funan To The Fifth Reign
Cs Cresswell, Oliver D., "The Bullet Coinage of Siam" in Spink Numismatic Circular v.XCV#4 (5/87) through XCVI#3 (4/88). Collection included many items published by U.Guehler.
ST "Spink Taisei"Auctions. ST15#14 means Sale #15, lot 14.
Eu Eur-seree Auctions of Bangkok: (Sale)#(Lot)
LM LeMay, Reginald, The Coinage of Siam
Lp Lepczyk, Joseph Auction sales
SS Scott Semans, fixed price list #
AB, DB, RB Various private collections



Albert Ruh's Article:
I have omitted introductory historical material about the Ayuthian dynasty and have not reproduced his catalog, as it is largely subsumed in the table above.

      Siamese presentation coins were used as an integral part of many royal ceremonies. Charity and generosity are significant characteristics of Siamese Theravadan Buddhism. The king was expected to display these characteristics by distributing money to the aged, the poor, and to those attending royal ceremonies.
      During the dedication of Wat Phra Jetubon (known today as the temple of the Reclining Buddha) in 1801, Rama I distributed coupons which could be redeemed for amounts of from two to five catties (160 to 400 Baht) of silver, and limes containing small coins. A total of some 40,480 Baht (roughly $30,000 worth of silver) was distributed at this one ceremony. Such generosity was intended to gain merit for the king and royal family.
      Even the restoration of temples merited the distribution of presentation coins.
      Cremations were another ceremony that called for the presentation of coinage by the king. According to Siamese custom, cremation may follow death by as long as three years in the case of high ranking individuals. Before cremation the family of the deceased would perform meritorious acts in the name of the deceased.
      In some cases the remains of lesser ranking members of the royal family were kept until a suitable cremation ceremony was held. During the actual ceremony it was (and still is) customary for the family of the deceased to present all those attending with some sort of unique gift. In 1855 Rama IV distributed limes containing a gold ring or small coin to each European present at the cremation of a high ranking noble. Similar limes were thrown out to the multitude.
      Still another occasion warranting the minting of a special coin was the celebration of completion of one of the king's life cycles. In 1864 Rama IV issued a flat coin weighing four Baht to celebrate his fifth life cycle (60 years).
      There were four categories of presentation coins used:
    a) Special design: Coins marked with a design not used for general circulation issues. Examples of a special design are the Krut Sio (Craig 31) and the Chaleo (Craig 39)
    b) Special denomination: Coins of other than the standard or fractional Baht weights but with identical marks as regular issues. Examples include the two and four Baht coins of Rama IV.
    c) Extra marks: Some standard denominations of bullet coins were surcharged with one or more extra marks.
    d) Presentation sets: On September 19, 1894, an edict of the ministry of finance contained a section concerning presentation coin sets. Several types of sets, containing either gold or silver coins of the fourth and fifth reigns were to be made up and kept on hand by the Treasury department. These were to be presented upon appropriate occasions to selected individuals, including old people, in much the same way as had been the custom. However, there was a provision authorizing the sale of a few sets to the general public. This is the first time presentation coins could be obtained other than by being a direct recipient. Some of the sets were quite expensive: probably few were sold.
      During the reign of Rama V (1868-1910) Siam's government was extensively modernized. Europeans were employed to provide technical assistance and advice in many government departments, including the ministry of finance and the Royal Mint.
      At this time Siamese coinage began to show a strong European influence. Most of the dies used by the Royal Mint were made in England and produced higher quality coins in greater quantity. Expansion of international trade required many more coins than had been available during earlier reigns.
      After 1880 no new presentation designs appeared. Instead, earlier designs were reused to provide the coins needed for presentations. Sometimes a general circulation coin was distinguished from ordinary coins by being platinum plated. This was probably the last distinctive presentation coin, and their use seems to have declined.
      Presentation coins are still being made, but coins available to the general public, usually a commemorative issue, are used. In June, 1968, the "Bangkok Post" informed the public that the Ministry of Finance purchased two tons of gold bullion to mint 325,000 coins in commemoration of Queen Sirikit's third life cycle (36 years).
      The three coins minted, valued at 150,300, and 600 Baht, were available to the general public from the Royal Mint and local banks, singularly or in cased sets. Some of the cased sets were presented to the members of the Queen's Cobras recently returned from service in Viet Nam.

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