Although a native coinage tradition existed in Southeast Asia east of Arakan possibly as early as 200 AD, by the 15th century these series were a distant memory, and new types of weight-based stamped silver monies were introduced in the Thai and Lao kingdoms of Lannatai and Lanchang. These forms are known in the west by colorful names such as packsaddle, flower money, tiger tongue, leech, boat, bullet, etc. Some of these continued in use alongside modern coins into the 20th Century. Basic questions about the dating, attribution, weight standards, and other aspects of these coinages remain, but a useful summary and partial typology is provided in Siamese Coins: From Funan To The Fifth Reign by Mihailovs and Krisadaolarn, herein abbreviated as M&K, with an earlier summary online here. Other useful works on Southeast Asian and ethnographic monies are described and offered on my books-for-sale pages.

Thankfully the limited market and relatively abundant supply for most types in this series has so far deterred forgers. However, most examples of stamped (early) bracelet money found are forgeries. C'ieng pieces which are undersized or with improper inscriptions are likely ceremonial pieces, while modern forgeries are known for the rarer cities, and even the common ones. In the bullet series, base-metal pieces are generally religious talismans (kud), and smaller silver pieces with simple marks are "upcountry" products made for jewelry use. Neither class is a "forgery" nor are these true coins. There are later copies of the Kud. False bullet coins and false stamps on genuine pieces are made to deceive collectors, but more often for wearing as talismans. Genuine Burmese "opium weights" are still abundant, though modern tourist copies exist and are generally easy to spot by style and lack of wear. Malay tin is being extensively and creatively forged today; see below. My own authenticity policy.

To see specimens for sale, click on the thumbnail at left in each listing. For inexpensive types with numerous pieces in stock, typical examples are shown.



     Mangrai, founder of the Lannatai capital of Chiengmai in 1292, is traditionally thought to have initiated the C'ieng (Tamlung, Ka Kim, Packsaddle) coinage, though Wicks suggests ca.1475 to ca. 1650 as the period of main use. Made from a tapering, squared-edge bar with characteristic bends and cuts, C'ieng coins bear three marks: the city name, the numeral "5," probably representing five northern baht of 12.2g (= four Sukothai baht of 14.6g) and a final mark possibly identifying a moneyer or king. The cuts may serve to show the metal purity, or to create the auspicious shape of a female pelvis. Weight 60-62.5g, as with bullets, fineness is .900+. Base metal imitations and pieces with a phallus inserted are ceremonial. See Mitch Non-Islamic p.2741+, Opitz p.171, Kneedler, LeMay, etc.

663X   C'ieng Money   C'ieng Sen (City of Sen) 1 Tamlung Well-made forgery. We have stamped COPY (scan enlarged)   SOLD

661qX   C'ieng Money   C'ieng Mai (City of Mai) 1/4 Tamlung Well-made forgery. We have stamped COPY (scan enlarged)   SOLD

     "Flower" or "willow leaf" money is the term for flat or bulging patties of .900+ fine silver which succeeded the C'ieng currency and may have originated as imitations of sea shells. Their names come from the radiant patterns on their upper surface created by the cooling silver, and their flat bottoms show the same red-yellow stainings from crucible lubricants as the toks. The flower pieces are probably from the northern Shan states and, like many Chinese sycee, show no pattern to their weights.
     A series of evolutionary stages which I have divided into "Flower Toks" and "proto-Tok C'iengmai," - probably representing more southerly manufacture - lead to the Tok C'iengmai with a grainy obverse, hollow reverse, and consistent weight s with a Unit of roughly 65g. Cresswell discusses these intermediate types but they are otherwise not distinguished in the literature.

605f   Flower Money, thin    Specimens: .1) 66.8g, 54/59m, holed for wearing F-VF SOLD;   .2) 77g, 65m, holed for wearing F-VF SOLD

613   Flower Tok, 1-Unit?    Thick pieces with one or more rough concavities reverse Specimens: a) 52.8g, Unusual striated pattern in place of "leaf" veining, open bottom with two counterstamps made up of 3 crescents, holed for wearing, Fine? SOLD

     At the southern end of the Flower/Tok region and about the time Lannatai came under Burmese domination (1615) the C'ieng money was replaced by Tok coinages which continued in official use until ca. 1880, and later for ceremonial use and bride price. Toks are rounded with distinctive patterns top and bottom produced by the moulds. Bottoms usually show red-yellow stains from crucible lubricants. Later mythology attributed these stains to egg yolk and chicken blood. The likely earliest toks (Tok C'iengmai) are fine silver with high, fragile domes, descended from "flower money", while the latest (Tok Nan) are thick, base metal, with a vestigal dome.
     The toks of C'iengmai, hollow silver shells with rough, fragile domed tops and a round, mouth-like opening in a sturdy bottom colored red-yellow. Fineness is about .400-.500 and while weights are not exact, they come in five distinct denominations (1/16 to 1-Unit), the largest two of which usually bear one or more (often unclear) edge stamps of unknown significance. The fractional sizes are scarcer. Due to their fragility, or perhaps later ceremonial use, specimens with intact domes are less common. "Pig mouth" and "horse-hoof" toks are even more fragile and rare, suggesting a ceremonial rather than monetary purpose.
     The toks of Nan, farther east, show a convex bottom and a "dome" reduced to a wide oval scoop with raised edges and a hole near the rim, weight 60-73g. Fineness of the best pieces seems to be around .300-.400, down to pure copper for some specimens. They are sometimes found with characters etched into the reverse. Related, and much rarer, Toks are called "leaf" and "line" money. They are generally base, or silver-plated, with patterns cast in. Etched patterns are of doubtful authenticity.

624   Tok C'iengmai, 1-Unit 63-77g    a) Dome broken away, resembling a "cake" Sycee or Silver Dollar. Edge stamps visible as vague circles, but not identifiable SOLD
624   Tok C'iengmai, 1-Unit 63-77g    Dome partially intact & stamps at least partially identifiable.   n) Dome 45% intact, 2 x doubled (side-by-side) horse stamps, fairly clear SOLD;   m) Dome 50% intact, 3x horse (D), two fairly clear SOLD;   p) Dome 60% intact, 2 x symbol (A or B) stamps, fairly clear (shown in scan) SOLD;   p1) Dome 50% intact, 3x (AorB) stamps, two fairly clear SOLD;   p2) Dome 70% intact, 2x partial (A or B) Stamps SOLD   r) Dome 70% intact, 3 x Horse symbol, fairly clear SOLD   s) Dome 75% intact, 3 x symbol (A,B) stamp, mostly sharp (shown in scan) SOLD   z1) Dome 50% intact, 2x stamp depressions but stamps unclear SOLD;   z2) Dome 70% intact, 2x stamp depressions but stamps unclear SOLD

623   Tok C'iengmai, 1/2-Unit 29-37g    Dome broken away. Scarcer than full Units.    SOLD;b) Dome broken away, Stamp B, but partly off flan SOLD   g) Dome 20% intact, stamps weak or not visible SOLD

640   Tok Nan, mostly 66-77g   Distinctive "scoop" reverse, Silver content about .300-.400, 43-46m SOLD

647)     Tok Nan, Scoop vague or missing, copper or very base silver, 40-42m SOLD

650c   Leaf Money (false) Pewter, with bold branching design, two reverse sun punches, and drill hole all cast in. 33/37m, 16.7g. Not a proper specimen, but made for ceremonial use or a simple forgery?   SOLD


BAR MONIES: Leech, Tiger Tongue, Boat

     This Thai kingdom flourished in what is now northeast Thailand and northwest Laos ca. 1353-1592. Its coinage consisted of rounded, rectangular bars called Lat, meaning "small money." The smooth, well-made base silver pieces with Elephant, Chakra, and a third stamp are called Leech Money due to their upturned ends, and were probably the kingdom's first coinage. There are three denominations, the small 18g, 37-40m being rare.

LEECH HERE      The capital of Lanchang was moved south to Vientaine ca. 1530 and Mitchiner dates the first Tiger Tongues to this period. These are of the same shape as Leech money with rows of rough bumps on the upper surface and sometimes stamped symbols across the center. After 1707 the kingdom split into Luang Prabang and Vientaine, and baser tiger tongues no doubt continued to be made well into the 19th century. As a whole the series is complex with variations in size, weight, shape, fineness, and markings. Acid testing reveals two distinct standards among identical-looking silver specimens, though without an assay I am only able to approximate. An NI Bulletin article of 10/76 by John LeLacheur ("L") illustrates 19 types.

725a   Tiger Tongue: Fine Silver (.750-.900?), 100-123g, 112-127m No stamps L5   SOLD
725b   Tiger Tongue: Fine Silver, smaller: 75-90g, 102-115m No stamps    SOLD
     Lad hoi, called Boat or Canoe Money, is the basest, simplest, and probably latest of the Lat currencies and probably was in use up to the early 20th century. A traveller noted 24 to the Tical in 1866 vs. 40 in 1895. The slight concave trough and raised ends of the Tiger Tongue are exaggerated so the piece looks like a long boat.

706   Boat / Canoe variants Smaller, rougher pieces, showing a great deal of variation, Each: SOLD;   706s) Set of six pieces selected to show range of variation: SOLD

708   Canoe Money Good style pieces, 50-65m, often showing traces of silvering. MitchNI-3024 Scarce   



Hill tribe silver jewellery, much as the bracelet, legband, and related items of African peoples, is often considered money only in the modes of portable wealth and display. However, a distinction can be made between certain stylistically consistent "classic" forms of bracelet and collar, and what are more likely modern forms. In the illustration below, what I call the rounded, pointed end, and squared, along with the rarer dragon-head bracelets appear to be of finer silver, are often too small or narrow-gapped to be worn, and tend to be roughly consistent or even denominational in weight like C'ieng Money and Tok C'iengmai. The Faceted, Squared, and even rounded types resemble C'ieng bracelets. Lewis, whose Peoples of the Golden Triangle focuses on Hill Tribe crafts, attributes these types (p.41, left) to the Lahu, Akha, and Lisu, whose migration path to northern Thailand was via Burma where the historical currency was C'ieng money, while the less consistent modern types, often made by Chinese silversmiths, and worn by today's tribesmen, belong to the Mien and Hmong who came through the lat-using Lanchang region. The clasped-ends type belongs to the ancient Lawa (Lua) peoples who controlled the north long before the coming of the Thai. Among the collars, the usually well-worn solid types belong to the groups of Burmese migration and the generally newer-looking twisted, flat, hollow, and multi-tiered to the Lao.

795a   Neck Ring: Solid (Hmong=Meo, Mien=Yao, Lahu, Akha) Plain silver torque and flattened back-turned ends with chased design. These are worn with the open ends at the back of the neck. Lewis p.50-51, Opitz p.284-top .700-.900 fine, 190x165m, 182g   SOLD;     795b    Neck Ring: Solid 140x135m, 134g SOLD;   795c with a chased design 91g SOLD
804a   Rupee Necklace (Karen) Tightly strung silver beads and tubes, traditionally made from Indian Rupees or multiples 1/2 Rupee Lewis p.57 left two types, 270m doubled, 6-7g    SOLD
804b   2 Rupee necklace Interspersed small, and large-hollow beads, 380m doubled, 30-31g   SOLD

806a   Flat Necklace I believe these are a more modern version of the solid type (795) where the band is flattened and covered with intricate chased designs, plus numerous dangling (jingling) ornaments. Under .500 fine. Quite attractive & wearable, but may be post-monetary 88g   SOLD
806b   Flat Necklace, with dangling pendant, 125g   SOLD
806f   Flat Necklace, White metal version, modern, pretty but no silver!   SOLD

      Possibly descendants of the C'ieng Money, Bracelet Money weights are sometimes consistent or multiples within given types. I have used Lewis' Peoples of the Golden Triangle to attribute these and the collars by tribal groups.

815e   Bracelet: Rounded (Lahu, Akha, Lisu) Thick body with tapered or flattened ends, fancy cast design of alternating pinches and double beaded ridges. This is possibly the most consistent type. 139gm   MN2991, Op p.283-top center, Lewis p.41 2nd in 2nd row   SOLD
815n   Bracelet: Rounded (Lahu, Akha, Lisu) Thick body with tapered or flattened ends, fancy cast design. Copper 40g This is the only Bracelet Money type for which I have found a base metal analog.   SOLD

818   Bracelet: Faceted (Lahu, Akha, Lisu) Six facets with slightly tapering ends, generally small & plain. Lewis p.41 1st in 2nd row   b) 72g, 68m across toned SOLD;   c) 46, 47g, 56m (one shown in scan) SOLD

820   Bracelet: Squared (Lahu, Akha, Lisu) Squared body with even ends. Lewis p.41 1st row 2nd group, MN2993, Opitz p.283-left, 3rd from top.    a) Chased design 3-9:00 (worn) 62g (=Tamlung?) SOLD;   b) Attractive chased design over entire upper surface, 130g (= Double Tamlung?) SOLD

822b   Bracelet: Squared/Flared (Hmong, Mien) Rounded top with squared sides and flared, flat ends. Extensive chased design. Among most attractive of types. Lewis p.41 upper rt 91g    SOLD

823b   Bracelet: Pointed Ends (Lawa) Six-facet body with enlarged arrow-tipped ends, chased designs Lewis p.41 lower left, 90.5g    SOLD

827   Bracelet: Twisted (Lawa) Tightly twisted with smooth overlapping squared ends (flexible) Lewis p.42 cntr rt.   a) 80g. SOLD;   b) 35g. SOLD

829   Bracelet: Flat/Spiral (Lawa) Flattened center tapering to thin rounded ends in 3-4 coils, chased designs. Lewis p.42 upper rt, MN2997, Opitz p.283 bottom rt.   a) 73g SOLD;   b) 58g SOLD

838a   Bracelet: Intertwined (Lahu, Akha) Thick, intertwined wires fuse at ends. Lewis p.46 bottom. 86g well worn   SOLD

843a   Bracelet: Complex (Lahu, Akha) Alternating bands of flat and beaded elements, with separators, in an overall spiral design. Silver sheet caps at ends. Lewis p.46 upper right 39g. Lewis p.46 bottom.   SOLD

860   Ring: Mongkut Large, broad fine-silver ring of coiled wire with Thai crown attached. Said to be Akha-made, also used by Lahu, Lisu, and Lawa. Lewis p.61 lower rt 12-21g   SOLD

866   Ring: Pointed Type made by Hmong and Mien Tribes, avg. 3gm, 35-40m long Lewis p.61 lower rt 12-21g   SOLD

853   Earrings: Flat Type made by Hmong Tribe, 26g the pair Lewis p.60 lower left These could be polished up.   SOLD

865   Trade Beads Thin silver tire-shaped shells, some with cork stiffeners, perhaps from a necklace or costume.   SOLD


     As in China, cowries formed the small money of the country at fixed rates vs. silver from early times until the introduction of machine-struck tin coinage (Y5-6). The Thais got theirs mainly from the Maldives and had names for 8 distinct varieties.(LeMay p.97). The Thai word for cowrie Bia appears on some porcelain gambling tokens, which were initially cowrie substitutes.

M2867   Prakab Kingdom of Ayuthia, King Boromakot 1733-58   31m brown clay cowrie-substitute, Fleur-de-lis obv, fingerprints embedded in rev. See LeMay pl.XXXII#9-14, Mitchiner Non-Islamic #2867, Coins in Thailand p.38-39. Taisei 2/94 Sale, Lot 1023 (unsold). Having never seen another piece, I do not know if this is genuine. Feedback sought.    VF INQUIRE
     Update Sept, 2012: More pieces are posted here. The forthcoming Mihailovs & Krisadaolarn work implies that the whole idea of clay token money rests on a single reference, though the authors show six examples that they apparently consider genuine.


     The distinctive small bean-like coins called Namo have been a long-standing numismatic mystery. Who issued them, and when? Are they precursors of the Thai pod-duang (bullet) coins? Generally attributed to the powerful maritime empire of Srivijaya, Dr. Michael Mitchiner's The History and Coinage of South East Asia (1998) places them with Kalah, a rival empire which shared control of the northern Isthmus. He dates them to early 8th C. through late 10th C. and suggests that they were derived from small gold trade ingots. Gold pieces exist, but much commoner are silver and base silver (or silver washed?) pieces. Their signal feature, set in an incuse depression, is a bold character Na which looks like a four-legged animal looking backwards. The reverse is a cleft on the smaller, usually elongated "female" pieces, or various symbols raised in a shallower depression on the larger, round "male" pieces. Mitchiner notes silver contents ranging from 11-26%, but pieces generally found on the market appear to be base metal that has been silver washed. I am not sure whether such pieces are genuine.

M592     Female Namo Namo symbol, r: cleft, 7m, .86g, slightly elongated, no hammer marks evident, appears base metal with slight silver wash. Mitch 592-594   Possibly a forgery.   EF SOLD

M604     Male Namo Namo symbol, r: "Lingam on stand", 9-10m, 2.15, 2.47g, round, appears base metal with slight silver wash. Mitch 604-606   Possibly a forgery.   VF SOLD


     Between the 1820s and 1980s Malaysia was one of the world's leading tin producers, and nearly all of the pre-Colonial coinage of the region, both conventional and "ethnographic" forms, was in tin. Three states, Pahang with its tin "hats," and Perak and Selangor with animal shapes and small ingots of varying shapes, are responsible for the non-coin tin monies. The "hats," or Tampang are essentially true coins, bearing dates and being cast to specific weight standards. The ingots, or Bidor, were a widely accepted market currency. As Saran Singh notes in The Coins of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (1996, p.183) "The value of each ingot depended upon its weight, thus the shape and size of each ingot was of little consequence. Most of the tin ingots were cast in Perak but a small quantity were also cast in the neighbouring State of Selangor. These tin ingots circulated extensively in Perak, Selangor, and Negeri Sembilan over a very long period. They were also acceptable in the neighbouring Malay States n the Malay Peninsula as well as in Sumatra." Among the varied forms of tin "animal money" the Kedah cock and its rings appear to have the best (though still conjectural) status of general purpose money. As Shaw and Ali (1970) suggest, the other animal forms were likely magical charms (called Pawang or Bomoh) associated with healing or the business of tin mining, which may have been used as currency in some sense by the orong asli, a non-Malay, non-Moslem group involved in mining.

     There is a forgery operation in Malaysia producing coins, tokens, and animal forms, many of them without known prototypes. A book was even published in 2002 promoting them as legitimate objects. All products have a "frosted" appearance quite different from the normal look of aged tin.
HERE is a cross-section of product, and HERE are more of the cookie-like animals, a style unknown before the 1980s. For genuine examples, see Saran Singh's Encyclopedia or check the Muzium Negara page.

SS15     Tampang   1/25 Dollar, 1281 (1864)   Pahang State, Sultan Wan Ahmad al Mu'azzam Shah 1863-1914   Obv: Floral design   Rev: Pada awal bulan Rabi'al Thani ini belanja Pahang dari tarikh sanat 1281, Persian script in Jawi language: "On the first of the month of Rabi al Thani this currency of Pahang sanctioned in the year 1281" (=December, 1864)   72x74m x 23m high   Singh #15   Part of top and one side panel missing, significant surface flaking; VG for issue SOLD

880     Cone Bidor Cone Ingot,    Perak State, ca.16th Cent. - 1850s, size 15-20m tall, weight range 5.19 - 17.08 gms for small sample, likely representing a fraction of a cent at the time. See Singh #7-10. These small ingots have come on the market in the last few years from dredging and construction preparations, as well as the usual metal-detecting and sifting.     Typical piece as shown in scan: $22.50

881     Rod or "hairpin" Bidor Ingot,    Perak State, ca.16th Cent. - 1850s, size 40-65m long, weight range 5.75 - 17.28 gms for small sample, likely representing a fraction of a cent at the time.      Typical piece as shown in scan: $22.50

880s     SET of cone shaped and Rod (hairpin) shaped pieces (2): $40.00

882     Odd shaped Ingots, Bidor   Perak State, ca.16th Cent. - 1850s, Less usual shapes, as shown in scan: a-c) 25.00 each;   d) $30.00;   e-f) 22.50 each

878     Cone Bidor Mound Ingot,    Perak State, ca.16th Cent. - 1850s, Rounded, domed ingots, much as Singh #1-4 but much smaller. From recent dredgings. I do nt know if they are smaller versions of the monies shown in Singh, or something else. Group of 3 pieces as shown, weights: 19.37, 24.70, 17.21 gm. Lot: $55


     Mitchiner's The History and Coinage of South East Asia (1998, p.28+) presents examples from South India through Japan, including several in lead from South East Asia, and two moulds. He notes a find site of Sawankhalok, Thailand, which was known to have extensive trade with Majapahit. The lot of 80 pieces offered below come from Java, core of the old Majapahit Empire, where they are called kelok meaning curved, and referred to as money. Wicks MM&T (1992, p.167) quotes Wolters, "For trade dealings in clothing and food Gulf of Thailand c. 1200 AD."
     I sorted these visually, then by weight, and found an apparent denominational system of about 100gm and fractionals. The amount of variation around this standard suggests a token coinage rather than use as weights, or metal value. The general form is broken ring with thin top and bulbous ends, often with a ridge at the top of each end. Sprues and exterior ridge from casting sometimes present. Scans show sample pieces.

925b   Lead/Tin rings    Large size (1/2 Unit?), 46-61.5g, 34-37m   37.50
925c    - 19 - 35g, 24 - 35m   23.50
925d    - 9.5 - 14g, 18 - 25m   SOLD
925e    - 5.3 - 8g, 16 - 20m   11.00

926c   Copper rings    More conventional ring shape, though ends tend to be bulbous. Metal generally reddish, though probably alloyed. My breakdown is somewhat arbitrary, and the denominational standard, if any, unclear.   14 - 25g, 32 - 37m   20.00
926d    - 6 - 11g, 29 - 37m   15.00

927d   Variant rings-1    Copper, shape much as the Lead type (925)   c) 25.63g, 24m across, once gilded, traces show in interior. NFS;    d) 10.53, 8.73g, 20 - 21m $25.00 SOLD

928de   Variant rings-2    Bronze or possibly brass, conventional ring shape except ends are broad and squared   d) 10.15g, 18m $25.00 SOLD   e) 6.92, 5.63, 5.61, 404g, 16 - 18m $17.50

THESE ARE NOT MONEY    Often misidentified as money items, these are acid-etched iron amulets, ca. 1980, from a shop in East Java, which are supposed to ward off evil spirits. Most are roughly rounded with crude Arabic script, geometric designs, or (on larger sizes) dragons.   MORE

Indonesia Kris Amulet   Modern brass amulet with illegible Arabic inscription, in the shape of the famous Kris, monetary and status weapon. Most 50-70m long. 173k)   $3.00

Modern Kris Ring   The ceremonial kris sword had a relatively plain iron blade, but a very fancy, bejewelled handle including one or more rings. These are modern versions with plastic jewels. They may fit an adult pinky, or child's finger. Samples shown. 1510)   $4.00