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The history of Thailand currency traces the evolution of the

medium of exchange used in Thailand prior to the 1st century.

This dates from the days of barter trade, ancient beads and

money in various shapes and sizes till the currency in modern

times.

Ancient beads, seeds, bracelets and pebbles used …

as a

medium of exchange in the early days around 200 – 300

BC, have been discovered in Thailand, including old

Roman copper coins dating back to 270 BC!

During the 1st – 7th centuries, metallic coins of the

Funan Kingdom in Indochina made their appearance

in Thailand, followed by Dvaravati coins in the 7th –

11th centuries. This was followed by a period in the history of

Thai currency when money in different shapes and sizes from

various places were in use.

Sandal wood flower coins or Dok Jan coins from the

Sri Vijaya Kingdom in SE Asia were introduced in

trade in the region in the 8th – 13th centuries. Cowrie shells

and baked clay coins were also used from the pre-

Sukhothai era until the reign of King Rama IV,

when they were dropped from circulation.

From the 14th – 19th centuries, coins from the

Lanna Kingdom in the northern Thailand embossed

with various designs were also in circulation. Around the same

period, 15th – 19th centuries, Lanchang, the kingdom in

northeastern Thailand introduced silver and copper

pieces in long and narrow boat shapes.

In the history of Thai currency, the money that was most

enduring was Pot Duang or bullet money. This first

appeared during the Sukhothai era, 13th – 14th

centuries. Pot Duang money were hand-made coins. Metal

strips were bent and folded into spheres very much like a

bullet, thus the name, bullet money.

Bullet money was in circulation for 600 years from the

Sukhothai era to Rattanakosin until its withdrawal from

circulation in 1904 during the reign of King Rama V.

The most profound changes in the history of Thai currency

occurred during the Rattankosin era in the reigns of

King Rama IV and King Rama V. Standardized factory

minted coins and printed bank notes were officially

issued.

During the reign of King Rama IV, when foreign trade and

diplomatic relations expanded, the paper money, in the form of

royal promissory notes, was issued in 1853. These were

followed by bank notes issued by the foreign to facilitate trade

clearance.

In 1857, Queen Victoria of Britain presented Thailand with the

first minting machine and the minting of the first Thai silver

coins commenced. In 1858, a minting machine purchased from

Britain and the Royal Mint was set up in the Grand Palace and

the minting of coins went ahead full steam.

In the reign of King Rama IV, money was denominated in

satang, tho, phi, padueng and baht.

During the reign of King Rama V, or King Chulalongkorn,

coinage was streamlined. The numerous denominations were

reduced to only two, satang and baht, based on the

metric system, which remain till this day. Bank notes issued

were in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 40,80, 100, 400 and 800 baht.

Today, the denominations have been streamlined to 25, 50

satang coins, 1, 5, 10 baht coins and 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000 baht

notes.

The history of Thai currency goes back more than 1,000 years,

evolving from ancient beads and bracelets to the modern baht

that’s in current use.

The ancient beads, bullet money and old currencies can be

viewed at the Bank of Thailand Museum in Bang Khun Phrom

Palace within the premises of the Central Bank of Thailand.

About the Author

This article first appeared in Tour Bangkok Legacies, a historical travel site on people, places and events that shaped the landscape of Bangkok. The author, Eric Lim, is a free-lance writer who lives in Bangkok Thailand.

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