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Update January - May, 2020


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Update by Thanaphon Paewsoongnern
 
 
 

Successful auction in Hong Kong

In these difficult times coin shows and auctions are often postponed or cancelled. Some coin auctions are successfully conducted behind closed doors.

In 1978, when I started with coin and banknote auctions in Oslo, Norway, there were three options to bid. Mail bids, telephone bids and personally attending the auction. Today professional auction companies have the three mentioned options, but in addition they have Internet Absentee or Proxy Bidding, Email, Fax and iBid Live bidding.

My favourite is iBid Live Bidding where you can sit in the comfort of your home, office or any other place and see what is happening in the auction room. To put in your bid, you press on the bidding sign or add the amount of your bid. One can also use mobile devices such smart phones or tablets.

Today ‘Live Bidding’ in person is difficult because of the coronavirus pandemic. The auction companies have to follow directives given by local mandates at the time of the auction and for many it is difficult or impossible to travel.

Attending auctions in person is very effective, not only for the bidding, but handing in your consignments, meeting colleagues and collectors with the same collection interests and getting valuable information from other professionals.

Even though many auction companies today have the coins, medals and banknotes graded by a third party grading company, traders find it of great importance to see the actual object. Many coin enthusiasts are eagerly looking forward to being able to attend auctions in person again.

Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio conducted an auction sale in Hong Kong on 4 -7 May 2020. The company is well established in Asia for the past 10 years and have a very good reputation. They have professional bidding options and listed almost 6000 objects for the sale in two gigantic catalogues, one for coins and medals and the other for banknotes.

Nirat Lertchitvikul, Director of Asian Operation, a Thai citizen, has worked with Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio in Hong Kong since the day the company established in Asia. He said that even though the world was suffering an economic crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, the coin and banknote market is still thriving, even if auctions had to be conducted behind closed doors.

In the four-day sale, Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio sales amounted to US$13,265,604 (THB about 423,438,000). The sale of coins and medals amounted to US$12,287,832 and the banknotes sales were US$977,772. This is the second largest coin and banknote auction conducted in Asia. In August 2011 Stack’s Bowers sold coins and banknotes for more than US$17,000,000.

 

The most expensive coin in the sale was a Chinese Silver Dollar Pattern Year 18 (1929) produced by the Rome Mint. This magnificent and extremely rare pattern was estimated at US$90,000 to US$120,000 and sold for US$252,000.

 

 

Several banknotes were sold for record prices. The most expensive was a China-Empire, Ta-Ching Government Bank, 10 Dollar, No Date (1910). Estimation was US$20,000 to US$25,000 and sold for US$60,000.

 

A China, Kweichow Auto Dollar, Year 17 (1928) in high grade sold for US$120,000. The estimation was US$50,000 to US$70,000. The coin was produced to commemorate the completion of the Kweichow (Guizhou) Provincial Highway and reportedly features Governor Zhou Xicheng’s personal automobile. It is said that the automobile was imported from the United States and arrived before the Highway was completed. On arrival to China it was dissembled, carried on foot over the mountains to Kweichow, and reassembled so Zhou was able to drive it around. Today the interest of collecting coins depicting cars is popular. The most reasonable Auto Dollar in the auction was sold for US$16,800.

 

A very popular Thai Medal was the most expensive of the Thai materials. The estimation was US$7,000 to US$10,000, and the buyer had to pay US$38,400, more than 1.2 million baht. The Haw Campaign Silver Medal was produced in CS 1246 (1884) during the reign of King Chulalongkorn, Rama V.

 

The 2 Baht Silver Crown, ND (1863) produced during the reign of King Mongkut, Rama IV, is not very rare, but very popular. Not only because of the nice design, but also because for years it was the only crown sized Thai coin and therefore collected internationally. In the sale there were several pieces, the most expensive was graded by NGC to be MS65 and sold for US$14,400. This was lower than expected because of the high grade, but as the coin had carbonized dots on the obverse, not remarked by the grading company, it was sold for the reserve price. These carbonized dots can get bigger in the future. The spots could have been caused by planchet imperfections prior to striking the coin or improper storage. These spots are very difficult or impossible to remove.

In May last year Stack’s Bowers sold a 2 Baht ND (1863), also graded by NGC and to be MS64, a lower grade than the one sold this year. The coin in the lower grade sold for US$16,800 last year. This coin has a very nice natural patina, which is appreciated by many collectors. The famous American collector Virgil Brand was known to have collected coins with natural patina only.

In the sale this month the most reasonable 2 Baht ND (1863) was sold for US$2,100 graded by NGC as UNC Details – Stained.

Director of Asian Operations Stack’s Bowers, Nirat Lertchitvikul, was impressed that twelve of the Chinese coins in the auction were sold for more than US$100,000.


Invasion Notes

One of the currency notes, which stands out from the other series, is the 1-Baht note, which was announced June 3, 1946. The note was produced by Thomas de da Rue & Company Limited, London (TdlR) and ordered by St. Luke’s Printing Works (Bank of England) on behalf of the War Office.

During that period the Japanese Imperial Army controlled the economy in Siam which also included the circulation of banknotes. So, in 1945 the Allied Forces set a plan in motion to print new 1-Baht notes which would look very different to the ones in use. They would then circulate these new banknotes in those areas that they seized back from the Japanese as a symbol of liberation.

This plan was kept secret from the Siamese Government, as they did not want their invasion strategy leaked to the Japanese.

On August 20, 1945, the War Office planned to produce 7 different denominations.

 

25 Satang - 10 million pcs

50 Satang -12 million pcs

1 Baht - 100 million pcs

5 Baht - 60 million pcs

10 Baht - 30 million pcs

20 Baht - 15 million pcs

100 Baht - 1 million pcs

The face value for all the planned notes printed amounted to Baht 1,108,500,000. - (Over 1 Billion Baht).

These quoted numbers are validated by of a letter dated January 16, 1946 written by St. Luke’s Printing Works to Thomas de da Rue & Company Limited.

Though photographic gravure for all the denominations (except for 50 satang) were produced and approved by the British War Office, but as far as I know the original artwork was produced for the 1 Baht and 100 Baht note only.

 

 

On August 10, 1945 St. Luke’s Printing Works (Bank of England) gave instructions to Thomas de da Rue & Company Limited, London (TdlR) to print 10 million 1-Baht notes.

The other denominations were never printed. Thus the 1-Baht note is the only note that was actually printed.

On January 24, 1946 TdlR presented a quotation for the printing of 1, 5, 10, 20 & 100 baht notes, but apparently because the war had ended, there was no more need for the Invasion Notes, so the plan was put on hold.

After the war, the Siamese Government was in urgent need of banknotes, but TdlR was unable to print any notes for Siam at that time. Sadly, during the war, their building in London, where the printing press was located, was heavily damaged by aerial bombardment, incapacitating their production capabilities immensely. Another reason was, they had a prior commitment to fulfil a very large order from China.

The Siamese Government learned that there were already 10 million 1-Baht Invasion Notes printed. They requested the British War Office to give them the notes, which were put into circulation on June 3, 1946.

But before the notes were put into circulation, a small change was made. The words, ‘Thai Government’ were superimposed over the words ‘Issued in Siam’. Below that, the words ‘This note is legal tender in accordance with the law’ were embossed.

 


Third Party Grading, NGC and PCGS

American Numismatic Association Coin Grading (ANACS), was established in 1972 and started grading coins in 1979. In 1986 Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) started and a year later in 1987, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) was founded.

Today PCGS and NGC are the market leaders in coin grading. Both companies also grade banknotes and medals. And what do they do?

Actually, it was a revolution in coin collecting. Experts graded the coin and it is encapsulated in a clear plastic holder known as a “slab” with a label identifying the coin and the grade of the coin. Some coins cannot be graded because of damages like hairlines, environmental damage, artificial toning and edge damages to mention only a few.

In the early days I must admit that I hated graded coins. Whenever I bought a graded coin, I would take it out of the slab immediately. Taking a coin out of the slab is not easy. One has to put the plastic holder into a cloth and hammer gently on the edge to crack it. It is important to be very careful so the plastic holder does not damage the coin.

The reason why I did not like slabbed coins is that sometimes I disagreed with the grading and wrong identification. This was the case in the early days when the grading companies started grading not only US coins but also foreign coins.

Later, when I attended coin shows in Hong Kong and China, I saw it was almost impossible to sell ungraded coins, also called “raw” coins. The reason was that the market was floating with fakes and copies produced in China, not only Chinese coins were faked, also foreign ones.

The grading companies are giving a financial guarantee that the grade is correct and that the coin is genuine. If it is later found out and proved that the grade is not correct or a coin is a fake, the buyer is paid the true value of the genuine coin by the third grading company.

With third grading it is also saves a lot of discussions between the seller and buyer about the grade. With “raw” coins there are often long discussions about the grade, the seller often thinks the grade is better and the buyer is of the opinion that the coin grades less. The price difference is significant. A better grade coin in cost much more than a lower grade coin.

Coins are graded from 1 to 70 with 70 being the highest. In catalogues, coins are now often graded with numbers, which were formerly graded as Good, Fine, Very Fine, Extremely Fine and Uncirculated. As an example of prices, the Standard Catalogue of World Coins 1701-1800, 7th Edition, states that a Flowing Hair Dollar graded VF40 is valued at US$300,000 while the MS60 grade is valued at US$1,000,000.

 

Another example is the Norway 2 kroner 1907 Independence, graded MS64. (pictured) In the Standard Catalogue of World Coins 2019 it is valued in MS63 at US$295. In VF20 it is valued at US$50. The pictured coin is graded MS64, so it can be sold for quite a lot more than the one in the catalogue graded at the best MS63.

 

A very popular Thai coin is the Tamlung, 4 baht, with no date, struck in 1864 to commemorate King Mongkut, Rama IV’s 60th Birthday. Inside the frame on the reverse it has the inscription Krung Siam, Kingdom of Siam. Outside the frame the inscription is Cheng Ming, which is the name of the King in Chinese, and Tung Pao, which means lawful money. In the Standard Catalogue of Coins 1801-1900, 8th Edition it is valued in MS60 up to US$24,000.

The pictured coin is graded to be AU55 so the value according to the catalogue is worth less.

 

The pictured one Baht 1876-1900 is graded to be MS66. In the Standard Catalogue of Coins 1801-1900, 8th Edition, the coin is graded from F12 to MS60. In MS60 it is valued at US$250. Why it is not valued in the higher grades like the MS66 is because it very rarely turns up in this grade. Probably the auction price of a one Baht in MS66 would sell for between US$2,000 to US$3,000.

The Thailand 1 Baht 1876-1900 was also struck in PROOF meaning that it was struck with polished dies. Those were presentation pieces and in PF60 grade it is valued at US$6,000. Probably the pictured coin graded in PF65 could be sold for more.

 

The pictured Great Britain Gothic Crown graded PF60 has a catalogue value of US$6,000. As the pictured coin is graded in PF58 it is worth less.

 

The pictured Netherlands, Utrecht gold Ducat 1724, is from the ship Akerendam that sank off Runde Island on the coast of Norway in 1725. The shipwreck was found by divers in 1972 and 6,505 pieces of the Ducat was salvaged. Prior to the wreck of the Akerndam only one Ducat 1724 was known to exist, so I assume the owner must have been disappointed when several thousands more were available in the market. This pictured coin is graded in MS65. This is one of the best of the rescued coins and is only graded in the catalogue in MS60 at US$850, so I assume a MS65 would be sold for quite a lot more.

 

PCGS also put two or three coins in one slab, the ones with two coins are called duo-holders. Pictured is the Thai gold 200 Baht and silver 2000 Baht 1997 UNICEF. Only 1290 pieces of the gold coin and 2123 pieces of the silver coin were minted. Both coins are graded to be PR70, the highest grade, and I assume the value is around US$1,200.

Some dealers and collectors like grading while others do not. The ones who do not like it argue that one should be able to have “contact” with the coin and think that coin collecting is too commercialized. They have the enjoyment of doing the investigation themselves as a part of the hobby. They also argue that graded coins take up much more space.

The ones who like the grading are sometimes the ones with less knowledge and look at coin collecting as an investment. They do not want to spend the time discussing the grade with the seller and like to have the financial guarantee from the third-party grader of the quality and that the coin is genuine. From my experience graded coins are often sold for at higher prices than raw coins.

So, what happens in the market after the coins are graded? It seems like everyone wants to have coins top graded from AU55 to MS70. They do command very high prices at auctions unless they are very rare, while the ones in less quality are often not sold even when they are nice coins.

Sometimes it is better to sell the coins, which are not in the top grades raw, as someone might be of the opinion that it is actually better than when graded by the auctioneer and will be graded higher by the third-party grader.


The first Thai banknotes

(Copyright Bank of England)

History records that the first paper banknotes were issued during the Chinese Tang and Song dynasties in the 7th century A.D.

In 1661, Sweden was the first European country to issue banknotes. The Bank of England was established in 1694, and issued banknotes in 1695.

Jorgen Thor Mohlen, a wealthy merchant in Bergen, Norway, received permission from King Christian V of Denmark and Norway to issue the very first bank notes in Norway in 1695.

The notes were printed on one big piece of paper and about one third of the right side was ripped off. This part stayed with the issuer to prevent forgeries and could be matched when the notes were to be redeemed. This project was not a success as people who owned these notes used them to pay tax. Having collected a lot of tax, the King presented the notes to Thor Mohlen to get silver in exchange.

Unfortunately, during that period Thor Mohlen incurred heavy losses on colonial trade and the Great Fire of 1702 and could not pay. He was declared bankrupt.

Foreign banks operating in Thailand produced the first banknotes issued in Thailand. These were Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation, the Chartered Bank of India, Australia & China and the Banque de l’Indochine.

In 1891 Thai banknotes were printed by Giesecke & Devrient Co. in Berlin, Germany.

Unfortunately, the notes were not put in circulation. Navarat Laekhakula, author, economist and an expert on the history of Thai currency, explained in his book “Bia, Baht, Coin, Banknotes” that in 1893 (RE112), “a conflict arose between Thailand and France. The French government dispatched gunboats to confront Thai armed forces, causing Thailand to cede the territories on the left bank of the Mae Khong River (in Laos) to France. Thailand was also required to pay compensation of three million Francs in coin. The situation put a halt to the adoption of treasure notes.” The notes printed in Germany were destroyed. Only a small number were kept as samples and these are very popular and valuable among collectors.

On September 7, 1902 the first Thai banknotes, First Series, were put into circulation. The notes were produced by Thomas de la Rue & Company, Limited, London, and had the denominations of 5-, 10-, 20- 100- and 1,000 Baht. The other circulating denominations were coins.

For years the Bank of England had only printed one-sided banknotes. The last one-sided note was issued in 1957 and ceased to be legal tender in 1961. As the Thai notes were to be printed in England it was suggested to the Royal Thai Treasury department to have the First Series printed on one side only.

The prefixes used for the First Series of Thai Banknotes were: 5 Baht-prefix A, 10 Baht-prefix B, 20 Baht-prefix C, 100 Baht-prefix D and 1000 Baht-prefix E in front of the serial number. This is the very first printed 10 Baht note with prefix B1 and the serial number 00001. Many collectors do appreciate the first printed banknotes and the last printed banknotes. Banknotes with a solid number are also very popular. In Thailand, the number 999999 is prized and in high demand.

Before a run of notes was to be printed, a specimen note had to be approved by the Royal Thai Treasury Department in Bangkok. In the early years this process was very time consuming, so the Minister (Ambassador) at the Thai Legation in London was assigned to the task H.E. the Minister could only approve notes already circulating, so new designs had to be sent to Bangkok for approval. On February 7, 1911, this 1,000 Baht note was signed as approved by H.E. Phya Akaraj Waradhara. The last banknote First Series was dated in 1923. The first notes in the Second Series, printed on both sides, was announced February 18, 1925.


Eur-Seree Collecting Auction 55

Eur-Seree will be conducting their 55th auction at the Narai Hotel in Bangkok on April 4 and 5, 2020. 2880 Lots are to be sold in the auction.

A variety of collector’s objects are to be sold, including, documents, books, photographs, watches, stamps, coins medals and banknotes to mention but just a few.

About 20 dealers will be exhibiting their collections during the viewing and the auction. So if you have no luck in buying your favourite choice at the sale, you might find something interesting from the exhibiting dealers.

The catalogue can be seen on www.eurseree.com

The auction catalogue can be bought for 1500 Baht inside Thailand or sent oversees by airmail for US$ 35.

For more information please contact [email protected]

There are many collections of Royal Photographs and when signed are even more popular and are in high demand. For example a signed photograph of Rama VI is offered. The signature “Maha Vajiravudh 1907” is prominent on the front and the words “The King of Siam given to the Dean of Gloucester” is inscribed on the back. The starting price is 175,000 Baht.


 

For collectors of autographs there is good chance to get signed Royal documents. In Lot 52 there is a document signed by H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Thai about land mortgage. It is a nice document and the starting price is only 8,000 Baht.


 

A gold Pod Duang, bullet coin, 1 Baht, from the period 1851-68 is offered with a starting price of 300,000 Baht. It is in an Almost Uncirculated condition and both marks are very clear. The very same coin was sold in the Eur-Seree auction in 2009 for the same as the starting price in this auction. Should be a very good buy.


 

Silver Pod Duang, bullet coins, can be bought for less than 1,000 Baht. In Lot 1466 there are 13 pieces of 1 Baht coins and the starting price is 7,000 Baht. The coins are from the reign of King Rama III, 1824-51. The weight of one coin is around 15 grams. If one is interested in bullet coins it is worth spending some time to study the catalogue.


 

In recent years the interest for copper coins in high grades has increased. Prior to this, most of the collectors were concentrating on the silver coins. But many realized that it was actually harder to find a copper coin in good condition.

The reason being, in the reign of King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, it was the copper coins that were being circulated the most.

In this sale there is also a 2 Att, Seo, from RS109 (1890) graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) to be MS63RB, which is the same as Uncirculated. If it can be bought for the starting price of 10,000 Baht, it is a very good buy.


 

 

In 1907 King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, paid a visit to Norway. The King visited Oslo and went all the way up to North Cape. In Oslo His Majesty stayed at the palace with King Haakon, Queen Maud and Crown Prince Olav.

In 1997 a commemorative medal was produced to mark the 90th anniversary of the visit. The obverse depicts the portrait of King Chulalongkorn and King Haakon and the reverse shows King Chulalongkorn standing with his entourage around the large rock at North Cape on which he had engraved his name to commemorate his visit.

Today the rock can be seen at the Thai Museum at North Cape. The medal was produced in collaboration between the Royal Thai Mint and the Royal Norwegian Mint. At the Eur-Seree auction, one large 42 mm silver medal is offered with a starting price of 7,000 Baht.


The banknote with the highest starting price of 600,000 Baht is a 1,000 Baht note produced by Thomas de la Rue & Company Limited, London. The note arrived in Thailand in 1952, but for various reasons was never put in circulation. The speculated reason is, probably that some thought a bank note with such a high denomination would lead to inflation. Out of the 500,000 notes printed about 100 were kept as samples. The rest were destroyed by incineration.


A very popular series of coins is the 2000 Millennium “Year of Dragon” coins. A 5 ounce 200 Baht coin produced by The Singapore Mint is also featured in the sale. On the obverse is the portrait of the HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej and on the reverse is a colourful design with dragons. The starting price is 70,000 Baht.


4 Baht 1864 commemorative coin and Tamlung bullet coin

The 4 Baht 1864 commemorative coin.

The 4 Baht Tamlung, Pod Fuang or bullet coin with Mongkut and Chakra.

Up to the year 2000, the 4 baht 1864 with a diameter of 45 mm was the largest flat coin produced for Thailand.

In 2000 A.D. the slightly larger Millennium coins were produced by the Singapore Mint for Thailand. They were the 65 mm Silver 200 Baht and the 55 mm Gold 2,500 Baht coins.

The 4 Baht 1864 coin was struck in gold and silver to commemorate the 60th Birthday of King Mongkut, Rama IV. The coins were used for presentation purposes and the King also permitted them to be used for decorations.

On the obverse of the 4 Baht coin there is the Crown with rays flanked with umbrellas with three branches in the background, and bordered by 32 stars, each star representing one Fuang (1/8 Baht).

The reverse has the inscription, Krung Siam enclosed within a frame and the Chinese legend Cheng Ming Tung Pao outside the frame. “Cheng Ming” is the name of King Rama IV in Chinese and “Tung Pao” means “lawful money”. There are two types; one with the double-lined frame and dots around the rim, and the other with a single-lined frame without dots.

The descriptions of the obverse and reverse are from the book “Coinage of the Rattanakosin era 1782-1982 AD”.

The gold 4 Baht coin is very rare and during the last 30 years only a few transactions have taken place. One collector had two pieces in his collection bought during the last 30 years. He later sold both sets, one by private treaty and one in an auction sale.

The 4 baht coin turns up in auctions from time to time. The price is varied, based on the quality. The prices I have seen have been from 300,000 Baht to 500,000 Baht. For a 4 Baht coin in perfect condition the price might be considerably higher. Because of the size and weight, a little more than 60 grams, this coin is considered a broad thaler.

If one would like a Thai 4 Baht coin in their collection, the alternative would be to buy a 4 Baht Tamlung, Pod Fuang or bullet coin also issued during the reign of King Mongkut, Rama 4. This very nice coin is from 1851 and originally struck for the coronation of Rama IV. The price of this bullet coin is from 50,000 Baht to 150,000 Baht depending on the quality.


++

Silver and Gold 1997 UNICEF commemorative coins

UNICEF 2000 Baht Gold commemorative coin.

UNICEF 200 Baht Silver commemorative coin.

The United Nations Children’s Fund is a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children around the world. It was established in 1946 as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) by the U.N. General Assembly to provide immediate hunger relief and healthcare to children and mothers in countries devastated by World War II. In 1950, UNICEF’s mandate was extended to address the long-term needs of children and women in developing countries, and in 1953 it became a permanent part of the United Nations System.

In 1989, the UN General Assembly passed the “Convention on the Rights of Children” (UNCRC) which is a human rights treaty setting out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. The Convention defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under national legislation.

On the 50th anniversary of UNICEF in 1997, many countries minted commemorative coins to mark the auspicious occasion.

Thailand aimed to mint the Silver 200 Baht and the Gold 2000 Baht coins. But due to a lack of capacity to mint the coins here, the Royal Thai Mint commissioned the Royal Norwegian Mint to produce the coins on their behalf.

The original plan was to produce two types and denominations of the coins. The first was for 10,000 gold coins with a portrait of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX on the obverse. The reverse would depict an image of a studious girl from a bygone Siamese era.

The second type was for 25,000 silver coins. The obverse would depict a portrait of the late king Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX and the reverse would show children playing a traditional Thai game called “Mark Keb”.

Unfortunately, in 1997 the Asian financial crises gripped East Asia and South East Asia. Thailand was no exception. In May of 1997 the Thai Baht was hit by massive speculative attacks. In January 1998, the Thai Baht which had an exchange value of 25 to the US Dollar tumbled alarmingly down to 56 Baht to the US Dollar.

The economic situation was rather gloomy, which also sent the coin market into doldrums. Because these special UNICEF coins were produced only on order, only 2123 pieces of the 200 Baht Silver Coins and 1290 pieces of the 2000 Baht Gold coins were produced and sold.

This was one of the lowest numbers of Thai coins ever sold.

But the numismatic world is unique, and as fate may have it, those who bought the UNICEF coins back in 1998 can cherish in the fact that their investment is now worth 3-5 times more than what they paid for them.




HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Successful auction in Hong Kong

Invasion Notes

Third Party Grading, NGC and PCGS

The first Thai banknotes

Eur-Seree Collecting Auction 55

4 Baht 1864 commemorative coin and Tamlung bullet coin

Silver and Gold 1997 UNICEF commemorative coins