The old capital of Thailand was Ayutthaya, on the Menam River and, at first, the new Capital, Thonburi, a few miles downriver. However, soon King Rama I was building a new capital on the opposite bank. ‘Bangkok’ became the official capital in our year of 1782. The western name of ‘Bangkok’ is perhaps derived from the Bengali bangaung for ‘forested village of olives’.
In 1787 at the age of two, it was renamed Rattanakosin which doesn’t sound so pretty in English. Finally during the reign of Rama III they settled on Kungthep Maha Nakorn Amarn Rattanakosindra Mahindrayudhya Mahadilokpop Noparatana Rajdhani Mahasathan Amorn Piman Avatarn Satit Sakktutultiy Vishnkarn Prasit. Now that just rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it, but the plebeians’ shortened to Krung Thep but I am not really sure why!
The real name, as you may already know, is กรุงเทพมหานคร which looks like Krung Thep Maha Nakhon in translation. This is considered to mean in translation something along the lines of ‘City of Angels’ which sounds somewhat Californian to me. Perhaps it was meant as irony from the country folk around; no doubt the townspeople seemed quite sharp in their business to the rustics. Today, it would look the other way around because the “rustics” were surrounded by teak trees and indeed their homes would use such wood.
Last month, I covered the notes of Thailand from 1925 up to 1945 covering King Rama VII and then Rama VIII as a young boy. So I continue from the first issue in 1945, Series 6 which was produced by both the Army Map Department (as were notes from series 4 in 1942 onwards) and also, a newcomer, the Navy Hydrological Department. The latter seem an unlikely outfit for security printing, despite having the hydraulic power, (presumably!). The issues are fairly easily distinguishable except on very poor ‘rags’, as the Navy notes are modestly lacking any information of the printer. The series was short being a 20 baht note (3 varieties of watermark) and a 100 baht note (3 varieties of watermark + 1 in doubt). Both have the ‘left side of face’ portrait of Rama VIII as a young lad.
Series 7 in 1945 switches back to the series 5 portrait of Rama VIII but places him at the left; the printing is crude work, by security standards. Four denominations were produced: 1,5,10 and 50 baht; the 5 baht being a red serial version.
The 1942-44 issues depict a portrait on the left hand side of the young King. The 1 baht is of a very low quality (printed in and out of Thailand).
1943 & 1944 brings us two issues of the 1,000 baht but with differing colours; neither is dated on the actual note.
The 1945 & 1946 issues feature a 50 satang which is overprinted three times on the front and twice on the back with ‘50 satang’, albeit in Thai characters. There is no attempt with the next few issues to form a series which might bring confidence and the next two notes underline this; these were very difficult times indeed. The 1 baht note is a “one-off design” which was overprinted in black Thai script on the face and was available with a misprint in a separate run. Cries of ‘a forgery!’ must have been common in Thailand that year. Similarly, the 50 baht notes, which were overprinted on a one dollar note once intended for the Malay States; were issued with an overprint on back and front, and the other overprinted only on the face (more confusion!). There are also remainder notes without ANY overprint.
The 1946 Series 8 must have been a breath of fresh air: a straight run 1, 5, 10, 20 and 100 baht all printed by the Tudor Press of Boston, the ‘liberation issue’, with the familiar portrait of young Rama VIII, the only indignities being the Western serial digits and the watermark of “MILITARY AUTHORITY” in U S English.
Thomas De La Rue’s Series 9 running from 1953-1956 carry King Rama IX except on the 50 satang and runs through baht 1, 5, 10, 20 and 100 with the usual minor differences in serials, et cetera. In the 1953-56 issues, De La Rue unsurprisingly omits the now-devalued 50 satang, but feature an improved King Rama IX engraving on a sharper note.
De La Rue’s 1968 issue, Series 10, is but a single note, the 100 baht, which had two different signature types. King Rama IX is featured in his uniform at the right and in the watermark.
Series 11 is fronted by a short commemorative run in Thailand by their new Thai Banknote printing works, being a tiny issue (six or seven thousand pairs is suggested) with an overprint proclaiming this new printing venture of 1969 followed by standard issues of 5,10,20 and 100 baht and the new 500 baht. Series 12 does not start issues until 1978; it only replaced three notes, being the 10, 20 and 100 baht (with no date). These were all of high quality, showing the left side of Rama IX’s face.
Series 13 shows an older Rama IX on three notes, the 50,500 and 1000 baht issues and then comes the famous somewhat ‘square-shaped’ note for the King’s sixtieth birthday which had a face-value of 60 baht so that it was an affordable memento. The printers then produced a 50 and 500 baht which celebrated the Princess Mother’s ninetieth birthday and a 1000 baht honouring Queen Sirikit’s birthday.
In 1994 a 100 baht was issued with earlier royalty on the reverse and then we come to the big one: the 120th anniversary of the Ministry of Finance. This is a 10 baht note similar to the series 12 issue, but with appropriate overprint. This followed by the 1996 commemorative 50 baht for the fiftieth year of the reign; a 500 baht, another 500 baht of different design followed, and then, ‘out of the blue’, a 50 and 500 baht pair which were just standard issue, although the 20 baht was on polymer plastic.
1999 brings sanity and a 1000 baht for Rama IX’s seventy-second birthday, followed by a 50 baht and 5000,000 baht for the King’s Golden Wedding anniversary and 2000/2001 produced 500 baht and 1000 baht standard issues. 2002 brings us a commemorative of a new bridge on the 20 baht and 2002 brings the famous vertical note for the Queen’s 72nd birthday. In 2004, the 50 baht is reissued on normal paper. These commemorative notes are extremely popular within Thailand, as you may well be aware.
I cannot see the Bank of England wishing to issue so many commemorative notes but if they did, at least they know where to have them printed!
View some notes from Thailand on the site here:
Last updated 27/04/2008