British Museum collections, £12.99
Width: 22.000 mm
Weight: 3.980 g
Coins and Medals
Ceramic gambling token
From Bangkok, Thailand, 19th century AD
Gambling tokens become common currency
From the early nineteenth century until 1870, the Chinese gambling houses in the Thai capital, Bangkok, produced ceramic tokens for use as counters. During the same period there was a shortage of silver metal for coins, and cowrie shells (a traditional form of money) were losing their value as currency. As a result the ceramic gambling tokens began to be used as everyday small change within the city. The onus of redeeming the tokens rested with gambling houses, who tried to pre-empt forgeries by frequently changing the design of the tokens.
On the green ground of this hexagonal token are four embossed Chinese characters, hoh - yüan and kung - ssü, in pink with a white border. The characters give the name of the issuer as the Harmonious Source Company. In cobalt blue underglaze on the back is the character qian (coin), which indicates the token is worth one Thai salung coin (equal to one quarter baht). The same company also issued lower value pieces with the character fang, a transcription of the Thai fuang coin (equal to one eighth of a baht).
M. Mitchiner, Oriental coins and their val-1 (London, Hawkins Publications, 1979)