Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Weight: 61.540 g
Room 33: Asia
Silver 5 baht
Chiang Mai, kingdom of Lannatai, north Thailand, 15th-18th century AD
The standard coinage of north Thailand, known also as Ka Kim, is formed from an open-ended, flattened ring of silver, which has been partly cut through the centre and then folded in half. The length of the two outer sides each has three punch marks: in this instance, a boxed cross in a circle; the name of the issuing city (Chiang Mai); and a strange, unexplained mark, which may be a numeral.
The cut was originally made to show that the centre was also pure silver and did not contain a base metal core. However, examples cast in various white metal alloys and even lead continued to be made even after Lannatai was conquered by the Burmese in 1558. The reason for the continued production and preservation of Ka Kim over several centuries was its perceived female form, which led to it being traditionally used in wedding ceremonies for paying the 'Bride Price'.
W. H. Kneedler, 'The coins of north Siam' in Studies of old Siam coins: sel (Bangkok, 1937 (reprint 1961))
J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)
O.D. Cresswell, The early coinage of south-eas (Dallas, 1974)