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Thai silver bullet coin of Rama IV, one salung, 1851-68

Thai bullet coin, one salung, 1851-68 Thai bullet coin, one salung, 1851-68

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Thai silver bullet coin of Rama IV, one salung, 1851-68

Between the twelfth century and the mid-nineteenth century the coinage of Siam, now Thailand, was largely composed of heavy silver pieces known as 'bullet' coins. Such coins were made from a short tapered bar of silver bent round to join at its ends and stamped with marks of issue. The shape was perhaps an imitation of earlier crescent-shaped pieces imported from Burma or of cowrie shells that had once been used as currency in the area. By the time of Rama IV, King Mongkut (1851-68), the laborious manufacture of such pieces was not meeting the high demand for specie, and the bullet coins, by then hastily made and badly stamped, were replaced with imported Western money. The coins that Perry was able to collect in Siam were therefore the last of a long line of these unparalleled objects.