The August Hong Kong Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio auction is now just one month away, and the weeks will surely fly by until the most anticipated auction of Asian coins and paper money this year. The showcase item for this week, a stunning numismatic rarity, is a set of three pattern Essai pieces from Thailand. This series was created when King Rama V of Thailand (also known as Chulalongkorn the Great) visited Europe towards the end of his reign. Rama V is known as one of the greatest kings of Siam, as he saved Siam from falling to colonization. Rama V continued the modernization and reform programs started by his father King Rama IV (Mongkut).
Toward the end of his 42-year reign, the latter king made a royal visit to Europe to find a cure for his ailing kidney. While in Europe he commissioned a new coinage for general circulation. The coins were minted in 1909 at the Paris mint, but unfortunately King Rama V died before the coins could reach Siam. The largest denomination struck for this series – the Baht – was the only denomination produced for actual circulation. The official mintage of 1,037,000 pieces is misleading as most were probably not released for circulation and were melted down. The denomination set of Essai pieces we offer in our August auction includes all three denominations produced for this series; one Baht, ½ Baht, and ¼ Baht.
The three coins for this series share a similar design, engraved by Henri-Auguste Patey, with minor variations in the legends regarding the denomination. The obverse features a royal portrait of King Rama V, facing left in a military uniform adorned with military decorations. The legends read: “Chulalongkorn” and “King of Siam.” On the right hand side, the die engraver’s signature appears along the kings’ left epaulet: “A. Patey.” The reverse for this series features an incredible and fascinating design known as the “Erawan device.” This mythological animal is the three headed elephant known as “Airavata” and was first used in Rama V’s royal seals. This enormous beast was used as a steed for the Thai deity Indra. The upper legends state the issuing country “State of Siam” and the regnal date: RS 127 (1908) for the One Baht and RS 128 (1909) for the ½ and ¼ Baht pieces. The denomination inscription is separated across the forelegs of the elephant, “one Baht, two salung (1/2 Baht) and one salung (1/4 Baht). To the right of the denomination is inscribed “ESSAI” for all three pieces. The two smaller denominations only appear as essais, and with that in mind this set presents one of the very limited opportunities to acquire these pieces. This set can confidently tout itself as an essential component to any advanced collection of Thai coinage. All three pieces in this extremely rare set are nicely toned and attractive, with brilliant colors present, especially on the one Baht. Each of the coins in this set has been graded and certified by NGC and all stand as the highest graded. NGC – MS-65 for the ¼ Baht and one Baht pieces, and MS-62 for the ½ Baht.
Look for this and other Asian numismatic rarities in our upcoming August Hong Kong Sale. Preview the entire auction this August at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Auction Schedule/Details link under Current Auctions at www.StacksBowers.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 800.566.2580. While our Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio Hong Kong sale is closed for further consignments, we are currently taking consignments of world and Asian coins and paper money for our November Baltimore, January New York International, and April 2014 Hong Kong sales. If you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.