Thai baht, or the history of the currency of Thailand

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It is worth realizing that the Kingdom of Thailand is also one of the Asian „economic tigers” and an important economic center in its region. The aforementioned country has about 70 million inhabitants and generates a gross domestic product of a similar size as Poland. What’s more, it is expected that the economic importance of Thailand will grow, and the local currency – the Thai baht – will be more often purchased in Polish exchange offices not only by tourists. What is Thai baht ? We’ll find out below.

Thai Bat – basic information

Thai baht, apart from its name, which is very characteristic for us, is also distinguished by an easily recognizable symbol in the international ISO format – THB (from „thai baht”). In Asia, we can also quite often find the symbol of the whip ฿, which resembles a capital letter „B” separated by a vertical line. It is worth knowing that the baht, like many other world currencies (such as the British pound or the Ukrainian hryvnia), takes its name from the bullion unit. 1 Thai baht was equivalent to 15 grams of pure silver.

Moreover, the whip was a basic unit in the traditional ore system that was used in Thailand until the end of the 19th century. Additionally, it was not a decimal system, as 1 whip consisted of 6400 „bia”, 64 „at” and 16 „sik”. With the introduction of the decimal system, today’s whip subunit appeared ( 1 bat equals 100 satangs ). Establishing such a simple division instead of many whip sub-units significantly simplified settlements with foreign buyers.

THB – coins

Coins with a value of less than one bat are still used in Thailand today, but their importance is systematically declining due to inflation. The smallest coins with a face value of 25 satangs and 50 satangs can still be found in circulation, but their purchasing power is small. Due to the declining actual value, coins with a face value of less than 25 satangs had already been withdrawn. On the other hand, it is still common to find coins of such denominations as:

  • 1 bat
  • 2 whips
  • 5 lashes
  • 10 lashes

Distinguishing Thai coins is now much easier than it used to be, as the new issues have a face value also expressed in Arabic numerals. In the past, Thai money lacked such a marking, so tourists had to be guided only by the diameter of the metal discs. The identification of the coins was not made easier by the image of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the obverse of all the coins. This form of honoring the Thai monarch should come as no surprise, because Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), who died in 2016, was almost divinely worshiped. This official cult of the monarch continued even after his death. On Thai coins, in addition to the image of the king, we can also see the most famous Buddhist temples in Thailand.

Thai baht – banknotes

In turn, when it comes to banknotes, the sixteenth series of banknotes was introduced in 2013-2015. Of course, they show the image of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and on the reverse are monuments of historical Thai rulers. They are characterized by rich colors and the presence of the national emblem (the mythical bird Garuda). THB banknotes come in denominations:

  • 20 lashes
  • 50 lashes
  • 100 lashes
  • 500 lashes
  • 1000 lashes

In addition to the standard banknotes, the Bank of Thailand also regularly issues anniversary editions of members of the royal family.

The Thai whip rate is currently around 12.5 cents.

Thai baht – history

Thai baht as a monetary unit was formed in today’s Thailand in the Middle Ages. It was then that the characteristic coins with the appearance of silver lumps and a weight of 15 grams entered circulation for the first time. They were worth just 1 whip. Interestingly, the English referred to them as ” bullet coins ” – due to the similarity to a bullet from a pistol or a rifle. They were used until the 19th century. Only then did the Thai king give up this medieval form of coins, but kept the traditional monetary system. It is worth adding that the first machine for minting flat Thai coins was given as a gift from the British Queen Victoria.

The decimal division of Thai whip was introduced in 1897. Such a change took place during the reign of King Rama V, who, at the cost of losing part of the territory to Great Britain and France, retained the formal independence of his kingdom. The introduction of the division of the whip into 100 satangs greatly simplified the Thai monetary system, which previously consisted of thirteen units.

In 1902, the Thai authorities abandoned the silver currency system and introduced the exchange rate link of the whip to the then most important world currency, the pound sterling. This exchange rate relationship between the whip and sterling has survived for many years. It wasn’t until the Second World War that baht became associated with the Japanese yen. Such a shift was due to the fact that Thailand formally became an ally of the Japanese empire during the Pacific War. Then, in the 1950s, the Thai baht was pegged to the US dollar for the first time .

Thai baht – interesting facts

  1. Before the decimal division of the whip, the equivalent of the smallest Thai coins was ordinary sea snail shells. In the old days, the ancestors of today’s Thai people also used coins baked out of clay or cut from wood.
  2. Regardless of the person depicted on the banknote, trampling on, carelessly rolling or destroying paper money is frowned upon in Thailand and can even end up in trouble with the police. A similar situation also applies to the treatment of coins with a portrait of the recently deceased monarch on the obverse.
  3. At the beginning of the last decade, 1998 Thai banknotes were issued with a nominal value of 500,000 baht (approximately PLN 62,000 at the current rate). The issue price of each of these commemorative banknotes was as much as 1 million baht (approximately PLN 124,000). The Thai 500,000 baht is the most valuable banknote in the world that a private person can hold .
  4. In 2016, the Thai central bank issued a special banknote to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the reign of the elderly King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The demand for the commemorative banknotes was so great that restrictions on their sale had to be introduced. It turned out that the Thai people wanted to buy more than 20 million commemorative banknotes.