By Jay Turner for PCGS ……
Many pattern coins are created as samplings, with their rejection caused by the selection of another design.
However, for Thailand pattern coins made by the Paris Mint, the design never went into issue for another reason: the death of the beloved monarch King Rama V.
It may be hard for modern individuals to grasp the situation that Siam (Thailand) under the rule of Chulalongkorn, Phra Chula Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua, or King Rama V, faced. During his reign, the colonization of Asia by Western powers was in full effect. Yet under the leadership of Rama V, Thailand remained independent from colonization, with only territorial concessions being made to Britain and France. Dealing with wars and insurgency in neighboring nations, abolition of corvee and slavery, military and political reforms, modernization of the nation, building infrastructure and railways, and establishing civic works were all done under the leadership of King Rama V. These actions earned him the names Phra Phuttha Chao Luang or “The Royal Buddha”, and the epithet Phra Piya Mahrat or the “Great Beloved King”.
King Rama V visited Europe twice during his lifetime. The first visit was in 1897, with the ambition of learning what he could do to improve Siam for the benefit of the people while also introducing and strengthening ties with other European leaders to help recognize Thailand as an independent state. The second trip to Europe by King Rama V occurred in 1907, where he consulted with European doctors hoping for a cure for the kidney disease that had afflicted him. During his visit, a commissioned equestrian statue of the king was done in Paris to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his reign. A contract was also made with the Paris Mint for coinage redesign and production.
These coins, featuring a broader, more detailed bust of King Rama V, were designed by Henri-Auguste Patey. Essai designs dated 1908 were sent to Thailand, with 1,037,000 1 Baht coins produced for circulation. In 1909, additional essai patterns were produced in other denominations, but no coins were struck for circulation bearing this design. It is believed by some that the coins arrived in Thailand too late, with King Rama succumbing to the kidney disease and passing in 1910.
While over one million 1 Baht coins featuring the date RS127 (1908) and the Patey design were issued, they are very scarce today with many forgeries and counterfeits. The essai coins are exceptionally rare, many not even being included in major coin references – including catalogs of Thailand coinage.
Yet, a piece or a set will appear every so often, and recently two such examples were submitted to PCGS via the Hong Kong office. The first piece is a pattern essai 1 Baht dated RS127 (1908). The coin is listed as KM-E1 in the Standard Catalog of World Coins by Krause, and A-030-02 by the Thailand references. This exceptional piece is graded PCGS SP66+. The second piece, in the same submission, was dated RS128 (1909) and is a 1/4 Baht listed as KM-E2 and A-030-04-graded PCGS SP63.
The coinage of Thailand is becoming a favorite collecting area and has seen strong growth over the last few years. The coinage of King Rama V is in demand not only for the history of the coins, but also for the popularity of the King, which remains strong to this day; it was his actions that moved Thailand to remain an independent state, ended slavery, and developed the nation.
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