Classification of Ingot Money Forms
of Malay Peninsula, Kra Isthmus
and Menam Valley

Vasilijs Mihailovs
Jan.04, 2002

      Southern Indochina and Malay Archipelago since early times were under strong influence of India, which strongly influenced flat coinage of this region [Guehler], and originated first forms of native primitive money. Succeed by Chinese presence in the region, Chinese ingots came into circulation, and developed new forms of ingot currency.

      First primitive form of native money appeared on the Malay Peninsula Kra isthmus Hindu Kingdom of Kalah in early 8th century. This was called "namo" because of symbol "na" shown on the coins. Symbol of "Na" origins from Brahmi, and often seen on late Gupta coins struck in Bengal in 515-530AD [Allan]. Mitchiner speculates that earlier ingots, flower money, served the prototype for "Namo" coins, while others attribute the other ingots development to substantially later period [Kneeder, Oliver, Shaw and Kassim Haji Ali]. "Namo" coins were changing seriously with time, and, according to Mitchiner, supposed to be the prototype for bullet coins appeared in Malay isthmus in early 14th century. Oliver gives another explanation of bullet coins shape saying that this might be an attempt to imitate the cowry shells that circulated widely in this area. Kud money could be considered as a transition form between cowry shells and the bullet money. Bullet money was circulating in kingdoms of Sukhothai, and later Ayuthia, and Thon Buri, as well as in Siam during early Rattanakosin, and are unique form of money could be found only in Menam valley and Kra isthmus. Bullet money (called Pot Duang) is shown in the supplementary table as a fact of their existence; no supremacy for classification of Pot Duang shapes is made here.

      Ingot money supposed to appear in Menam Valley first time in early 14th century in Lannathai Kingdom [Mitchiner]. First were the bracelet money of different shapes issued by cities of Chiengmai, Chiengsen, Nan, and Sak. Until the Lannathai Kingdom overrun by Burmese in 1556, another ingots happened to appear. Called "broken bracelet", this money was more common, and was produced in Chiengmai, Chiengsei, Chiengrai, Fang, Han, and Sak on the North, and Lakhon, Prae, Saw, and Nan on the South of the kingdom. Bracelet money, however, are found southern to the Menam valley, in the Kra isthmus, Kedah area now [Mitchiner]. Most of the bracelet and broken bracelet money series carry textual inscription. With the exception of the sample found in Kra isthmus, the inscriptions are made on Thai. The Kedah bracelet money carries the Arabic inscription. Lannathai Kingdom produced some other forms of ingots that are difficult to attribute to any more specific time period. These ingots as well as ingots produced by contemporary Larn Charng Kingdom (Mekong valley) are covered in the table.

      Early 15th century produced ingots currency originated from Malay Peninsula [Groeneveldt]. First the tin pagoda or pyramid shaped ingots appeared in Selangor, Perak, Pahang, and to a lesser degree, Kedah and Perlis. Another shapes of money were developing as well, and besides of varieties of primitively formed tin ingots, various animal shaped ingots appeared in early 18th century (however, some authors dates first animal shaped ingots, supposed originated in Malacca, by early 15th century [Chiew]). The form of animal shaped ingots was originated both, from Hindu (e.g. elephant), and from China (e.g. tortoise). Besides having a monetary function, these ingots carried a religious value. It was common practice for Chinese miners to guarantee that the new tin opening would be lucky by making an animal sacrifice before indulging in thecustomary celebration [Doyle]. Animal shaped ingots were widely produced in Perak. A variety of ingot money (fighting cock ingot) was circulated in Kedah and Perlis in the middle of the 18th century. Another variety of ingots appeared based on the pagoda and pyramid series in Pahang. It was shaped in so called "tin hat" shape so that it included a hollow pagoda under the tin carcass. This form of ingots is the first known to be originated in Malay Sultanates and carried a legend. According to Saran, first known tin hat shaped ingot appeared in 1819.


      Allan, J., Catalogue of the Indian coins in the British Museum: Coins of the Gupta dynasties and of Sasanka, King of Gauda. London, 1914. (The British Museum Collection)

      Chiew, B., Tin Animal money from Malacca,

      Groeneveldt, W.P., Notes on the Malay Archipelago and Malacca compiled from Chinese sources, Batavia (privately printed), 1876, p.124

      Guehler, U., Essays on Symbols and Marks of Old Siamese Coins. The Journal of The Siam Society 1949, Vol.XXXVII, Pt.2, p. 124-143.

      Doyle, P., Tin mining in Larut. E. & F.N.Spon. London, 1879, p.21

      Kneeder, W.H., The Coins of North Siam. Journal of The Siam Society 1937, Vol. XXIX, p. 1-11

      Mitchiner, M., The History and Coinage of South East Asia Until the Fiftieth Century. Hawkins Publications: London, 1998, 256 p.

      Oliver, T., Twenty Centuries of Coins: Thailand's Currency Through the Ages. White Lotus Co.: Bangkok, 1978, 79 p.

      Saran, S., The Encyclopaedia of the Coins of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei 1400-1967, Malaysia Numismatic Society Publication, Kuala Lumpur, 1996, 604 p.

      Shaw, W., Kassim Haji Ali, M., Tin Hat and Animal Money. Muzium Negara: Kuala Lumpur, 1970, 29 p.

Primitive money classification

Type Subtype Area of circulation Legends and marks Metal Measure Plate / Picture Notes
Animal money Kura Kura, or Tortoise Central Malay Peninsula No, or pattern imitating tortoise Tin min 9 g B1, B2
In Chinese, (various)
Gajah, or Elephant No Tin 100 g - 1.1 kg B3
Buaya, or Crocodile Pattern imitating crocodile Tin Up to 3 kg B4
Ayam, or Cockerel No, or pattern imitating cockerel Tin min 6 g B5, B6
In Chinese, (various)
Belalang, or Grasshopper No, or pattern imitating grasshopper Tin
Ikan, or Fish No, or pattern imitating fish Tin
B8, B9 See type Fish money for silver and silver alloy fish shaped ingots
In Chinese, (various)
Kambing, or Goat Pattern Tin
Crab Picture of crab Tin

Bar money Tiger tongue, or Hoi money Mekong valley Three stylized markings of "na" Surface: silver
Inside: silver,
silver alloy,
bronze, copper
Two major
A1 In 1940s still in use in some districts of Mekong valley and Northern Menam valley
Leech money, or Lat money Mekong valley;
North Menam valley
Two to four markings: elephant necessary in center, wheel or star in addition Surface:
silver alloy
(on copper
samples), silver
(on silver
alloy pieces)
impure silver
Four main
A2 Used as smaller denomination of Hoi money in bargaining sessions
Canoe money, or Lat Hoi money Mekong valley Usually no markings; few samples known shown star markings on the ends Bronze,
seldom silver

A3 Used as well as symbolic offerings to spirits
Canoe money, or Lat Hoi money Mekong valley Usually no markings; few samples known shown star markings on the ends Bronze,
seldom silver

A3 Used as well as symbolic offerings to spirits
Bracelet money (Circular cross section) North Menam valley Elephant and floral markings Silver about 5x5 cm
about 60 g
(Rectangular cross section) North Menam valley Early coins: chakras and wheel markings, geometrical design

Later period coins: In Thai: inscription showing the city of origin, numeral showing denomination (4), "na" symbol marking
Silver about 5x5 to
6x6 cm
about 60 g
- Similar to circular cross section bracelet money
(Quadrilateral cross section) Kra isthmus In Arabic: Al Adil, floral and geometrical design Silver with
minor addition
of copper
about 3x4 cm
about 15 g
- Similar to circular cross section bracelet money
Cieng money
North Menam valley In Thai: inscription showing the city of origin, numeral showing denomination (4), floral and geometrical design, sun, wheel, chakras, "na" markings Impure silver,
copper, zinc
2.5x2.5x2.5 cm
to 3.5x4x3.5 cm,
61 to 65 g
(three main
1.2x1.5x1 cm
to 3x3x1.5 cm,
3.3 to 9.5 g
A6 Also called Broken bracelet money
Fighting cockerel money (Fighting cockerel perched on different amount of vertical rings)
Malay Peninsula (Kedah) Pattern imitating cockerel Tin (size of cockerel)
3.2x1.8 cm
B12 Different number of remaining rings
Fish money
North Menam valley Pattern imitating fish Silver,
silver alloy

- Rare; Found together with Leaf money
Flower money
North Menam valley Flower like pattern Silver (diameter)
1 to 4.5 cm
A7 Imitate coriander blossom (Oliver), or cowrie shell (Kneedler)
Leaf money
North Menam valley Leaf-like lines design Surface:
often silvered;

brass, copper,
never silver

A8 Also known as Line money; Believed to be one of the earliest Lannathai ingots
Lump money "Namo" money
Kra isthmus Early coins: "Na" symbol on obverse, reverse bullet shaped;
Later period coins: "Na" symbol on obverse flower, chakras, shell, temple markings
Gold, copper,
minor silver
0.5-1.1 cm
0.8 - 2.5 g
A9 Appearing obverse and reverse terms, the classification of later "namo" coins as primitive money is questionable
Kud money
Menam valley, South of Menam valey Chakras, elephants, shells markings Stone,
tin-lead alloy

Pot Duang money
Chakras markings gold, silver,
silver alloy,
copper, bronze
usually 1-60 g;
up to kilograms
A11 Circulated extensively since early 14th century until the late 19 thcentury
Sycee money Saddle money
Menam valley, Mekong valley, Irrawaddy valley In Chinese, (various) Silver Up to kilograms
A12 Chinese originated form of ingots
Shoe money
Tampang money (Hollow)
Malay Peninsula (Pahang) In Arabic, Jawi, Chinese, (various) Tin,
silver (?)
2.8x2.8x0.8 cm
to 9x9x3.2 cm,
13 to 218 g
B13 Also known as Tin hat money
Malay Peninsula (Perak) Ornamental flower design Tin 3x5x3.5 cm
to 4.5x11x5 cm
900 g - 1.1 kg
B14 Also known as Pyramid / Pagoda money
Tin ingot money Mound shaped
Malay Peninsula (Perak) No Tin 200g-2.5kg
- Semispherical irregular form ingots
Conical / Cylindrical shaped
No Tin 160 g - 1.1 kg
- Conical or cylindrical more or less regular form ingots
Chandi, or Mountain shaped
No Tin 2x3x10 cm
to 4x9x40 cm
600 g - 1.7 kg
Sugar-Loaf shaped
No Tin 5x6x11 cm
to 6x7x13 cm
3 - 4 kg
Bidor, or Pagoda shaped
No, or ornamental design Tin 5x3x2.5 cm
to 12x5x7 cm
400g - 3kg
B14, B17
Tok money Nan Tok money
North Menam valley; Nan No Silver,
silver alloy,
copper, bronze;
silver was
poured with
egg yolk
or chicken
blood when
1 to 4.5 cm
A14 In 1940s still in use in some districts of Northern Menam valley and Mekong valley
Chiengmai Tok money
North Menam valley; Chiengmai Chakras, symbol drawing, "na", deer markings; two or three markings on ingot; markings on sides usually are mirror Silver alloy
poured with
egg yolk or
chicken blood
1.5 to 5 cm
A15 Both, hollow and not hollow variations appear
Pig mouth money
North Menam valley No Silver
A16 Hollow
Horse-Hoof money
North Menam valley; Chiengmai Chakras and symbol drawing markings Silver alloy about 60g
- Hollow; Similar to Tok money of Chiengmai, however space inside is smaller


      Plate A
      Plate B

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