Siamese porcelain tokens (pees)

Nov, 05, 1998

Siamese porcelain tokens have been used in the Chinese gambling establishments (Hongs). According to various sources they were firstly issued in 1760 (Haas, 1880) or in 1821 (Schlegel, 1890). They were not used in the well-known mah-jong game, but in a game called Fantan.
Although firstly used as counters only, the owners of the Hongs were later allowed to issue the pees as currency in their districts. The issuers were obliged to exchange the pees for gold or silver (Hamel, 1888). In 1875 their issue was forbidden by an edict of king Rama IV in order to facilitate the introduction of a new struck copper coinage. However, they continued to circulate still for a long time thereafter.
Numerous different issues, shapes and varieties have been issued. Presently, the number of different pees is estimated around 8000. Due to the production of fakes the Hongs were forced to call in their pees at regular intervals and to issue new types. On their reverse they often had value indication in Chinese or Siamese. For a catalogue see Ramsden (1911, reprint 1977). A series of several papers in the ONS Newsletter have been written by G. Hollink (ONS Newsletter nos 110, 111, 120, 121 and 131) and P. Flensborg (no. 140). Their usage as real coinage around 1850 induced issues of pees imitating cash coins. They received the features of cash coins such as the indication of a square hole and the positioning of the characters. Eventually real cash coins were imitated. Known are imitations of Chinese cash from the later Qing dynasty of the Tongzhi period (1862-74) and the Guangxu period (1875-1908). Illustrated have been two pees inscribed Tongzhi tongbao and Guangxu yuan nian. On the reverse they bear the value indications of a salung and fuang, respectively. Further is illustrated an octagonal pee with the legends Xiexing yinqian that bears a close resemblance to a tin cash coin (jokoh) from a gongsi from the Malaya state of Trengganu. Its reverse is blank.
LegendDiameter, mmThickness, mm
Tongzhi tongbao22.25.0
Guangxu yuan nian19.14.6
Xiexing yinqian18.75.5

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