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The official currency of Thailand is the “baht.” The baht is divided into 100 “satang.” The ISO 4217 code for the baht is “THB” and it’s represented as “฿” when writing monetary values. While not an official currency of the following countries, the baht is also circulated in Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar (also known as Burma).
In its earliest days, the kingdom of Thailand used a variety of materials as currencies. For example, people traded seeds, pebbles, ancient beads, and bracelets as currency around 200-300 B.C. Baked clay coins, cowrie shells, and sandal wood flower coins were used at different times in regions of Thailand up until the middle of the 19th century when a more formal coinage system was introduced.
The early Thai kingdoms also widely used coins introduced from other areas, such as Roman coins during the ancient era. From the first century A.D. through the 19th century, coins from Indochina and the Cambodian region were used. Different kingdoms within modern Thailand also issued their own coinage.
Bullet Money (“Pot Duang”)
Bullet money, called “pot duang,” was first introduced in the 13th century. Thin metal strips were manipulated into round shapes with pointed ends, looking a bit like a bullet. The coins would have different imprints, such as a conch or lotus, to indicate their origins.
The value of a specific pot duang was based on its weight. It was at this time that the term “baht” came into use. A baht referred to a weight, roughly 15 grams of silver as weighted today. Pot duang with other weights were given other names indicating their weight, and thus their values. Bullet money remained valid currency in Thailand until 1906.
Modernization of Thai Currency
In the middle of the 19th century, foreign trade in Thailand increased significantly. The royal house started issued paper money, in the form of royal promissory notes, in 1853. Standardized silver coins began getting minted in 1858. Baht was still a measure of metal weight translated into monetary value. These first coins were valued at four baht.
By the late 19th century, Thailand moved to a decimal system and the various denominations of Thai currency were reduced to just the baht and satang. The coins’ value remained linked directly to their silver weight. Eight baht were valued at one British pound, falling to 10 baht per British pound in the 1880s.
In 1902, the Thai government revised the value of a baht when silver appreciated against gold, but didn’t lower the value a baht when silver depreciated against gold. The baht was pegged to the British pound in 1908 at 13 baht per British pound. While pegged to the British pound, the baht value kept getting revised up against the British pound over the next two decades. In 1923, a single British pound was now worth 11 baht.
The baht became linked to the U.S. dollar in 1956 at 20 baht to one U.S. dollar. It was de-linked from the U.S. dollar in 1973, but still held relatively steady against it trading at 20.8 baht to one U.S. dollar in 1978. Thailand re-pegged the baht to the U.S. dollar in 1985 since the U.S. economy was quite strong at the time. Valued at 25 baht to one U.S. dollar, the baht remained linked to it until 1997, when the Asian financial crisis began affecting Thailand.
Once depegged from the U.S. dollar, the baht floated freely and lost half its value. It dropped as low as 56 baht to one U.S. dollar in 1998, but has been hovering in the 30 baht to one U.S. dollar in the 21st century.
Denominations Currently in Circulation
The following banknotes are in circulation:
The following coins are in circulation:
– 50 satang
– 25 satang
– 10 satang
– 5 satang
– 1 satang