The baht is the monetary unit of Thailand and its origin dates back to 1902.
Origins and history
Before using flat banknotes and coins, Thailand used shells, baked clay coins and pot duang as legal tender.
During the reign of King Mongkut, Thailand had established diplomatic relations with major Western countries and had implemented a free trade. Trade increased significantly, and so the need for money did, and the production of Pot Duang became insufficient to meet the demand. Thus, in 1853 King Mongkut ordered the first paper money, called Mai, which did not have a great success because people still preferred to use the Pot Duang.
With the arrival of King Chulalongkorn in 1873, copper coins of low value were scarce because the value of tin and copper in the world market rose above the face value of the coins. This shortage caused the population to trust the pee, a currency that was exchanged for money at the casinos. To avoid its use, King Chulalongkorn decreed using a low-value paper currency called Att Kradat, while waiting for the copper coins ordered from England, which would be withdrawn from circulation later on in 1875.
As the government could not provide Thai coins in response to the expansion of the economy and trade, three foreign commercial banks were granted permission to operate and issue banknotes to make the settlement of debts between the bank and their customers faster in 1889, 1898 and 1899, respectively.
In 1890 the government was planning to issue a kind of paper money called Ngoen Kradat Luang or Treasury Notes, but never put into circulation due to inefficiency in managing banknotes.
The year 1902 marked a significant milestone as during the reign of King Chulalongkorn the Thai Department of Technology under the Ministry of Finance officially opened. The responsibility of this department laid in the issuance and exchange of banknotes that were put into circulation on 23rd September 1902, marking the inauguration of modern Thai banknotes.
Current Thai baht coins and banknotes
Currently there are in circulation coins of 1, 2, 5 and 10 bahts, and banknotes of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 Thai bahts. Every baht is divided into 100 satangs and there are coins of 50 and 25 satangs.
Interesting facts of the Thai baht
- In Thailand, carrying banknotes in the back pocket of your trousers is something frowned upon, as it implies that you are sitting over the image of the King.
- Step on a coin or banknote is considered as an offensive act against the monarchy.
- Some shops in Thailand, especially in rural areas, have small denomination banknotes displayed as a symbol of health and respect towards the king.