Money is so omnipresent and commonplace in modern day life that many view it as a critical yet mundane part of society. Cash, the physical form of currency, exchange hands everyday and so quickly that one never really stop to hold it and scrutinize its form. Banknotes and coins both have unique designs in every country and how they came to be is often tied to complex story of nation making. In Thailand, coins have come a long way with each era seeing different forms of payment. In order to preserve this story, the nation’s Treasury Department set up the Pavilion of Thai Coins in 1976 to display coin and money artifacts and demonstrate their relations to Thai life, society, economy, art, and culture. Eventually, the materials for exhibition grew and the pavilion moved into the building of the original Bureau of Monetary Management, which became the Coin Museum.
The Coin Museum’s own ethos is that “Money or coins are not only a medium of exchange in the economy, but they are also timeless travelers who document the story of humankind across all eras.” This is reflected in all three floors of exhibition space. Immediately when one enters the museum, a 4-D animation media on 360 degrees cave-simulated walls takes one through the beginnings of currency. Why certain cultures value and use specific types of items for trading is explored. On the second floor, one delves deeper into money in the context of Thailand. Pod Duang, small silver ingots manually formed into elliptical bars with both ends pressed inwards, were once the dominant form of cash the kingdom and a feature in the story of Thai coins. This continues onto the third floor where a video summarizing all of it allows one to leave with their Thai monetary knowledge all but sealed.
The Coin Museum is a joy not only for numismatists, but also anyone interested in history. The mix of technical and story driven information makes a visit both useful and enjoyable. Displays are in Thai, English, and Braille. Guided tours are available in Thai while audio guides are available in English. The Coin Museum merits a visit anytime one is in North Rattanakosin Island and near the Grand Palace.