Most of you might know that we call money ‘เงิน’ /ngern/ in Thai but some of you might not know that this word also means ‘silver’.
If you think that it’s a coincidence, you are wrong. When we track back to the history of Thai coinage, the first Thai money was ‘เงินพดด้วง’ /ngern-pód-duâng/ aka “Bullet Money”. It was originated in 13th centuries when The Sukhothai Kingdom was founded. Can you guess what kind of metal it produced? Yes, you are right. The bullet money made of silver.
เงินพดด้วง /ngern-pód-duâng/ was called “Bullet Money” because of its round-shaped with long, sharp and pointed tips of legs which made it look similar to bullet with marks to show the origin. It was in circulation for 600 years until Rattanakosin Kingdom.
Thai baht originated from a traditional unit of mass, like the pound. Its currency value was originally equivalent to silver of corresponding weight (equating with 15.2 grams). Nowadays we usually use kilogram but บาท or baht is still the unit of mass when buying or selling gold and silver.
The monetary and financial system had been developed significantly in the reign of King Rama V. The first paper money, called หมาย /măay/, was issued due to insufficiency of เงินพดด้วง /ngern-pód-duâng/ and the counterfeit. The banknote was not popular at that time, however.
In 1897 the production of พดด้วง /pód-duâng/ was discontinued after King Rama IV had got a small man-powered coin production machine from Queen Victoria. The flat coins started to produce and use alongside พดด้วง /pód-duâng/. HRH Prince Jayanta Mongkol devised the decimal system for the new coins. 100 satang is equal to 1 baht.
Although we might hardly buy something with satang coins presently, people still refer to money by using the word ‘สตางค์’ /sà-dtaang/. When they speak faster in a hurry, they will cut the first syllable and shorten the length of the second syllable. It becomes ตังค์ /dtang/ finally.