Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Un-confusing the Confusion

After more than fifteen years of obstinate probing into the bewildering journey of Bhutan’s coinage, I am finally beginning to see merit in my unbending nature in not docilely accepting half-truths and uncontested theories of probabilities - in the construct of the history of our coinage, and everything else. Too often I have been dismayed by the inaccuracies in the historical accounts put forward by those whom we considered knowledgeable and wise - time and again it has been my experience that our historians and academicians have proven to be not so learned in their dissertations. Thus, over the years, I have become wary about accepting any historical facts - whether written or oral - as dependable truth - unless I validate them with my own research and cross verification. It is for this reason that the publication of my coin book has been hanging fire for more than fifteen years - because I want to ensure that when I finally do publish my book - that it is a book that may not be absolutely flawless in its accuracy - but a work that contains the least bit of inaccuracies.

Consider the case of our following first machine-struck silver Thala, issued by His Majesty the 2nd Druk Gyalpo:

Bhutan's earliest modern machine-struck silver Thala

The Year on the reverse of the coin reads:

Sa Druk Lo

When translated to Gregorian Calendar, the Year translates to:


So, lots of historians around the world began to assume, and record, the coin as having been minted in 1928. Then one day, my relentless research led me to the following record released by the Director of The Mint, USA, that included a report on the production of precious metals by Calcutta Mint during the Calendar Year 1929:

The above record clearly states that coins worth Rs. 10,000.00 – or 20,000 pcs. of silver Thalas - were minted by the Calcutta Mint, in the year 1929!

I was puzzled! 1929? But the coin is clearly dated Sa Druk Lo on its reverse – meaning 1928. So which is right – and what is correct? I went into deep delve – I read records from USA, England, Denmark, Germany, India and Bhutan. None could give me the correct answer – but I persisted. Then I hit on the truth!

The basic concept for the coin’s design was supplied by Bhutan in the year Sa Druk Lo - 1928. In Calcutta Mint where the coin was minted, the coin’s die was engraved by the famous English master engraver Mr. A P Spencer. It is said that his work of the design and engraving of the silver Thala’s die was considered his life’s finest.

Now, engraving a coin’s die is not an easy task – it is tedious, long-drawn and time consuming. Thus, it is my belief that although the designing of the coin was conceived and released to the Mint in 1928 and accordingly dated, it is obvious that it was not before a year that the coins could finally be minted - resulting in the minting date of the coins being recorded as 1929 - in the Document No. 3025 of the Treasury Department, Director of the Mint, Washington DC, USA.

Thus, we will have to accept that our earliest silver Thala was minted in 1929, and not 1928. Even then we are still not sure when it was actually released for circulation.

The perplexity of this particular coin, and the second issue of the same coin minted a year later in 1930, does not end here - there is even more intriguing matter that surrounds the coins - but the details are too lengthy for inclusion here - that will be dealt with in great detail in my book, when it is finally released 😋

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