Saturday, October 26, 2013

Reading Thai Numbers and Dates

Thailand 1962 1 baht
Thailand, located in southeast Asia a little south of China, is another country that does not use Western Arabic (European) numerals (0, 1, 2, 3...) to represent numbers. In order for coin collectors in the United States, Europe, and similar locations to properly identify both the denomination and year of a Thai coin, it is useful to know how to translate Thai numbers and dates to their European equivalents.

The Thai Numerals

The symbols that the Thai language uses to represent the numbers 0 through 9 are known as Thai numerals and are based on older symbols known as Khmer numerals. Below is a chart showing the Thai numerals that represent the Western Arabic numerals 0 through 9:

The Thai numeral system is a positional number system, so numbers larger than 9 are constructed as they would be using Western Arabic numbers:
  • 10 = 
  • 23 = 
  • 496 = 
On coins, the denomination (value) of a coin is usually followed by the Thai word บาท ("baht", the name of the Thai currency).

Here are some examples from actual Thai coins:
Left to right: 1, 25, and 10
To translate Thai numbers, you just replace the Thai symbols with their Western Arabic equivalents (there is no calculation involved, unlike Japanese numbers). Some more recent Thai coins include the denomination in Arabic numerals (note the "10" on the right-most coin).

Thai Dates

Once you can translate the Thai numbers, converting the date on Thai coins to the Common Era (e.g. 2013) is done by subtracting 543 from the Thai year. (Wikipedia has more information about the Thai Solar Calendar for those that are interested.)  The coin's year usually follows the initials พ.ศ. ("B.E.", which stands for Buddhist Era).

Here are date examples from actual Thai coins:
Left to right: 2551 (2008), 2543 (2000), and 2552 (2009)