This week’s preview coin for our upcoming Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio August Hong Kong Showcase auction is an impressive piece, the finer of two known Cambodian 4 Tical pieces. It is historically important to its country of origin depicting a stylized Hamsa bird and the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat. It is also important to the entire numismatic community as the first issue to be produced in Asia with European machinery and as a multiple crown with multiple dates.
The coin displays a Hamsa bird left in high relief, legend around with three-line inscription at center above Hamsa, and is dated in Buddhist era, Saka era, Chula Sakarat and traditional Khmer. The reverse features a stylized rendition of Angkor Wat with five towers in high relief, inscription in doorways.
Before becoming a French Protectorate, Cambodia was under constant threat from its neighbors to the east (Annam) and west (Siam). In 1841 while in captivity in Bangkok, Ang Duong was named King of Cambodia by Rama III at the request of various Cambodian Chieftains and as an attempt to counter the Annamese intervention. In 1847, with support from the Siamese military, King Ang Duong was able to gain sufficient control over his country and entered into a tributary treaty with both Siam and Annam. As both were financially drained, they withdrew their forces from Cambodia and in 1848 Ang Duong was crowned king at Udong in a traditional Cambodian ceremony surrounded by his supporters and Siamese and Annamese political advisers. Ang Duong was king until his death in 1860; he presided over 12 years of peace and did much to improve his country.
King Ang Duong had a passion for everything European and mechanical. He commissioned W.P. Hammond & Co. of Birmingham, England (through Jose Almeida & Sons of Singapore) to procure dies and machinery from Birmingham to produce his new coinage in European style. In 1852 through a local artisan he had a design carved in ivory of how he wished his new coins to appear. He sent it to Birmingham where it was used to make an exact copy as seen in the Illustrated London News January 15, 1853. These new European style coins were not made out of necessity, but rather to satisfy the king’s fascination with European things. When the minting equipment arrived it contained three sets of dies — 1/4 Tical, 1 Tical and 4 Tical — and excellent presses designed to be powered by animal. Unfortunately, no assembly instructions were included for these new machines and they sat unused. Nearly a year after the new minting equipment arrived, the king hired a Thai who had some knowledge of machinery to install them. Subsequently they were incorrectly installed and could only be used by hand so that they could be better regulated. Ultimately, the king was unhappy with the results of these presses and in mid-April 1854 went through T.K. Whistler and his brother (who happened to be an agent for Jose Almeida & Sons) to acquire new minting equipment from Ralph Heaton & Sons, Birmingham.
The present example was undoubtedly produced in 1853 from the minting equipment procured from W.P Hammond, with the date 1847 traditionally thought to represent King Ang Duong’s ascension to the throne. However, by 1847 he had already been named king by Rama III of Siam in 1841, but his coronation in Udong did not happen until 1848. The date 1847 could represent the year when King Ang Duong returned to his home and took control of his country.
When searching for other examples of this extreme rarity we were able to locate more patterns struck in white metal of this series for this denomination then actual circulation issues. Though several of the patterns located were of the adopted design, the circulation issues seemed to elude us. The only other example we were able to locate of a circulation strike is the one plated in the KM book, which is in lower grade and was inaccurately re-engraved. This piece is the superior of the two known examples by far.
Make sure to look for this and other offerings in the coming weeks prior to our Hong Kong auction. Though our Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio August Hong Kong Showcase Auction is no longer open for consignments, we are accepting consignments for our upcoming January NYINC 2017 auction as well as our April 2017 Hong Kong Showcase auction. If you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.