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1860: Cambodia's first Western-style coins

Started by <k>, February 23, 2022, 09:52:21 PM

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<k>

According to Wikipedia, the Khmer Empire was Southeast Asia's largest empire during the 12th century. It remained a significant force in the region until its fall in the 15th century.

By 1860, Cambodia, the remnant of the former Khmer Empire, was a small country, squeezed between larger powers.


From Wikipedia:

In the nineteenth century, a renewed struggle between Siam (now Thailand) and Vietnam for control of Cambodia resulted in a period when Cambodia became the Tây Thành Province of Nguyễn Vietnam, during which Vietnamese officials attempted to force the Khmers to adopt Vietnamese customs. This led to several rebellions against the Vietnamese and appeals to Thailand for assistance. The Siamese–Vietnamese War (1841–1845) ended with an agreement to place the country under joint suzerainty. This later led to the signing of a treaty for French Protection of Cambodia by King Norodom Prohmborirak.

In 1863, King Norodom, who had been installed by Siam,[11] sought the protection of Cambodia from Siam by French rule. In 1867, Rama IV signed a treaty with France, renouncing suzerainty over Cambodia in exchange for the control of Battambang and Siem Reap provinces which officially became part of Siam. The provinces were ceded back to Cambodia by a border treaty between France and Siam in 1907.
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<k>

Cambodia 10 centimes 1860.jpg

Cambodia, 10 centimes, 1860.


Curiously, Cambodia's first French-style coin was issued as early as 1860.

The 10 centimes coin shown here has the denomination spelled out in the French language.

Surely it would have been easier for the Cambodians to understand numerals?


Incidentally, who is the engraver, C Wurden?

His name looks German, but that does not necessarily mean that he was German.


Image © Heritage Auctions.
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See: The Royal Mint Museum.

<k>

Cambodia CoA 1860 to 1970.png

Cambodia's coat of arms, 1860 to 1970.


Here you see Cambodia's coat of arms of that period.

On the reverse of the 10 centimes coin, figures are seen emanating towards the rim of the coin at the top.

They do not seem to be characters or ideograms. What do they represent?
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See: The Royal Mint Museum.

<k>

King Norodom 1866.jpg

King Norodom in 1866.


Here is a photo of King Norodom in 1866.

He does not look so Western at all as on his stylised coin portrait.
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See: The Royal Mint Museum.

<k>



Map of South-east Asia.


Here you see Cambodia's location in south-east Asia.

It is one of those countries that you do not usually think about.
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<k>

Cambodia 1 piastre 1860.jpg

Cambodia, 1 piastre, 1860.


Here you see a different portrait of the King on the 1 piastre coin of 1860.

The engraver this time is somebody by the name of Faconnet.

The coin is made of silver.


Image © Heritage Auctions.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

<k>

Cambodia 1 piastre 1860-.jpg

Cambodia, 1 piastre, 1860.


Here you see the reverse of the 1 piastre coin.

It is somewhat different from the reverse of the other coins in the series.


Image © Heritage Auctions.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.

<k>

The 1860 set consisted of 5, 10 and 50 centimes, 1 franc, 4 francs, and 1 piastre.
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<k>

See: Wikipedia: French Indochinese piastre.

In 1875, the French introduced a Cambodian franc to Cambodia. Although these francs were minted in Belgium between 1875 and 1885, they always bore the date 1860.

Very strange. Why did the French do that?
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Figleaf

I don't have the documentation to prove or disprove what Wiki says, but I doubt that these coins were issued by the French. At the time, Cambodia was a French protectorate, with the French applying salami tactics to turn the protectorate into a colony.

Financially, Cambodia was controlled by the Banque de l'Indochine. This bank financed exports, but, from 1875, it also issued banknotes, a watershed event that made French intentions clear for all to see. The coins are a likely reaction from king Norodom I, the first of the kings of Cambodia the French pretended to protect.

The coins in actual circulation come in two classes. The French used homeland coins and there were more and more of those. The seething masses used traditional hamza bird coinage, that went by weight, strings of Siamese cash style coins the French called sapèque (a string of 600 sapeque was called a ligature), a name that spread to all cash style coins and for large amounts Spanish colonial pesos, known as piastres.

Now, consider the 1860 series of Cambodian coins. They were apparently struck outside France, issued after the 1875 dated banknotes in Francs, but dated before that issue and denominated in piastres in French and pesos in Spanish, that could be explained as pesos in French. It is quite likely that Norodom I had them issued to counter French colonisation creep and its 1875 attack on local coinage. Maybe he reasoned that the locals would prefer good modern silver coins in traditional denominations to French paper in their own currency. Maybe he didn't know about Gresham's law. Maybe the Banque de l'Indochine or the colonial authorities used other ways to stop local issues. What is sure is that his successors, Sisowath and Norodom Sihanouk, did not issue money.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Figleaf

To answer a question you asked earlier in this thread, Henri Charles Würden (born 1849) was a Brussels engraver, working from Rue de Ruysbroek 56. Judging from the address, his first language was French, which may may have been advantage for the Cambodians communicating with him. The silver coin you show has a different signature.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

<k>

Thank you. So this is quite complex. Given the engraver Henri Charles Würden, do you think it is possible that the Belgians minted the coins?

On an image elsewhere, I found the name FACONNET as the engraver of the peso coin.

From Wikipedia:

Georges Peignot unsuccessfully frequented the Chaptal College in Paris, before attending an apprenticeship with his godfather, Émile Faconnet, master intaglio printer. Faconnet, an engraver, was a close friend of Marie Laporte-Peignot's parents.
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Figleaf

From Forrer:

FACONNET, M MARIE ANNE EUGENIE (French). Contemporary Sculptor, born at Paris. Pupil of J(ules) Léquien Jr . She is the author of a number of Portrait-medallions in clay which are not without merit.

No evident connection with Brussels.

I'll see if I can find out more about Würden's relationship with the Brussels mint. I expect to find het got assignments from them but didn't work for them.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Figleaf

I have contacted Ms. Stroobants, head of coins and medals of the Royal Library in Brussels. She reacted:

As for Cambodia's coinage, I've done some research here in our library.
What is certain is that the series was not minted by the Royal Mint of Belgium (which did a lot of foreign minting in that period).
Both in Didier Vanoverbeek's book on foreign minting in Brussels and in the catalog of dies of the Royal Mint, there is no trace of Cambodia to be found.
It is of course possible that Würden worked for another European mint (eg France's?).


That effectively changes the question to "can we find a connection between the Monnaie de Paris and Mr. Würden?"

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

<k>

Thank you. Please thank Ms. Stroobants on my behalf for her research.

So that rules out Belgium.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.