Passion high for King's memorabilia

Passion high for King's memorabilia

Outpouring of grief is manifesting itself in the purchase of commemorative items

Many publishers said the sales of books in remembrance of the late King have risen sharply during the national mourning period. TAWEECHAI TAWATPAKORN
Many publishers said the sales of books in remembrance of the late King have risen sharply during the national mourning period. TAWEECHAI TAWATPAKORN

Demand for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's memorabilia has surged to an unprecedented level in the past few weeks.

Sales of the royal mementoes have shot up as the nation mourns the passing of the King, who was much revered and venerated as a pillar of stability during his 70-year reign, on Oct 13.

People are snapping up commemorative coins, banknotes, stamps, amulets and books in remembrance of His Majesty.

Commemorative banknotes, coins and stamps and newly-minted amulets bearing the portraits of His Majesty are nearly sold out while publishers say they struggling to meet the soaring demand for commemorative books.

Market prices of these items are soaring in a way not seen in decades.

Coins and banknotes

Coin and banknote collectors are the busiest they've been in several decades as people are in a flurry to collect everything related to the memories of the late King.

A small Bhamahachanaka coin has now tripled in price to 13,000 baht, compared with 4,500-5,000 in the past, while a large coin is being offered at 26,000, from a previous range of 8,000-12,000, Thai Medal Association's director Sarawut Volapattavechoti said.

Even coins easily found in the market, such as a one-baht coin minted in 1962 is being sold at 25 baht from 5-7 baht before, and the 20-baht coins available at the Bureau of the Royal Thai Mint are being sold for 100 baht, he said.

"Demand is very high. The King's relationship with the people is very profound, as he was on the throne for 70 years," said Mr Sarawut.

The most expensive coin minted during the King's reign is a gold coin issued in 1987, its price rocketing to 800,000 baht from 200,000 baht.

Other coins now exorbitantly priced include the 10-baht coin issued in 1990 and a one-baht coin from 1950. Their latest prices are 500,000 baht each.

The 10-baht coin issued in 1990 is rare as there were only 100 coins issued, of which 60 are kept at the Treasury Department, 20 had been distributed to participants of a mint exhibition in England in that year and the remaining 20 are in circulation.

"The price upsurge doesn't imply the existence of supply. Several collectors don't want to sell and let go of their collections," said Mr Sarawut.

Apart from coins, prices of banknotes have also surged. The final version of the 10-baht banknote is selling at 5,000-5,500 baht per 100 issues, compared with 3,000-3,500 baht early this year, he said.

The most expensive banknotes issued under the late King are the 1,000-baht banknotes from 1948, as they were not put in circulation.

Since the demise of the King, the number of collectors who visit his shop in Nakhon Pathom province has increased significantly, said Mr Sarawut.

Thais are prepared to pay for collections that have sentimental value, even though their prices are high, he said.

Singaporeans too are collecting coins and banknotes depicting King Bhumibol, as they admire His Majesty's practices, Mr Sarawut added.

Amulets

Prices of series of commemorative medals honouring His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok's amulet market have risen, on average, five times since the first week of October, as soaring demand for amulets sparked price surges.

However, retail prices for other Buddha amulets continue their downward trend this month after declining for years due to stagnant sales.

"There is a high demand to acquire the series of His Majesty's commemorative medals through amulet trading shops and websites, especially the ones celebrating the anniversaries of His Majesty's Accession to the Throne," said Narat Suwannakit, 35, a co-owner of Samarn Klongsam amulet outlet.

He said most people who are seeking to acquire the medals said they want to collect in remembrance of their beloved King, without intentions to trade or speculate like other typical Buddha amulets.

Mr Narat also said he was surprised to see retail prices of many Buddha amulets, whose moulding ceremonies that His Majesty presided over, have remained unchanged.

"I believe people want to acquire coins portraying the late King Bhumibol to hold on to memories of their beloved King," he said.

Books

Many people are buying books related to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's biography, his philosophy of self-sufficiency and royal initiatives.

Many publishers said the sales of books honouring the late King have risen sharply during the national mourning period.

Ongaj Jira-on, assistant managing director of SET-listed Amarin Printing & Publishing Plc, said the increase in sales volume of the King's books at Book Expo Thailand 2016 is astonishing when compared with last year's fair.

Books that became swiftly popular are Naiin Phu Pit Thong Lang Phra, Tito, Khun Tong Daeng and Phra Maha Chanaka.

"These books' sales volume have sprung up overnight as Thais want to read them to understand His Majesty the King's teachings and philosophy," said Mr Ongaj.

He found that many Thais want to pay their respects to the late King through reading stories about his works to help his people, and collect these books in remembrance.

"It's not a trend, it's an expression of Thai loyalty to His Majesty the King," he said.

Ann, an office worker, said she wanted to collect books related to His Majesty the King because she liked to reminisce about him. She enjoys reading his biography and has observed royal images since she was young.

A staff member at Dok Ya publishing house said See Pan Din, a popular novel authored by MR Kukrit Pramoj, has come back to public attention. It has sold nearly 100 copies a day since the loss of the King.

"People are now interested in Thai history and in reading this novel they can reflect on the past, from the times of King Rama V to King Rama VIII," she said.

Stamps

Stamps featuring portraits of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej have been nearly completely sold out through Thailand Post's 1,300 offices nationwide as collectors hunt for souvenirs.

Thailand Post has produced almost 2 billion commemorative stamps of the King since 1947, comprising 70 series with 349 models, president Samorn Therdthampibun said.

Stamps featuring portraits of the King and royal family members have been produced only once for each design, as the state postal enterprise must seek permission from the Bureau of the Royal Household before production.

Mrs Samorn said she has received reports from all 1,300 branches about long queues of people waiting for commemorative stamps at post offices every day since Oct 14. However, she said there is no exact figure for the number of commemorative stamps available at all branches.

The most popular commemorative stamps of the King include the first series of King Bhumibol Adulyadej stamps, a series of stamps issued on the anniversaries of King's birthday, commemorative stamps for the anniversary celebrations of His Majesty's Accession to the Throne, and stamps portraying the King performing royal duties.

Imperforated stamp sheets are also most in demand.

Mrs Samorn said Thailand Post plans to distribute 9.9 million free stamps featuring portraits of King Bhumibol to Thais across the country. It is now working on the design of the stamps, which will be given away in January.

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