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The 1 ngultrum coin is a current circulation piece of the Kingdom of Bhutan. It was issued in four types from 1974 to 2008, three during the reign of Druk Gyalpo (King) Jigme Singye Wangchuck (1955–; r. 1972–2006) and a fourth under his successor, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (1980–; r. 2006–). Of these, the first two types were issued by the Royal Government of Bhutan and the last two were distributed by the Royal Monetary Authority. Lacking their own coining facilities, both issuing authorities commissioned foreign mints to strike each of the four types. The first was produced at the facilities of the India Government Mint; the second and third were manufactured at the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales, United Kingdom; and the fourth was struck by MDM in Germany.
The first coin was introduced in 1974 to coincide with Jigme Singye's coronation as Druk Gyalpo, and was later minted again in 1975. It was followed by a redesigned 1 ngultrum piece in 1979, and then by a third type during the early 2000s and a fourth in 2008. These last three types were struck using the same dies, and despite being made at different times, they all bear a frozen 1979 date. Because of this they can sometimes be difficult to differentiate, but can usually be distinguished from one another by their masses and magnetic or nonmagnetic characteristics. Another type was struck at the Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation in Daejeon, South Korea, in 1991, but was never released for circulation.
All four issued coins currently hold legal tender status in their country of origin, each carrying a face value of 1.00 ngultrum, or 1.00 Indian rupees. Despite this, they no longer circulate frequently due to their low purchasing power and the Bhutanese public's disinterest in using coins.
First coin (1974–1975)Edit
For much of the 20th century, Bhutan used its own rupee in conjunction with the Indian rupee. However, coinciding with the coronation of Jigme Singye Wangchuck as Druk Gyalpo, the Himalayan country introduced the ngultrum as its primary currency in 1974, replacing the Bhutanese rupee at a rate of 1:1. In spite of the change, the Indian rupee remains an official currency of Bhutan, and is pegged by the ngultrum at par.
In 1974, the Royal Government of Bhutan commissioned the India Government Mint to strike the first series of coins for the ngultrum in denominations of 5, 10, 20, and 25 chhertum, and 1 ngultrum. According to British numismatic author Nicholas Rhodes (1946–2011), most of the coins in this initial series were "ordered by outside agencies and marketed internationally", and hence, "very few have circulated to any significant extent". As a result, examples are common in higher grades, even though circulation grade pieces also exist.
The 1 ngultrum piece of the series, which was also struck into 1975, is composed of a cupronickel alloy of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel. Like the contemporary Indian rupee coin, the Bhutanese coin measures 10 grams in mass and 28 millimeters in diameter. It has medallic alignment and raised, undecorated rims, and is round in shape. In order to prevent counterfeiting, the piece utilizes a reeded security edge, a feature also incorporated on Indian rupee coins of the period.
A bust of Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck appears in the center of the coin's obverse. In this illustration the monarch, a young adult at the time of the piece's introduction, is portrayed facing left and wearing a gho, a traditional Bhutanese robe for men, and the Raven Crown, the official headdress of the Druk Gyalpo. The Dzongkha word "འབྲུག" (Wylie: 'brug yul) is printed above the king's likeness, curved in a clockwise direction at the coin's upper left rim. Such an inscription, meaning "dragon" in Dzongkha and Tibetan, makes up the first part of the local name of Bhutan, "འབྲུག་ཡུལ" (Wylie: 'brug yul), which translates literally as "Land of the Dragon". Printed clockwise at the coin's upper right rim is the English name "BHUTAN", and engraved in the opposite direction at the left periphery is the Gregorian date of minting, either "1974" or "1975".
Displayed at the top center of the reverse is a vishvavajra, a symbol of Vajrayana Buddhism, the state religion of Bhutan. Consisting of two crossing vajras (dorjes), the vishvavajra also appears in the state emblem of Bhutan, and in context represents harmony between secular and religious power. On the coin it is surrounded by a decorative symmetrical ribbon. The numeral "1" is written horizontally below the depiction in a large font, the Dzongkha word "དངུལ་ཊམ" (Wylie: dngul Tam) printed counterclockwise to the left and its English equivalent, "NGULTRUM", inscribed in the same direction to the right. Translating literally as "silver coin", the term "དངུལ་ཊམ" (Wylie: dngul Tam) was originally applied to the silver rupees circulating in Bhutan, and was later used to refer to the ngultrum. This spelling was eventually rejected in the 1970s in favor of the current "དངུལ་ཀྲམ" (Wylie: dngul kram).
The total mintage of the first 1 ngultrum coin is currently unknown. A large number of examples with a standard finish and a handful of proofs were struck during both years of production. Of these, an undisclosed number of uncirculated 1974 pieces were sold in mint sets and all 1,000 of the 1974 and an unknown number of the 1975 proofs were distributed in proof sets.
Unissued coin (1991)Edit
According to Günter and Gerhard Schön's Weltmünzkatalog, in 1991 the Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation in Daejeon, South Korea, struck a series of Bhutanese coins in denominations of 5, 10, 25, and 50 chhertum, and 1 and 5 ngultrum. These pieces were never released for circulation in Bhutan, and were produced in extremely small quantities.
The cupronickel 1 ngultrum piece features a facing depiction of Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck appears in the center of its obverse. Printed next to it, extending clockwise along the left rim, is the state title "BHUTAN". Its Dzongkha equivalent, "འབྲུག" (Wylie: 'brug), is written on the opposite side of the Bhutanese monarch's likeness, traveling in the same direction along the periphery. The Gregorian date of minting, "1991", also appears on the obverse, arched counterclockwise at the piece's lower boundary.
A large numeral "1" is engraved in the middle of the reverse, the English word "NGULTRUM" curved counterclockwise along the rim below. An addition rendering of the coin's face value, the Dzongkha inscription "དངུལ་ཀྲམ་གཅིག།" (Wylie: dngul kram gcig), appears at the top of the piece, extending clockwise along the reverse's upper periphery.
A total of 12 examples of the 1991 piece were produced. The Weltmünzkatalog contains information about the coin, but as of its 2016 does not contain any pricing information. The Standard Catalog of World Coins does not even mention the piece as of its 2017 publication.
Later coins (1979–2008)Edit
In 1979, the Royal Government of Bhutan contracted the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales, to strike a new series of coins for the ngultrum in denominations of 5, 10, 25, and 50 chhertum, and 1 ngultrum. The pieces were first released that year, but they remain unpopular due to the Bhutanese public's disinterest in using coins as a medium of exchange. As a result, examples are often available in higher grades, even though specimens in circulation grades also exist.
The Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan subsequently issued two similar types during the 2000s, one around 2000 to 2003 and another in 2008. These were respectively produced under commission at the Royal Mint and at MDM in Germany. Both types utilize the same dies as the original 1979 coin, also including a frozen "1979" date. In spite of recent efforts to popularize coins in Bhutan, these newer pieces do not see much widespread circulation, making examples in higher grades easily available to collectors.
The original 1979 coin is composed of a cupronickel alloy and weighs 8.2 grams. In comparison, the piece struck from around 2000 to 2003 is made of cupronickel-plated steel and measures 7.9 grams in mass, while the coin minted in 2008 is composed of nickel-plated steel and weighs approximately 8.1 grams. Being made primarily of steel, both of the later types are magnetic, a characteristic not shared by the original 1979 piece. All three coins measure about 27.9 millimeters in diameter and have medallic alignment; raised, undecorated rims; and a reeded edge. Like most coins, they are round in shape.
The dharmachakra, a Buddhist symbol representing dharma, appears inside a solid circular boundary in the middle of the obverse. It is surrounded by a decorative symmetrical ribbon. Printed outside the border, extending clockwise from the lower left to lower right rims, is the legend "ROYAL GOVERNMENT OF BHUTAN". The Gregorian year "1979" is arched in the opposite direction at the bottom of the obverse, separated from the government title by four circular points, two stacked on each side of the date.
The middle of the reverse consists of a three-by-three grid containing the Ashtamangala (Eight Auspicious Signs) and the local name of Bhutan. In order from the upper left, the items depicted are the dharmachakra, the parasol (chhatra), the two golden fish (gaurmatsya), the banner (dhvaja), the Dzongkha word "འབྲུག" (Wylie: 'brug), the conch (shankha), the endless knot (shrivatsa), the treasure vase (bumpa), and the sacred lotus (padma). This grid is enclosed within a circular boundary, outside of which the Dzongkha rendering of the face value, "དངུལ་ཀྲམ་གཅིག།" (Wylie: dngul kram gcig), is curved in a clockwise direction at the upper rim. Its English equivalent, "ONE NGULTRUM", is written counterclockwise at the coin's lower boundary, separated from the Dzongkha value by six circular points, three at each side of the reverse.
The total mintages of the cupronickel, cupronickel-plated, and nickel-plated coins are currently unknown. The cupronickel variety was made in both a standard and proof finish, and of the proofs, 20,000 were reportedly distributed in sets by the Royal Government of Bhutan. Only business strikes are known to exist for both plated pieces.
- Numismatic Guaranty Corporation – Bhutan - Ngultrum, KM# 41 (1974–1975) • Bhutan - Ngultrum, KM# 49 (1979) • Bhutan - Ngultrum, KM# 49a (1979) • Bhutan - Ngultrum, KM# 116 (2008)
- Colnect – 1 Ngultrum (1974–1975) • 1 Ngultrum (1979 cupronickel) • 1 Ngultrum (1979 cupronickel-plated steel) • 1 Ngultrum (1979 nickel-plated steel)
- Numista – 1 Ngultrum (1974–1975) • 1 Ngultrum (1979 cupronickel) • 1 Ngultrum (1979 cupronickel-plated steel) (English) (French)
- Bhutan Observer – "Origins of Bhutanese coinage" (5 December 2008) • "Where do Bhutanese coins jingle?" (20 March 2009)
- Center for Bhutan Studies & GNH Research – Coinage in Bhutan
- Schön, Günter and Gerhard, Weltmünzkatalog 20. Jahrhundert, 44. Auflage, 2016, Battenberg Gietl Verlag, ISBN 9783866461192
- Bhutanese ngultrum on the English Wikipedia