The small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, located between India and China and near Nepal, has a coinage history that goes back to the late 1790s, when it began using the rupee; today its main unit of currency is the ngultrum.
The first coins, mostly in denominations of 1/2 rupee (with a very few 1 rupee pieces), were made from about 1790 and were at first silver. Bhutan’s rupees were made variously of copper and brass in later years, though there was a return to silver 1/2 rupee coins in the twentieth century. Half-rupees are also called debs. In 1931, coins were struck in pice, dated 1928; this fractional unit would be used sparingly a few other times for coins in the future as well.
In 1957, Bhutan decimalized its rupee, which had been equal to 64 paise. From 1957, 1 rupee was equal to 100 naya paisa (“new paise”, similar to India’s naya paisa coins around the same time). Gold sertum coins began to be issued at this time as well. Gold sertums are highly prized by coin collectors, and coins featuring King Jigme Wangchuk have proven popular in the marketplace as well.
In 1974 Bhutan reformed its currency again, discontinuing the Bhutanese rupee in favor of a new unit, the ngultrum. One ngultrum is divided into 100 chetrums, while a gold (or, even more rarely, platinum) sertum is now equal to 100 ngultrums. Different ngultrums are issued in copper-nickel, steel, and silver. There was a gold ngultrum made in 1997.
In addition to its own currency, Indian rupees were long legal tender within Bhutan’s borders. This ended in the 1990s, however, as Bhutan continued to assert its own personal national character, and emphasized the use of its own ngultrum for all transactions.
Collecting Bhutanese coins today
With a large variety of silver proofs available, in many denominations and commemorating many different things both within and outside of Bhutan, Bhutanese coins can keep up the interest of a collector to no end. Whether you are looking for a special coin from Bhutan’s history, or want to invest in a more modern and/or precious coin, check this section for our current selection of coins for sale from Bhutan, the beautiful and unique Buddhist kingdom hidden among the Himalayas.
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