I had a theory why the military government changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar.  I reasoned that they were so isolationist, and they were getting so much heat from the rest of the world regarding their heavy handed and repressive ways of doing things, that they adopted a name that no one could pronounce so we wouldn’t think about them as much.  I thought the same thing when Mobutu changed the name of his country (and it was literally “his” in his heyday) from Congo and Zaire: to distract the rest of the world.
    But then I heard someone speaking Burmese and naming his country, and do you know what he said?  “Burma!”  Spelled (in Burmese) “Myanmar,” pronounced “Burma.”  As Mark Twain often said: “I dunno.”  For purposes of this article though, I’ll use the two forms interchangeably.  Myanmar, Burma, remember please that in Burmese they sound the same.
    This has been, for me at least, a difficult country to relate to.  Politically closed for over thirty five years, alphabet I can’t read, language I can’t understand, no immigration to speak of.  I’ve never met anyone from Burma.  There are no Burmese restaurants in any of the places I’ve ever been.  So I got my information for this article from the usual sources: the encyclopedia, the almanac.
    But the coins are another story.  Very interesting.  And, anomalously for a politically closed country, many of them are available to collect.  There are a couple of references one can use as well, though they don’t always agree with each other, especially as regards the earliest coins.  I used “Oriental Coins and their Values, Vol. 1, the Ancient and Classical World,” by Michael Mitchiner, and “The Coins and Banknotes of Burma,” by M. Robinson and L.A. Shaw.
    The first thing that must be noticed is that this Texas-sized country is more than half mountains.  Almost all of its borders are mountainous.  What do mountainous borders remind you of?  Smuggling of course, and this type of commerce is practiced by people living on the borders between Burma and all of its neighbors: Thailand, Laos, China, India, and Bangladesh.
    The mountains are heavily forested, and have been famous for their elephants, tigers, and other wildlife, not to mention the tropical hardwoods like teak and mahogany.  Timber cutting is big business in Myanmar, but its a big country, and there’s still a lot of forest left to cut.
    Between the mountains lies the long Irawaddy River and its valley.  The Irawaddy runs through most of the north-south length of the country, not counting the 350 miles of Tenasserim that sticks out like a tail to the south.  And out to the west of that odd piece of territory lie hundreds islands, among which the Andamans are the best known to us coin people.
    This far flung and disparate land is peopled by a number of unrelated ethnic groups who arrived in waves of immigration and conquest over the last 2000 years, settling in different parts of the country, dominating and being dominated in turn.  The last group to arrive, the Burmans, conquered the country, but by no means did they win the hearts and minds of the other peoples who live there.  The Kachins, Karens, Shans, and other groups feel no kinship with the Burmans, nor is there love to be lost.  These peoples tend to be concentrated in their own (mostly mountainous) states, which had made up the former Union of Burma, the constitution of which guaranteed the right of secession to the ethnic states.  The prevention of secession was given as a major reason for the military coup of 1962.  Separatist tendencies have tended to find their outlet in armed struggle, and a never ending ethnic secessionist war is an integral part of modern Burmese history.
    My sources say nothing of the most ancient period of prehistory in Burma, but one finds paleolithic remnants in neighboring Thailand, so why not Burma as well?  Very little in the way of archeology has been done in Burma since the 1962 coup.
    The Irrawaddy valley, with its broad and fertile fields, has been drawing immigrants for thousands of years.  The earliest indentifiable group for which there are relics are the Mons, who occupied Tenasserim and the lower Irrawaddy valley and were related to the Khmers of Cambodia.  According to legend, the great Indian king and Buddhist saint Ashoka sent a mission to the Mon capital, the port of Thaton, not far from Rangoon, in the third century BC.  The Mons became Buddhists thereafter, and a lively trade and cultural exchange developed between the Mon land and the subcontinent.  At that time the Mon kingdom was referred to as Suvarnabhumi, the Golden land, after its most important product.
    There are no coins of this early period of the Mon kingdom.
    During roughly the same period another people, the “Tibeto-Burmese” Pyu, migrated from the northwest, and occupied the Irrawaddy valley from the Mon land northwards.  Pyu legend places their arrival around 400 BC, but the archeology dates only from the first to fifth centuries AD.  During the height of Pyu power the main city was Srikshetra, whose ruins lie near Prome, about 150 miles north of Rangoon/Yangon.
    Coins start appearing in the lower Irrawaddy valley in sites dated between 200-500 CE.  Some are attributed to the Pyus of Srikshetra and others to the Mon.  All are silver, with the exception of only a few copper examples, and those of doubtful authenticity.
    The “Mon” coins typically portray a Hindu lingam (male symbol) inside a temple on one side, and other Hindu or Buddhist symbols on the other.  The metrology gives a full unit of 9-10 grams, with fractions down to the hundredth.
    The “Pyu” types have sometimes a temple similar to that of the Mon pieces, but with a bunch of dots replacing the lingam, often with wavy lines below indicating water and sun and moon symbols above.  This type is often referred to as the Srivatsa symbol.  There are two common designs on the other side of the coins.  One is a design of two triangles arranged point to point, which is usually interpreted as a drum, but could also be a stool or even a cosmic schematic.  The other is a radiant sun rising over water.  The unit started out at 11 grams, reducing to 9 over the life of the coinage, and there are fractional pieces, again down to the hundredth.
    Typically, these coins have been found in hoards, usually a single type to a hoard, with only a few types represented by more than one hoard.  All are fairly scarce, but several types are or have been available for purchase from specialist dealers such as Scott Semans and Robert Tye.
    Though it is obvious that these coins come from southeast Asia, and many hail from Burma in particular, smuggled out to Thailand and dispensed to the rest of the world by curio dealers there, I, personally, would consider the specific classification of this or that type to the Mons or the Pyus as provisional at best, and with a timeline of several centuries to muck around in no one can be entirely sure.  These coins illustrate a problem in the relations between the collecting hobby and scientific archeology.  With no inscriptions or written records to correllate, the only clue as to where these coins come from and who made them would come from their provenance.  But the fact that the coins were directed to the market rather than to the scientists has, by default, stripped them of that data, as there is, unfortunately, approximately no fruitful interaction between the scientists and the collector market.  Though attributions have been made for these coins on the basis of recorded hoard finds; these types to the Pyus, those to the Mons, virtually all of the pieces available for purchase hail from who knows where, and any additional light their stratigraphy could shed on their origins is forever lost.
    The ambiguity in attribution is complicated by the fact that both the Mon and the Pyu polities were overcome by the Khmer kingdom of Funan, centered in Cambodia, during the period in which these coins appear.  It seems reasonable to me, in the way of throwing suppositions around, that both the “Mon” coins and the “Pyu” coins could be regional issues of the expanded Funan empire of the 5-8th centuries.  Without further archeological correlation we can’t know for sure.
    It would be so nice if there were some mechanism of cooperation between the scientific side and the commercial side, where somehow ancient coins, etc. could be studied scientifically and then some of them be released into a more disciplined and less secretive market for the purpose of private enjoyment, perhaps with some kind of tracking mechanism that could retrieve the things for further study on occasion.
    I can’t stop dreaming.  Can you?
    Meanwhile, in the west of modern Myanmar, on the strip of coastline extending southward from the Bangladesh border now called Arakan, another state took shape, the Chandra kingdom.  It’s people probably related to the Pyus, the Chandra state took shape during the 2nd century BCE and extended through several dynasties until the 8th century CE.  During the 7th century the state split into four parts, Vaisali and Parapura in the south and Pattikera and Harikela in the north, the latter with a capital at Chittagong, now in Bangladesh.
    Chandra coins are overwhelmingly of silver, with a few gold and copper pieces mentioned in archeological literature.  Early coins are compact, with “normal” (for the period) designs of conch shells and temples (interpreted by many as a trident, though to me the temple derivation is clear), though in a very distinctive style compared to the Mon and Pyu coins.  Perhaps a little later the recumbent humped bull appears, and this became the badge of the state.  The “unit” seems to be about 7 grams, lighter than the Mon and Pyu coins, and there are quarter and half units as well.  These early coins seem to be extremely rare, and have been offered rarely, if at all, by the specialist dealers.
    Pattikera and Harikela coins started out in the 7th century as continuations of the earlier Chandra series, and are just as rare as their forbears.  In the mid-8th century Harikela absorbed Pattikera.  A little later the compact coins were replaced by large diameter bracteates, which followed the same course of development as their German counterparts; first with designs of both sides each showing through to the other, and later with the trident/temple die discarded and only the bull die retained.  A few of these large bracteates were on the market about a decade ago, but they’re long gone now.  Classic example of a single hoard that came on the market and disappeared.  I wonder where they came from?  The archeologists, as usual, are gnashing their teeth and cursing the commercial impulse.
    During the 9th century a new wave of migrants entered the Irrawaddy valley from the north.  These people were the Burmans.  The newcomers settled the central region of the valley around the present day city of Mandalay, about 350 miles north of Rangoon.  The Burmans adopted some aspects of the culture of Mons and Pyus they displaced, but they did not pick up on the idea of coinage.
    The Burmans consolidated their holdings into a kingdom with a capital at Pagan, about 100 miles southwest of Mandalay on the Irrawaddy.  The Pagan kingdom expanded south and west (the easy direction - eastward was mountainous jungle inhabited by fierce Shan mountaineers).  Around 1044 the Burmese king Anawrahta captured the Mon kingdom of Thaton at the mouth of the Irrawaddy, thus gaining the possibility of international trade.
    The Harikela kingdom went belly up sometime during the 11th century.  Much of its Burmese territory was taken by the ethnically Thai kingdom of Nanchao, centered in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan.  By this time the use of coinage had ceased throughout Burma.  Trade was conducted by barter, partially accounted in cowries, and partly in metal ingots, including silver, gold, copper, lead, and tin.  The Burmans brought with them a standard weight, the kyat, of a bit more than 16 grams, that has descended into the monetary denomination today.
    The Pagan kingdom fell victim to the southernmost foray of the Mongols.  Pagan itself was taken and destroyed in 1287.  The Mongols didn’t stay long.  The steamy jungles did not suit them, and they were harried by the feisty Shan from their mountain strongholds.  In the wake of the Mongol retreat various Shan principalities came and went in northern Burma, while in the south a new Mon kingdom coalesced, with its capital at Pegu in Tenasserim.
    In the Burmese context "Pagan" is a place rather than a religion.  The first ethnically Burmese empire had its capital in the city of that name, enduring about three centuries before being extinguished by the Mongols.  During the Pagan period Buddhism became firmly established as the majority religion, and many of the cardinal aspects of modern Burmese culture developed.
    Numismatically, the Pagan period has little to show.  Stone inscriptions and the accounts of Chinese travellers state that trade was accounted in gold, silver, and copper, but these went by weight, the standard being the kyat of about 16 grams.  Cowries are also mentioned.  One 12th century Chinese account speaks of crescent shaped ingots, there is a record from the 16th century mentioning different shapes of silver ingots, and yet another mentioning some official regulation of the silver/copper ratio in circulating "money," but no examples of these things have come to light in modern times.  Chinese coins did not seem to circulate in Burma, so for the long period from the 8th to the 17th century we have, from a collecting standpoint, more or less nothing.
    After the fall of Pagan Burma broke up into principalities, with a number of princes of various nationalities contending against each other.  This unstable situation endured for more than two centuries.  Several Shan states dominated northern Burma, Tenasserim and the south were Mon territory, and the central Irrawady valley was the habitat of the Burmans, who at that time were weak and picked on by their Mon and Shan neighbors.
    The situation changed in the 15th century, when the Burmese king Minkyinyo of Toungu took advantage of unsettled conditions among his neighbors to enlarge his domains.  Descendants continued the Burmese expansion as far as Chiengmai in Thailand and Vientiane in Laos.
    Mitchiner assigned a few tin coins to the Toungu kings, but they bear such a strong resemblance to the 17th-18th century coins of Pegu as to arouse doubtful thoughts within my bubbling brain.  Only a few examples have been found, context uncertain.  How can one say anything?
    Regarding the Pegu (and Tenasserim) coins, most are tin, a few are copper, and all are extremely rare.  It seems likely to me that coinage as we know it was simply an occasional conceit, perhaps coinlike objects were made as religious offerings, or perhaps the known decorated discs of metal were simply another convenient shape of ingot.  The tiny quantity surviving, as compared with the well known bullet coins of neighboring Thailand, or the similar but different tin (and gold) coinage of Malaya to the south, leads me to the conclusion that most of the business in Pegu and Tenasserim during the 16th-18th centuries was conducted, as previously, without the mediation of coinage.
    In the Irrawaddy valley, home of the resolutely non-coin using Burmans, we have records describing the use of a copper-lead mixture, called ganza, as a staple of trade, going by weight.  We are told that ganza traded as ingots and hacked up bits, but we don't see any examples of either anywhere.  17th century accounts tell of the use of Indian gold and silver coins and Spanish "dollars."
    In the late 17th-early 18th century ganza began to depreciate, and we are told that people compensated by increasing the lead content, which of course only increased the rate of inflation.  The eventual response, when it was time to "start again," was the appearance of relatively pure silver.  There was still no central guaranteeing authority, and the caveat emptor status quo remained in force.  From this period (mid-18th century) date the so-called "flower money." silver lumps.  These were struck without weight or purity standard, it being thought that the characteristic starburst patterns of the surface, probably created by blowing on a molten blob as it cooled, guaranteed some level of quality.
    Flower money was supposedly called "yowetni," but when I asked a Thai dealer for some of it he didn't know what I was talking about.  He knew "flower money" though.  Cost was quite high, only managed to get about 8 pieces, various sizes, most of them 60 grams or more.  That was over ten years ago, and I haven't seen any since.
    There are other types of silver lumps from various parts of Burma and datable to the 18th century or later.  There are thin roundish things with a bubble blown out of the center, of not particularly pure silver, called "Shan shell money," "tok," or, when the bubble is broken, "pig mouth money."  Scarce in any variety, they are rarely found with Thai countermarks on the edge.  Small ingots of almost pure silver are also known: vaguely snail-shaped pieces attributed to the Shan, and small kettle-drum shapes probably made for the China trade.
    At some point during the 17th century the so-called "opium weights" began to appear.  These are animal shaped brass objects, roughly hewing to the kyat standard, with fractions to the sixteenth and smaller and multiples to the hundred and greater.  It is certain that some of these were quasi-government issues, and highly likely that others are private creations.  Various different animal models are known, elephant being most popular and fairly rare, "lion" next, and "duck" (or chicken, or "hantha" - Burmese form of divine Hindu bird Garuda) being most common.  There has been some market in these things, and some books written.  The "normal" size is 2 kyats (32 grams), and "ducks" and "lions" of that weight are fairly common and inexpensive.  Larger and smaller sizes can be found, but the largest have been very difficult in recent years.  I've seen "counterfeit" elephants made for the credulous among us, and even oddities such as snakes, goddesses, and horses, all doubtful looking to me.
    Meanwhile, in the west, Arakan was going its own way.  Independent during most of the period of the 15th-18th centuries, with a mixed Muslim and Buddhist population, Arakanese culture displayed an interesting mixture of traits.  Among these was the use of coinage.  The coins are obviously based on prototypes issued by the sultans of Bengal, the neighbor to the west, and indeed they start out in the 16th century with legends all in Arabic.  Subsequent coins begin to show Bengali legends along with the Arabic, a trait which was also borrowed from Bengal.  You have to be able to read these coins to distinguish them from Bengali issues, but you might find 100 or 1000 Bengali coins to one of Arakan.  Still later, Arakanese (variant of Burmese) legends start to appear, and by the reign of Narabadgiyi, 1638-45, Arakanese is all that is left, with identical legends appearing on both sides of the coins.  Almost all of the later coins are dated, so if you can find that date you can "easily" attribute the coin.
    There have been some Arakanese coins on the market from time to time.  Almost all of them have been silver "rupees," reasonably well struck, rarely with damage, usually of the later kings.  Prices have been typically in the $50.00 plus range, and I haven't seen any in the last five years or so.
    Large empires are hard to keep track of, and the transfer of the Toungu capital in 1634 from Pegu in the south to Ava, near Mandalay in central Burma, allowed the Mon to regroup.  A century of navel gazing ensued in Toungu, while the Mon traded with the Europeans who had begun to show up on the coasts, exchanging tin and spices for guns.  In 1730 the resurgent Mon invaded the Irrawaddy valley, overrunning Ava and bringing down the curtain on the Toungu dynasty.
    Their victory was shortlived however.  The son of a village headman rallied the Burmans and defeated the Mon, destroying their capital, Pegu.  Intent on restoring the grandeur that had belonged to the Burmese in the past, he took his armies into Thailand.  He took the name of Alaungpaya, by which term the dynasty of his successors is named.
    Burmese expansion continued.  The third of the Alaungpaya line, Hsinbyushin, overthrew the Ayuthia dynasty in Thailand in 1767.  Dying in 1776, he was followed by two rulers of little account before the advent of the next ruler of stature, who has been known to later generations as Bodawpaya (Great Grandfather).
    A wild and enterprising king, Bodawpaya occupied and annexed Arakan in 1784,giving him a border with the British in India.  He next turned east and invaded Thailand, with inconclusive results.  Returning home after several years, he embarked on a grandiose building spree which drained the treasury, and indulged in the persecution of religions other than his own.  His disruptions produced rebellions, which he lustily suppressed.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when he died in 1819.
    He seemed to take the Arakanese habit of coining money to heart, striking some coins there in his own name after his conquest.  If you find any Arakanese coins at all they're as likely to be his as those of some previous native king.
    Back home in his palace Bodawpaya ruminated on the possibilities inherent in the concept of seignorage, and came to the conclusion that it was a good idea.  He entered into negotiations with the British in Calcutta, with the result that a couple of silver patterns were struck using designs borrowed from 1300 year old pyu coins.  I've seen pictures of several different specimens, but have never been close to an actual specimen.  They are exceedingly rare.
    Mint machinery was duly purchased and brought to Rangoon,and in 1797 copper "pice" were struck with the "two fishes" design, and dated the Burmese equivalent of 1782.  These were made in several different sizes and weights, with and without holes, and there are a number of minor design varieties.  They looked very promising, but the king insisted on putting them out at an absurdly inflated value, with the inevitable result that they were not accepted.  Contemporary British accounts tell us that after toying with the idea of using severity to force their use the experiment was abandoned after a few weeks, and the situation returned to the status quo ante of "flower money" and "opium weights."  The two fishes coins are scarce today, but I have had a few, therefore they are not rare.
    After the death of Bodawpaya his expansionist policies were continued by his successors.  Assam and Manipur were taken an annexed, but in 1824 an attempted invasion of Chittagong, held by the British turned out to be more than the Burmese could chew.  The British occupied Rangoon and took Arakan and Tenasserim.  Rangoon was returned on payment of a large indemnity, but the two coastal possessions were gone.
    There are reports that some coins were issued during the 1820s-40s, but no examples are known.  The kings durings this period ruled capriciously, and two of them were deposed because of insanity.  Corruption flourished, and there were several revolts.  In 1851 the governor of Pegu began treating some British traders badly, and, British protests achieving no relief, a second Anglo-Burmese war ensued.  A palace coup in Rangoon brought to power an anti-war prince, Mindon to the throne, and the hostilities ceased, though a treaty was not concluded.
     The first half of the nineteenth century was inauspicious for Burma.  A series of erratic rulers produced an advance of internal chaos as well as periodic conflict with the British in India.  The British, for their part, were infatuated with commercial possibilities.  In Burma they saw teak, mahogany, ivory, and markets for the products of British mills and factories.  In short, they saw opportunity, and at that time they were not averse to the use of military force to advance financial advantage.
    Pushed by the businessmen, and taking advantage of an unfortunate incident, British forces occupied the delta of the Irrawaddy River in 1852.  The crisis produced a palace coup, bringing a new king, Mindon Min, to the throne.  Mindon turned out to be a level headed guy.  While not formalizing the British seizure of his southern territory, he maintained peace and permitted trade between his subjects and the interlopers.
    There was a tradition in Burma that a strong king would found a new capital, and with the old regime discredited by its losses to the British, Mindon decided to uphold this practice.  His new city was Mandalay, a few miles upriver from the old capital, Amarapura, with its palace built on an artificial mountain built to Mindon's specifications.
    Mindon encouraged some degree of modernization, and among his reforms was the introduction of the first true coinage in Burma in over a thousand years.
    Mindon's coinage affairs began with a few of what are probably presentation strikes.  These are relatively crudely struck silver coins with a bird obverse and Burmese legends on the reverse.  Several varieties are known, all dated the equivalent of 1852-3, and all very rare.  Contemporary records make no mention of their use in commerce, referring only to the use of metal and weights as before.  These are KM11, KM12, and KM15.  May I suggest that the numbering is misleading.  The "coins" were struck about ten years before KM10, etc., and should properly be listed before the common peacock coinage of the 1862 "reform."
    Around 1862 a Frenchman, attempting to gain a timber concession, proposed the acquisition of minting machinery from Paris.  The British got wind of the negotiations and sent their guy over to preempt the deal.  The British representative, providing a better offer, obtained the contract, and though Paris was specified as the source of the machines, they were in the end supplied by the Heaton mint in Birmingham.  These were set up in Mandalay and used to produce the first definitive coinage of modern Burma.
    The first of the new coins were the familiar and common peacock coins.  Backdated to Mindon's accession year of 1852, they are denominated as kyats and fractions.  This is a misnomer, as the traditional kyat was a weight of a bit more than 16 grams, and the new coins were supposed to weigh 11.56 grams, exactly the same as Indian rupees, no more, no less.  In practice this was only an ideal to be striven for, but by this stroke Burma definitely entered the British sphere of influence. There are some minor varieties of this series, as well as rare patterns, but representative specimens of the silver peacock coins, are fairly easy to find, and the kyat/rupee is actually common.  The first set issued was the kyat, 5 mu (half kyat), mat (quarter kyat), and mu (eighth kyat), the last with at least three different weight and size varieties listed by Robinson and Shaw in "The Coins and Banknotes of Burma," none of which are listed in the SCWC.
    There are a number of varieties of both the obverse and the reverse of these pecock coins.  This is aside from the well known and extremely rare facing peacock patterns.  The most obvious obverse variety has the ground almost touching the denticles at the rim.  It is scarce.  Robinson and Sahw list three varieties of reverse lettering.  In examining a few of the kyats I had lying around I found another one.
    The oddity of the series is the tiny silver pe.  Dies for this coin were not included in the shipment from the Heaton mint, and they were probably, though not certainly obtained from the mint in Calcutta.  Several varieties were struck, with the run probably beginning later than for the other coins and ending earlier.  All are fairly scarce.
    One should take the fineness given in the SCWC with a grain of salt.  Production of the silver for the blanks, and of the blanks themselves, was a fully Burmese operation, and the assay would not have been as exacting as it was in Calcutta.  One can therefore expect some variation in the alloy, though flagrantly debased specimens of these coins are not met with.
    All of the silver coins exist with a stippled obverse field, considered to be rare, though the kyat at least has showed up a number of times in auctions during my lifetime.  Robinson and Shaw state that the stippling is not in the die, but was added by hand later.  They opine that it was done to prepare the coin for enamelling, and I have seen the regular coins so treated, though not the stippled variety.
    Getting the coins to circulate among a populace used to barter was an interesting problem.  One of Mindon's methods was to establish cash prizes for Buddhist novices who succeeded in passing their religious examinations and becoming monks.  Many thousands of monks were ordained every year, and by this device substantial quantities of coins were distributed.
    Gold strikes are known for all of the "1852" pecock denominations, but there is debate and doubt regarding their use in commerce.  Their main use seems to have been as presentation pieces.  The gold mu seems to be the most likely candidate for a circulating coin, a notion supported by the fairly common occurrence of gold plated silver mus, presumably produced contemporaneously for fraudlent purposes.
    Copper coins of quarter pe denomination were produced soon after the mint opened.  The dies were locally engraved, and two varieties are known.  The same coin was also struck in iron, and supposedly were paid out to helpless people without influence.  Though they claim to be quarter pes, they supposedly passed in the market at a third of that value.  The coppers are scarce in comparison with the silver kyat, while the iron variety is rare.
    A set of gold coins was issued dated 1866 and bearing the mythical guardian lion "Chinthe."  Denominations are pe, mu, 2 mu 1 pe (mat), 5 mu, and kyat, with the weights of the larger coins corresponding exactly to the Indian mohur and its fractions.  Only the gold mat saw any real circulation.  It is scarce, while the other Chinthe gold coins are very rare.
    Mindon issued a few more coins in 1868-69.  These were crude lead eighth and quarter pes, with a rabbit on the obverse, and a good sized copper "2 pe" or quarter anna (Robinson and Shaw call it a "half pe") with a Chinthe type.  This piece has, instead of a denomination, the Burmese legend "Always keep with you," and Robinson and Shaw opine that it may be an amulet rather than a coin.  This copper and the lead pieces are all quite scarce.
    King Mindon died in 1878 without naming a successor.  One of his 70 or so children, a son named Thibaw, came to power.  Thibaw was controlled by his mother and his wife, and the two women and he conducted a capricious and tyrannical reign of seven years.  During this period a corrupt lottery was instituted which bankrupted a large sector of the population of Mandalay and caused a coin shortage.
    The silver peacock coins continued to be struck using the old, worn dies.  Thibaw had only two coins issued on his own account: a copper quarter pe and a gold 5 mu, both with the type of a To, a mythical beast with a lion's body and the head of a deer.  The copper coins circulated, while the gold seems to have been for presentation only and is very rare.  Several varieties of the copper are known, as well as versions in brass and tin, which are described by Robinson and Shaw as contemporary private strikes (not counterfeits) made for their own enrichment by people with connections such as certain abbots and high government officials.  These coins were in common circulation in Mandalay and passed at about 75% of their face value.
    Thibaw was nutty and despotic, but as far as politics went he turned out to be not to smart.  With the southern half of his country occupied by the British you'd think he would take them into account in his calculations, but it seems he didn't really calculate, but rather did as he pleased.  Thus it was that he made a deal with the French in 1885 to set up a national bank, and how could you annoy the British more than to do a money deal with the French?
    Well, there was something.  Thibaw started arguing with the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation about the royalties paid on the teak harvest.  The British claimed they were upholding the contracts as written, but Thibaw went ahead and assessed a very large fine.  The Corporation asked for arbitration but the king refused.  In Novemeber he issued a proclamation urging his subjects to "drive the British heretics into the sea."
    A British expeditionary force invaded within a week.  Two weeks later it took Mandalay.  Thibaw was deposed and sent with his family into exile in Bombay, where he stayed until his death in 1916.  In January, 1886 Thibaw's former domain was annexed to the British dominion in southern Burma, and in November the whole country was attached as a province of British India, with its capital in Rangoon, which had been in British hands for decades.  In political and numismatic terms Burma disappeared.
    The Burmese did not appreciate being tied to India, and although public works were undertaken and some economic development occurred, administration from far off India was difficult, and the crime rate grew.  Agitation for independence began to take during the 1920s, and various schemes began to be floated for the separation of Burma from India.  An agreement was made in 1935 and an autonomous, democratic government was set up in Burma in 1937 with Dr. Ba Maw as prime minister.
    The effect of this change in administration on the coinage was nil, although there were some changes in the circulation of paper money.  Indian coins continued to circulate, but whereas formerly the Indian banknotes had circulated without restriction from their various offices, one of which was located in Rangoon.  In the new system special banknotes were issued for Burma, and while Indian notes continued to be accepted there, the Burmese notes were not correspondingly legal tender in India.  Shortages of coin brought about the issue of several series of "coin notes."  These had pictures of coins on them and were treated as coin in both accounting and law.
    Inside autonomous Burma things were looking somewhat promising, but then World War II came with the Japanese invasion in 1942.  The arrival of the Japanese was initially greeted with pleasure by many Burmese, who saw them as liberators from colonial oppression.  The Japanese set up a puppet government headed by Ba Maw, which included such heroes of the independence struggle as Aung San, Ne Win, and U Nu.  But the destruction and looting of the invasion and the arrogance and brutality of the occupation turned the country against the invaders and guerilla activity began.
    The Japanese issued the common occupation notes in large numbers, producing a severe inflation.  Large quantities of unused notes remained in bank vaults when the war ended.  There were plans for a banknote issue by the Ba Maw puppet government, and specimens were prepared, but these notes were never issued.  There were no coins made during the occupation.  The three patterns listed in the SCWC are Japanese products, similar to those planned for Indonesia and now listed under Japan.  The date "2602" is incorrectly described as being of the Bangkok era.  Actually it is from the Japanese Shinto calendar.  I don't think anyone is going to run into any of these patterns.
    The postwar transition from the Japanese notes was accomplished in a little more than a year, mediated by the introduction of Indian notes overprinted by the British Military Administration.  A Burma Currency Board, based in London, was authorized in 1946 and was in operation the following year.  Independence was in the air, and Aung San looked to become president of a free Burma until his assassination in January, 1947.  U Nu took his place, and negotiations with Britain were concluded later that year.  Independence Day, set by astologers as most auspicious, was January 4, 1948.
    The astrologers would appear to have been mistaken, for almost immediately a pair of rebellions broke out, with communists trying to sieze the country and the Karen minority trying to secede.  The government beat back the rebels, but did not crush them, and conflict has continued on ethnic and political grounds to this very day.
    The first banknotes were issued in 1948, denominated in rupees.  Coins, denominated in pe (equivalent to Indian annas) followed, dated 1949-51, with a device of the Chinthe as had previously been seen on Thibaw's coppers.  The coins were struck in London, and are not hard to find, though choice uncirculated specimens have been rather elusive in recent years.  A handful of proofs were made, which I have never seen.  Counterfeits are known of the 1950 8 pe.  The metal is wrong and there are design irregularities.
    In 1952 the name of the major denomination was chaneged from rupee to kyat, a decimal system was adopted, the Burma Currency Board was replaced by the Union Bank of Burma, and formal ties to the British pound were severed.  New decimal coins from 1 pya through 1 kyat, all with the Chinthe device, were minted in London, and as these went into circulation the pe denominated coins were gradually withdrawn.  Of the so called "hybrid" 8 pe of 1952 Robinson and Shaw have nothing to say.  I've had the coin in circulated condition.  It is rather difficult to find.
    The Chinthe decimal coins continued in fitful issue through 1965, with small numbers of proofs noted for nearly every year.  With a few exceptions, 1955 1 pya for example, they were not well stocked by dealers, and it will be difficult to build a date set.  I've never seen any of the proofs.  The 1962 1 kyat, issued only as a proof, might be the key to the series, though perhaps other dates are just as rare.  I have no data.
    In response to threats of cecession by some of the Shan regions, the Burmese army under General Ne Win siezed power in 1962.  Under the cover of a socialist ideological framework, the military government embarked on a series of confiscatory financial manipulations and political repressions that have continued, essentially unabated, to this day.  At irregular intervals over this time high denomination banknotes have been demonetized, the expressed purpose being to impoverish the rich.  As a result of this continual disruption of commerce Burma/Myanmar is near the bottom of the economic heap in southeast Asia.
    Faced with inflation that had made the cost of producing the Chinthe coins higher than their value, the military government issued a set of aluminum minors in 1966.  Struck in East Berlin, these are rather hard to find.  Only a few other coins were issued from then until now, struck at a new facility in Burma, and all tied to the FAO coin program of the United Nations.  These are not the most common of the FAO series, but they can be obtained.  Though the country is officially "closed," the border with Thailand is very porous, and everything of potential value gets out.  The 1998 collector coins with the animals on them were poorly marketed, overpriced, as all modern commemoratives are these days, and are not found in dealer trays.
    There are some banknotes known to have been issued by insurgent groups, and it is said that gold and silver in various forms still circulate in the mountains where the rebels operate.  The gold "coins" of the "Patriotic Liberation Army" are actually fundraising tokens struck in Europe by the party of U Nu.  A few of the little mus have been on the market, but the others have not shown up.