You only have to be on Thai soil for a minute before youstumble upon the Thai amulet, be it hanging from the rear view mirror of a taxi or dangling around the neck of a wealthy businessman. You might not realise, however, that amulets are more that just lucky Buddhist charms; this is big business. Amulets can fetch upwards of 1m Baht depending on their origin and age. There are conventions, numerous monthly publications reselling and educating, and an abundance of enthusiasts selling on the street in areas such as China Town.
So why I am interested in Thai amulets. Well I do like collectable things and I enjoy history, and for some time now I have been trying to figure out how one can tell what an amulet is worth, where it’s from and if it’s authentic or not. I am not in the market to buy because I am 100% sure I’d end up paying well over the odds and getting it all very wrong.
I am really struggling to see how the eye glass helps to identify the origin and age of an amulet. I have searched online for information, but at best I can only find English written warnings to beware of fakes, to not trust magazine pictures and to be careful of buying mass produced amulets that aren’t made in temples. The materials used for fakes and authentic amulets are the same, making it easier to get ripped off. Apparently experts know how to spot real markings and obviously they know the issue history of different series of amulets. Another reoccurring warning in my research is to look out for sellers who are “selling” the luck/magic aspect of the amulet rather than its heritage. Apparently genuine sellers are genuinely interested in promoting an authentic resale market along with Buddhism itself.
I read in a book that there have been a few series of amulets issued at various times by the King to members of the aristocracy and leading army figures; clearly having one of these would be worth a fair buck. Many are issued in limited runs to commemorate the passing of well respected monks or commemorative days linked to the monarchy.
It’s a huge business, but little information is accessible for westerners to learn and get involved because it is essentially a “Thai-centric” hobby. However, I am hoping that a few enthusiasts (or anyone with more knowledge than myself) might pass through and contribute some information in the comments section so that foreigners like myself can get an insight to this business/hobby.