- This article is about the Bhutanese circulation coin minted from 1974 to 1979. Not to be confused with the Bhutanese 5 sertum coin or the Bhutanese 5 chhertum fantasy coin of 2003.
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The 5 chhertum or 5 chetrum coin is a former circulation piece of the Kingdom of Bhutan that was minted in two types during the reign of Druk Gyalpo (King) Jigme Singye Wangchuck (1955–; r. 1972–2006). Because Bhutan does not have an official mint, the Royal Government contracted foreign minting facilities to strike both coins. The first type was produced from 1974 to 1975 at the facilities of the India Government Mint, while the second was manufactured solely in 1979 at the Royal Mint. A third piece was also struck in 1991 by the Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation in Daejeon, South Korea, but was never put into circulation.
The issued pieces currently hold legal tender in their country of origin, each carrying a face value equivalent to 0.05 ngultrum. However, neither circulates frequently due to their low purchasing power, the Bhutanese public's disinterest in coins, and the limited availability of examples in the country.
Quadrilateral coin (1974–1975)
For much of the 20th century, Bhutan used its own rupee and the Indian rupee as its primary currencies. However, coinciding with the coronation of Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the small Asian country introduced the Bhutanese ngultrum in 1974, replacing the rupee at a rate of 1:1. During that year, 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 numismatic author Nicholas Rhodes (1946–2011), most of these coins were "ordered by outside agencies and marketed internationally", and hence, "very few have circulated to any significant extent". Because of this, examples are often available in higher grades, even though lower grade pieces also exist.
The 5 chhertum coin, which was produced into 1975, is composed of aluminum and measures 1.48 grams in mass, 22 millimeters in diameter, and 2.1 millimeters in thickness. It has medallic alignment; raised, undecorated rims; and a plain edge. The piece is regularly quadrilateral in shape and has rounded corners. Its angles are situated on the horizontal and vertical axes, giving the coin the orientation of a square diamond.
A bust of Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck appears in the center of the obverse. The monarch, a young adult at the time of the coin's introduction, is illustrated facing left and wearing a gho, a traditional Bhutanese robe for men, and the Raven Crown, the official headdress of the Druk Gyalpo (king). The Dzongkha word "འབྲུག" (Wylie: 'brug) is printed above, curved in a clockwise direction near the rim. Such an inscription, meaning "dragon" in Dzongkha and Tibetan, makes up the first half of the local name of Bhutan, "འབྲུག་ཡུལ" (Wylie: 'brug yul), which translates literally as "Land of the Dragon". The English "BHUTAN" is curved in the same direction on the coin to the right of Jigme Singye's likeness, and the Gregorian date of minting is arched in the opposite direction in Western Arabic numerals to the left.
Displayed in the center of the reverse is the dharmachakra, a common symbol of Buddhism, surrounded by a symmetrical ribbon. The numeral "5" is written below in the coin's corner, the Dzongkha word "ཕྱེད་ཀྲམ" (Wylie: phyed kram) printed counterclockwise to the left, and its English equivalent, "CHETRUMS", engraved in the same direction to the right.
The total mintage of the first 5 chhertum coin is currently unknown. Pieces with a standard and proof finish were struck during both years of production. Of these, all 1,000 of the 1974 proofs and an unknown number of the 1975 proofs were sold in proof sets and an undisclosed amount of uncirculated coins from 1974 were included in mint sets.
Round coin (1979)
In 1979 the Royal Government of Bhutan commissioned the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales, to strike a new series of Bhutanese coins in denominations of 5, 10, 25, and 50 chhertum, and 1 ngultrum. The 5 chhertum piece, however, was never released in Bhutan in large quantities, reportedly because a die error caused the coin to have a rotated design. As a result, many examples are available to collectors in higher grades, although circulation grade pieces also exist.
The 5 chhertum coin is composed of a bronze alloy of 70 to 90 percent copper and 10 to 30 percent tin and measures 1.9 grams in mass, 17.15 millimeters in diameter, and 1 millimeter in thickness. It has medallic alignment; raised, undecorated rims; and a plain edge, and like most coins, is round in shape.
The central portion of the obverse bears a design similar to that of the obverse of a Bhutanese half rupee of the 1820s. It is shown with smoother letters than the original, but is erroneously rotated 90 degrees clockwise. Initially modeled after the coins of the neighboring princely state of Cooch Behar, the Bhutanese half rupee in the illustration shows the lower portion of the Bengali words "শ্রী শ্রী" (Romanized: Śrī śrī) at the top (at the right on the 5 chhertum piece), followed on the next line by the letters "ব" (bô), "চ" (chô), and "র" (rô), and on another line below that by the upper portions of the ligature "লা" (la) and letter "ম" (mô). This entire rendition on the 5 chhertum piece is enclosed within a solid circular boundary, outside of which the legend "ROYAL GOVERNMENT OF BHUTAN" extends clockwise from the obverse's lower left to lower right peripheries. The remainder of the rim is occupied by the Gregorian date of minting, which is written counterclockwise in Western Arabic numerals as "1979" at the bottom of the piece. It is separated from the legend by four stacked circular points, two to the left and two the right.
The reverse incorporates a design resembling the other side of the Bhutanese half rupee illustrated on the obverse. Like the depiction on the obverse, the rendition on the reverse is shown with smoother letters than the original half rupee and is rotated 90 degrees clockwise. The Bengali "শ্রী" (śrī) and "ম" (mô) are inscribed on the first line (at the right), and are followed on the next by a symbol, the Bengali ligature "ন্দ্র" (ndrô) and letter "ন" (nô), the Tibetan "ས" (sa), and the Assamese "ৰ" (rô), and on another line below that by the upper portions of the letters "য়" (yô) and "স" (sô). This entire rendition, like that on the obverse, is enclosed inside a solid circular boundary. Printed outside the boundary, extending clockwise at the coin's upper rim, is the coin's value in Dzongkha, "ཕྱེད་ཀྲམ་ལྔ་།" (Wylie: phyed kram lnga). Its English equivalent, "FIVE CHHERTUM", is engraved in the opposite direction from the coin's lower left to right peripheries, separated from the Dzongkha rendering by six circular points, three at each side.
The total mintage of the second 5 chhertum coin is currently unknown. Both business strikes and proofs are reported to have been minted during a single year of production. Of the proofs, an estimated 20,000 were sold in sets by the Royal Government of Bhutan.
Unissued pattern (1991)
According to Günter and Gerhard Schön's Weltmünzkatalog, a third 5 chhertum piece was struck in 1991 at the Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation in Daejon, South Korea. It, along with similar 10, 25, and 50 chhertum, and 1 and 5 ngultrum coins manufactured in 1991 at the same facility, was never released into circulation in Bhutan. A limited number of examples of each were produced.
The bronze 5 chhertum piece features the two golden fish (gaurmatsya) in the center of its obverse. Such a symbol is often used in Vajrayana Buddhism, the state religion of Bhutan, to represent the auspiciousness of all sentient beings. Printed clockwise along the upper left periphery is the English name "BHUTAN". Its Dzongkha equivalent, "འབྲུག" (Wylie: 'brug), is written in the same direction at the upper right rim, and the Gregorian date of minting, "1991", is inscribed in the opposite direction at the coin's lower boundary.
A large numeral "5" is engraved horizontally in the middle of the coin's reverse, the English word "CHHETRUM" written counterclockwise along the rim below. An additional rendering of the face value, the Dzongkha inscription "ཕྱེད་ཀྲམ་ལྔ" (Wylie: phyed kram lnga), appears at the top of the reverse, extending in a clockwise direction at the upper periphery.
A total of 12 examples of the 1991 coin were produced. The Weltmünzkatalog contains information about the piece, but as of its 2016 edition does not include any pricing information. The similar Standard Catalog of World Coins does not even reference the 1991 piece as of its 2017 publication.
- Numismatic Guaranty Corporation – Bhutan - 5 Chetrums, KM# 37 (1974–1975) • Bhutan - 5 Chetrums, KM# 45 (1979)
- Colnect – 5 Chhertum (1974–1975) • 5 Chhertum (1979)
- Numista – 5 Chetrums - Jigme Singye (1974–1975) • 5 Chhertum - Jigme Singye (1979) (English) (French)
- Bhutan Observer – "Origins of Bhutanese coinage" (5 December 2008) • "Where do Bhutanese coins jingle?" (20 March 2009)
- Rhodes, Nicholas. 1999. Coinage in Bhutan. Journal of Bhutan Studies1(1):84-113. 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