Be it in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, or anywhere else (with the exception of Thailand), a common question oftentimes surfaces in the mind of some people and that is “Do Thai amulets really cost that much?” We have been answering this question repeatedly especially within a lesser Thai accustomed environment such as Taiwan. Therefore, in this article, we will explore the value and economy of Thai amulets. In this article, we will briefly provide readers the underlying value and economic influences from a Thai perspective. For those who are interested in a detailed analysis on the subject matter may refer to the thesis of Professor Nattapon Yurungruangsak titled “Buddha Amulets and Thai Society from World War II to 2007 AD: A Study of Beliefs, Forms and Buddhist Commerce.”
The Thai Perspective
Like any other product, the original pricing of Thai amulets inevitably begin with production costs which include design, moulding, raw materials, packing, wages, taxes and et cetera. Next will be the costs of consecration ceremonies followed by advertising costs. Finally, an intended amount to be raised will be added to derive the final product pricing.
A simple calculation as follow is often used:
a + b / c = x
a = production costs
b = amount to be raised
c = units produced
Therefore, anything rented for below value x is questionable.However, the moment an amulet enters the market various extrinsic factors will influence its value. There are four major factors, namely, popularity, age, uniqueness, and economy.
There are many factors that can contribute to the popularity of a particular amulet and the most outstanding is the reputation of originating temple and/or monk. This is similar to brand name. For examples, for the past three decades, amulets from Luang Phor Pae, Luang Phor Pern, and Luang Phor Koon have received closed to frantic popularity. We remember 30 years ago, a Somdej Pair Phan 2510 was merely ฿10,000 but it now costs at least ฿200,000 to ฿300,000.
Another factor contributing to an amulet’s popularity may include escape from death. On this point, Somdej Wat Paknam just have too many reported life incidents associated with escape from death so much so that Thais formulated a sally saying “If have Wat Paknam with you, in the water, you won’t die, on land, won’t die, in the air, won’t die. Fortune does not run out.” These have driven the prices for the first three batches of Somdej Wat Paknam skyrocketing.
Other contributing factors include great charismatic effect, good businesses, prosperity, and vocational progress.
Thai amulets are like antiques and their value increases with age. This may partially be attributed to the fact that as time goes by many amulets of a particular release or batch are either damaged or destroyed resulting in the remaining available number becoming scarce thereby driving demand far above supply. This is especially so when the consecrating monk is exceptionally prominent and popular. The most outstanding in this category are indisputably those Somdej amulets made and consecrated by Phra Phuttachantoh Promarangsi which current value easily begins from seven digit figures onwards. If you think you got a bargain on these series, think twice.
The above Kruba Srivichai Phim Sawng Chai 2482 medal has a currently open market value of ฿500,000 to ฿1,000,000 depending on condition of the amulet.
The uniqueness of the amulet refers either to the distinction, beauty, and popularity of an amulet or it may indicate the exclusivity of a particular amulet such as special materials, hair from monks, and some serial numbers. For example, the Phra Somdej Putthason of Wat Kao Takroa is sought after for its distinction, beauty, and popularity. The last offer we received for this amulet was ฿3.8 million.
Finally, the value of Thai amulets is directly tied to the Thai economy and prices fluctuate according to expansion or contraction thereof. When the economy expands, the prices of the amulets increased. This is partly due to more people having the financial capability to afford more expensive amulets thereby pushing up prices. As a result, in part, Thai amulet is an alternative form of investment that can even be speculated or accumulated for sale in future. On this aspect, many of our old customers would have experienced the impact. The price of their purchase 10-20 years ago is only a meagre portion of what they have to pay for a same amulet today.
In 2007, Kasikorn Research Center valued the Thai amulet business at ฿40,000 million which is approximately ฿50,143 million today. With innovation and development in technology, especially with regards to digital advertisements and promotions to reach buyers beyond Thai borders, the value of the entire industry is easily three times much more than the last reported figures.
Personal Value and Satisfaction
In view of the aforementioned, it is difficult for us to pronounce whether Thai amulets are expensive or not. There are obviously no clear standards for comparison. All we can say is that it greatly depends of an individual’s personal value and satisfaction. Let us put it in another way, for example, a continental made automobile such as BMW and Mercedes Benz in contrast to other Asian made automobile may give an individual the same personal value and satisfaction whilst it does not equally produce the same effect for another individual. The situation is even more eminent with Thai amulets since the price range for the same type of amulet is very vast.
Temple Amulets versus Factory Amulets
The steep pricing of sacred objects originating from temples has also given rise to another huge market known as “phrakherung khorng rongngan” in Thai which literally means “factory amulets.” In the past, these are confined to counterfeit copies of original amulets originating from temples. However, innovation within the business industry has also brought new life-lines to factory amulet market. There have been a group of businesspeople who have came up with ingenious idea and entered into partnership with various less known temples and monks whereby those businesspeople will make amulets in the name of those temples and monks and sell them to especially unsuspecting foreigners at ridiculously cheap prices which are below value x when calculated using the above given formula. Many so-called “special edition” and “limited edition” amulets claimed to have only produced 9 to 19 pieces are been sold at ฿1,000 to ฿2,000 of which price total of all units sold will not even cover the cost of moulding alone. For prices of design and moulding, you may refer to various factories such as Amulet Maker or Pornwasin.
There are uncountable occasions where amulets are made and sold in the name of specific temples and monks without approval or knowledge from the respective parties. The most recent trend is pot luck gaming of amulets involving “products” from various temples. Such acts are equivalent to gambling and considered an offense to Nissakiyapachitti under the monastic rules. Therefore, prominent monks are unlikely to be involved in such mischief. As such, if you are accosted with such speculation, it is best that you do a search on the relevant monk and temple alleged to be involved in such offense. We have conducted several background searches for such incidents and they all turned out to be opportunists abusing and misusing the names of temples and monks for personal gains without the temple’s or monk’s knowledge. Nonetheless, if such behavior is purely attributable to individual’s sales tactic then we have no comment.
As business-people in the Thai amulet industry, we advise our customers to make their own judgments as to value. We offer different price range temple products catering to the varying demands of our customer and all we can do is explain the reasons behind price differences. The ultimate judgment lies in the hands of our valued customers. Whether should you obtain a high price amulet, a low price amulet, or even a factory made amulet, it all voices down to your personal perception, value, and satisfaction thereof. However, if you are looking for factory amulets, please give us a pass as we do not provide such services. We hope this article will help you better understand the value and economy behind Thai amulets.