Study of these fascinating coins from Tibet is for those who enjoy intricate patterns. These coins were minted in silver between the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s.
The theme of these coins artistically is the lotus pattern on both the front and back. The obverse (front) is a Lotus surrounded by the 8 Auspicious symbols of Buddhism. The political theme is that the Dalia Lama's government is victorious in all directions, and that Tibet is the center of the Buddhist world. This is a forceful statement because prior to Tibet minting its own coinage, Nepal minted coins in silver which was supplied to them by Tibet. Ultimately the Nepalese debased the silver coins to a point that led to war. The Ga-Den Thangka his is the longest running and most common series of coins minted in Tibet.
A definitive web site for Tibetan tangkas is (where else?) TibetanCoins.com. Here you will find plenty of information about how to interpret the patterns. This is a topic far too involved for CoinQuest's shallow treatment of numismatics (coin collecting), but we are grateful to Adam from TibetanCoins.com for supplying information about these beautiful pieces.
When you look at overall retail prices for such coins, and when you consult the coin catalogs, you can see a rough pattern of values like this:
worn: $10 US dollars approximate catalog value
average circulated: $35
well preserved: $65
The catalogs show a few special coins which quadruple these values. Such 'better specimens' are identified by intricate details such as placement and number of dots and tiny lines and crescents near the edges.
This is obviously a specialized area of numismatics. It would be a worthy challenge to assemble a complete set of thangkas, but not too expensive as there are only a few 'better specimens.'