Amulets and Buddha Images is extensive and valued in excess of 500,000 Baht. Some are very old, antiques, others specially reproduced as souvenirs for our visitors to take home as a reminder of their visit.
Amulets exemplify the power of faith. They are objects that inspire believers to invest their strength and dedication to succeed in their pursuits. Amulets have a spiritual value beyond the commercial and only monks who have attained purity through rigorous practices can channel their power to the creation of amulets. The reputation of these monks will determine the value of their creation.
For those who wear amulets only decent behavior can sustain the inherent holiness of the Buddha images. The person wearing one must maintain their piety in honoring Buddha. If they do they will benefit from the power of the holy creator.
Thai talismans, amulets and Buddha images, come in many forms and sizes but all exemplify everyday ties to Buddhism and those who wear them are believed to gain renewed spiritual strength.
The Phra Kruang or miniature Buddha images are world famous. The five most revered Phra Kruang are owned by one man, Payap Khampan, a fifty year old man who has collected them since he was a teenager. Some of them are over one hundred and fifty years old. All five are worth in excess of ten million baht but Payap would not dream of parting with them for any money - their spiritual value is inestimable.
Amulet lovers have traditionally gathered at public places to discuss their favorite topic. A small coffee shop very close to Wat Siri Ammat Temple, behind the Rattakosin Hotel, is a popular hangout for local amulet aficionados. Amulet trading emerged as big business around 1953, with trading areas in front of what used to be the Civil Court, opposite Sanam Luang. Later, the exchange expanded to Wat Mahathat Temple and the Ta Phrachan Area. In 1987, most traders moved to Pantip Plaza, the first department store to open a venue for large-scale amulet trading. Nowadays, however, amulets can even be traded on the Internet, and Montien Plaza, the Center of Antique Amulets, was the pioneer in this trade.
Ancient Thai amulets are now popular in many Asian countries, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, China and Japan. Modern technology is being used to collect information on ancient amulets in Thailand, and homepage on the Internet provides basic information, together with tips for separating genuine images from fake ones. Clearly, the mystique of ancient Thai amulets is catching on abroad.
There are no fewer than 5,000 trading shops nationwide, over 3,000 of which are in Bangkok. The most favored trading venues include Ta Phrachan, Wat Ratchanadda Temple, Chatuchak Weekend Market, Pantip Plaza, the Mall Taphra, and the Mall Bangkapi.
The trade in antique Buddhist amulets was another sector affected by the bubble economy of recent years. Prices doubled, and advertisements for antique and rare amulets mushroomed, generating a stunning turnover of Bt5 billion. However, trade has fallen off as purchasing power dwindles with the recession. Prices of antique amulets have fallen by over 50 percent. In any case, insiders view the cooling market as an end to too speculative prices. The prices of these rare amulets are regaining perspective. Seasoned and reliable traders are best likely to survive the collapsed market. Collectors and traders expect enthusiasm to acquire antique Buddha amulets to bloom again as the economy revives in 2000.
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