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Medal for the King

Mint of Finland strikes medals as a birthday gift for Thailand's King, bearing an unusual royal portrait

His Majesty the King appears on a commemorative medal as never before in a cartoonish portrait by ML Chiratorn Chirapravati designed to appeal to younger collectors.

Issued for his upcoming birthday by Mint of Finland Ltd, the Long Live the King of Thailand Memorial Medals are being sold with profits going to His Majesty to use as he deems fit.

The Finnish mint has been manufacturing coins for collectors and as currency for 1,000 years and been state-owned for the last century and a half. In this case it's calling the King's collectible both a medal and a coin, although no face value is stamped on it.

"The commemorative coin always represents a certain value in culture," Mint of Finland vice president Matti Rastas said at the Thai medal's unveiling last Wednesday. "In Finland, ever since 1952 we've done a commemorative coin for every important person and event."

He pointed out that his firm has enjoyed a close relationship with the Royal Thai Mint for 20 years. It produced commemorative medals for the King's 60th anniversary on the throne in 2006.

"The Long Live the King of Thailand Memorial Medal is truly special because we've never utilised this kind of illustration for a portrait before," Rastas said. "But we try to be the first in everything, so instead of a traditional design we innovate, try something new, and we really love this design by ML Chiratorn, for which he was granted royal permission."

ML Chiratorn's sketch of His Majesty has a "Scandinavian aesthetic", Rastas said. "We wanted to present Finnish design, which is all about simplicity. One of the challenges of creating commemorating coins these days is to find a design that appeals to younger people.

"And the other reason for using an illustration like this is because we think the King is very close to his people's hearts. The medal invokes that positive feeling. It's not something that's 'just okay' - it makes you smile."

There are three coins in the collection, all with the royal portrait on the front. The reverse bears a stylised illustration of a "circle of life" concept.

The medal made of composite material has pli-dok (meaning "flourish"), represented by a three-stemmed flowering plant.

Forms of fruit appear on the back of the other two medals.

Ok-pol ("fruitful") is on the model of polished sterling silver, with the King's features and lettering raised from a surface painted pink. "The surface-colouring technique is quite new," said Rastas. "The silver surface is imprinted with pink. It's the first coloured coin we've made in such large scale and the first time we've had the whole surface in colour."

Rom-yen ("peaceful") is on the medal of gold-plated composite material.

"Each of these represents a different way that His Majesty has had an impact on people's lives," said Dr Daral Piruncharoen, who represents Mint of Finland in Thailand. "For the greatest person in Thailand we wanted to come up with the greatest of things, depicted using different techniques."

ML Chirathorn, a noted magazine illustrator who is commonly referred to as Kru Toh, said he profoundly appreciates the King's genius and benevolence. "His Majesty is the heart and soul of the Thai people. His kindness has allowed us to live a fulfilled life all around.

"I think this is the first time he's been portrayed this way on a royal memorial medal," Chirathorn acknowledged. "Creating it was very simple - my style is to just be mindful, have a blank piece of paper ready, and imagine the whole picture. There's no preliminary sketching - I just start drawing. That's it! And I love every line I draw."

Beauty Gems, the jewellery brand, adapted the medals into exquisite jewellery pieces that actors Sukollawat "Weir" Kanaros and Urassaya "Yaya" Sperbund modelled at last week's unveiling.

Also on view were the largest commemorative medals ever made to honour His Majesty, one of polished silver and the other gold-plated silver, each weighing a kilogram.

Mint of Thailand used a 1,250-tonne hydraulic press and state-of-the-art technology to produce the one-off items in an allusion to the King's one-of-a-kind role as the centre of Thai life.

RESERVE NOW

- Long Live the King of Thailand Memorial Medals must be reserved for purchase before October 15 at any |7-Eleven. They can be picked up in the same place starting on December 15.

- Pli-dok (Flourish) costs Bt399, Ok-pol (Fruitful) Bt2,499, and Rom-yen (Peaceful) Bt2,499. All three in a set cost Bt4,999. All proceeds after expenses will go to His Majesty to be spent at his discretion.

- Find out more at (02) 711 7600, www.Mint.fi/ThaiKing and www.AmuletAt7.com.


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