The man with the world’s largest collection of Thai Specimen Banknotes is a money man like no other. Born in Norway in 1954, Jan Olav Wilborn Aamlid had a boyish curiosity about coins which has resulted in a fantastic international career in numismatics. Along the way he had an audience with his Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, bought treasure from a shipwreck and was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.
As a boy, Jan financed his early coin purchases from money earned as a newspaper delivery round. His parents had visions of his training to be a lawyer, but Jan had other ideas and bought his first outlet in 1974 – a lingerie store with a stock of ladies’ underwear which was promptly disposed of in a one day sale. From just Norwegian coins, Jan gradually extended to Scandinavian and Russian coins. A hobby had turned into a permanent profession. He really was coining it.
Jan’s first big break came in 1979 when he attended a public auction in Zurich, Switzerland, and bought the entire treasure of a Dutch trading ship which had sunk off the coast of Norway in 1725. He paid US$500,000, financed partly by a coin-collecting bank manager, which broke the record for the world’s largest single such purchase. Since then, he has never looked back and started his own auctions through his company Oslo Mynthandel.
He found Thailand in the early 1980s whilst attending a dealers’ conference in Singapore, and settled down in Jomtien in 1990 with his partner Mio and, in due course, their two sons Kevin and Matthew now in their twenties. In the course of his long career, Jan has travelled professionally to around 30 countries attending to his business interests. These days he still runs an appointment-only shop in Pattaya, House of Coins, buying and selling coins and collectibles, whilst Mio provides the leadership behind Pattaya Self Storage, a high-security business offering both temporary and permanent facilities from small security boxes to entire rooms.
But numismatics remains Jan’s prime passion. His successes are too many to list. But in 1987 he bought a 1918 Thai one tical banknote with a 50 tical overprint for US$51,000, the most ever paid for a single banknote at the time. And a year and a half later he paid US$18 million for 100,484 Nordic gold coins minted between 1873 and 1926. Both transactions were listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. This is certainly a guy who hits the headlines. In 1987 he was invited as one of the leading experts on Thailand’s coins and medals to exhibit his collection, including drawings and documents which originated from the explorer Carl Bock who spent more than a year in Thailand (1881-82) at the National Museum in Bangkok.
What explains his success? He has the Midas touch, but it’s largely prompted by his shrewd marketing knowhow. He retains an infectious sense of humour with a boyish curiosity and makes friends rapidly. Also, as he himself admits, he has been favoured with good luck in his professional career of buying and selling not only historical currencies but also antiques across the board. “When I first became involved with Thai coins and banknotes, the whole subject was mostly ignored on the world stage. I had a clear field,” he says.
As if he isn’t busy enough, Jan retains close connections with the Thai scouting movement, the International Association of Professional Numismatists and the Norway Church Abroad. He is also about to publish the first of four books about his chosen Thai specialisms with breathtaking photographs. And he loves orchids. But he confesses that what he enjoys the most is spending time with his family.
Jan’s connections with Pattaya Mail go back to its origins in 1993. He still contributes a regular supplement feature Coins of the Realm which provides a readable insight into Thailand’s numismatic history accompanied by colour photos from his gigantic private collection. “I guess I have accumulated so many collectibles because I paid more than the others were prepared to do,” he concludes. Absolutely.