1867 When the British desired China
2011 SOLD 300 K$ before fees
In the nineteenth century, the British are at the door of China. The Opium War forever destabilized the Qing empire. A very interesting silver coin keeps the memory of this difficult period.
On one side, it is in English (one tael, Shanghai, Hong Kong, 1867) and decorated with the coat of arms of the British Isles inside the collar of the Garter. On the other side, it is Chinese (1 liang, Shanghai) with the beautiful figure of a dragon from the front.
It was struck in Hong Kong, which was already a British possession. The aim was to involve the central government to normalize the currency throughout the Chinese empire. The tael or liang, judiciously chosen, was a weight unit standardized in Shanghai.
The project was rejected, and very few of these coins have survived. One can imagine the economic power that the British would have won from this initiative if it had been successful.
A piece in excellent condition has been sold U.S. $ 195K by Champion in Hong Kong on June 22, 2008. It is again for sale, estimated US $ 150K, by Classical Numismatic Group. The sale takes place in New York on January 4 and 5.
POST SALE COMMENT
$ 300K before fees for this remarkable specimen from one of the darkest pages of the history of the Qing. Knowledge of coins enables to remember history.
1868 Last Chance for the Hong Kong Mint
2007 SOLD 90 K£ by Spink
Hong Kong became British in 1847 The circulation of a local currency did not initially interest the colonials. In 1863, the Royal Mint decided to establish a currency based on a new name, the Hong Kong dollar. A factory was installed in Hong Kong in 1866.
The new currency was not welcomed and financial problems accumulated. The production included a value in bronze of one cent and five silver denominations: 5, 10 and 20 cents, half dollar and dollar.
The mil, a holed bronze coin, was not maintained but attests to the difficulty of adjusting the colonial currency to the local need. Conversely, bigger values than one dollar were not scheduled. Even the name was still a matter of confusion. A 1867 pattern coin (already discussed in our column) made in Hong Kong for the use of Shanghai is a tael in English and a liang in Chinese.
In 1868, the financial situation is no longer sustainable, and coins of that year are extremely rare. Doubts were even issued on the existence of 5 to 10 cents of that year.
In 2007, a complete set of the five silver denominations of 1868 with the name and portrait of Victoria suddenly appeared to the amazement of the specialists. In a presentation box, they are prototypes in proof condition, and certainly patterns. It was sold as a single lot by Spink on 27 September 2007 for £ 90K. At that time, the pound was more expensive than now.
The set including the five coins and the box is for sale on August 18 in Hong Kong by Stack's Bowers, lot 40068, estimated USD 225K. The coins were graded PR 61 to PR63 by NGC.
Sold in 1868 to a trading house, the machinery of the Hong Kong mint will be sent to Japan in 1871 to produce the coins of the first modern currency of that country, the yen.
1880 Birth of the Yen
2017 SOLD for $ 305K including premium
A new monetary system is mandatory to terminate the archaic coinage of the Tokugawa period. The name of the new currency, the yen simply meaning 'round coin', clearly demonstrates the extent of the Japanese delay behind the other currencies in the world. The final closure of the British mint in Hong Kong in 1868 is a boon for the Japanese who acquire this excellent production equipment and install it in Osaka.
Pattern coins are made in Meiji year 3. The gold coins of 20 yen and 10 yen are convincing. Their figures, with on one side dragons centered within a perimeter of inscriptions and on the other side a radiant sun flanked by banners and chrysanthemums, will be reused for several years. The new system becomes official in Meiji year 4.
A prestigious release of proof coins is carried out in Meiji year 13, 1880 of our calendar, including in small quantities all the denominations in gold, silver and copper except the very small rin worth one thousandth of a yen. This set of 13 varieties was certainly intended for remaining as groups for the use of presentation. No complete set has been kept in private hands and the individual coins have become scarce due to the meltings linked to the tragic events of the 20th century.
The two largest gold coins are the most interesting. The collection of Dr. Jacobs, dispersed by Heritage in September 2011, included a 20 yen year 13 graded PF 63 by NGC that sold for $ 230K including premium, and a 10 yen year 13 in same grade, sold for $ 253K including premium.
A collector gathered 11 coins year 13 among the possible 13. This collection is dispersed by Heritage in New York on January 9. The 20 yen graded PF 64 Cameo by NGC is estimated $ 180K, lot 34340. The 10 yen in the same magnificent grade is estimated $ 150K, lot 34339.
Lot 34338 is the highly rare 1880 5 yen. It is graded PF65 Cameo by NGC and estimated $ 150K.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
20 yen : $ 305K
10 yen : $ 270K
5 yen : $ 118K
1898 Kiang Nan Dollar
2015 SOLD for $ 420K including premium by Stack's Bowers
1898-1899 Mace and Candareens
2018 SOLD for $ 440K including premium
In 1897 the American company Ferracute is awarded a contract to supply and install coin presses in the Chinese provinces at the request of the imperial government. The material is sent without delay and the transfer of technology is successfully carried out in 1898 in Szechuen to produce silver coins and the small brass coin, the tsen colloquially named cash.
For silver the biggest denomination corresponds exactly to one US dollar. The word dollar does not appear, replaced by the weight in the units of the Chinese decimal system, mace and candareen, subdivisions of the tael.
That Chinese dollar is marked in English letters 7 mace and 2 candareens while the half dollar is 3 mace and 6 candareens. The emitting province is indicated on the same side which is centered on the effigy of a dragon. The other side is inscribed in Chinese characters.
Some other provinces immediately follow Szechuen with the same conception. Also in 1898 Guangxu attempted to start an ambitious reform program which was halted by a military coup organized by Cixi. These events culminated in 1899 in the Boxer War. Curiously the provincial coinage of American origin was to survive this xenophobic phase.
The sale by Heritage in Hong Kong on June 28 (June 27 in US time) includes three rarities in splendid condition, graded by NGC.
The 'dragon dollar' 1898-1899 'Cheh-Kiang Province' graded MS66 is estimated $ 500K, lot 30074. The half dollar of same period and same province graded MS67 is estimated $ 100K, lot 30073. The 1899 half dollar 'Kiang Nan Province' graded MS62-Prooflike is estimated $ 250K, lot 30088.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
Kiang Nan half dollar SOLD for $ 310K
Cheh-Kiang half dollar SOLD for $ 106K
Cheh-Kiang dollar : SOLD for $ 440K
Auction alert: This 1898-99 China Chekiang Silver Dollar, graded NGC MS 66, is part of a @HeritageAuction sale in Hong Kong this month. Bidding is already at $260,000 and expected to go higher. Auction website: https://t.co/CH4dOtGMJs ... Article: https://t.co/U99LUw8lCz pic.twitter.com/AnB5LzEcqC— NGC (@NGCcoin) June 11, 2018
1907 The Dragon Coin
2009 SOLD 92 K$ including premium
In the early twentieth century, the Qing dynasty was in full decline. In 1875, the dowager Empress Cixi placed on the throne a child of three who ruled nominally under the name of Guangxu but exercised no authority. Between 1899 and 1901 the Boxer Rebellion had exacerbated the xenophobia of the Chinese of that time.
In such conditions, the dragon coins (dollars, taels, maces, candareens), which usually show inscriptions in English on one side and on Chinese on the other side, seem anachronistic.
Heritage sells a tael on September 10 in Long Beach, lot 20547. On the side where the dragon is found, we read: "Pei Yang - 33rd Year of Kuang Hsu".
Pei Yang was the name of the mint in the province of Chih-li (Zhili) which in 1928 became Hebei, near Beijing. At the same time, similar bilingual coins were also produced in the province of Kiang Nan.
Kuang Hsu is the old spelling of Guangxu. The 33 rd year of his reign corresponds to 1907. The following year, Guangxu and Cixi died one after the other two days apart.
The tael for sale by Heritage is in mint condition with a beautiful gold and gray patina, and is estimated 80 K$. Cautiously, the auction house does not indicate the metal or alloy which had been used.
POST SALE COMMENT
Heritage knows the market well, including for the rarest coins: it is no surprise! This Chinese coin was sold 92 K$ premium included, being then around the low estimate.
1909 The Gold Wons of Dr Jacobs
2011 SOLD 630 K$ including premium
Dr. Norman Jacobs had specialized in the study of Japanese coins, of which the engraving was particularly striking. This study includes the Korean issues, which were produced in Osaka between 1906 and 1909 in our calendar. The short reign of Yung Hi, the last emperor of the Joseon Dynasty, indeed ended with the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910.
The sale of his collection was announced at the end of last year. The event is included in the auction made by Heritage at Long Beach from 7 to 12 September. It is also noted that the most important lots were not available in the market for over half a century.
A set of three Korean pieces of the third year of Yung Hi (1909) will be separated. These proof coins (minted before commercial production) in gold have the respective values of 5, 10 and 20 won. They are in mint condition (MS64 NGC). For each of them, only one other example, kept at the Bank of Tokyo, is known. Heritage Magazine published the estimate of the 20 won coin : $ 500K.
The auction house is sharing the link to the pages of his catalog. Here are the coins of 20 won, 10 won and 5 won.
POST SALE COMMENT
The biggest of the three coins, 20 won, got the highest price, $ 630K. The other two were sold for $460K for the 5 won and 300K for the 10 won, below their estimates.
Keep in mind the total of the three lots: $ 1.39 M. A memorable result for an outstanding set.
The above prices include premium.
1910 Yunnan Spring Dollar
2010 SOLD for US $ 1.06M including premium by Champion Hong Kong
narrated in 2020 before the sale of another specimen by Heritage (see below)
The region is bordering Tonkin. The railway line connecting Haiphong to Kunming is an entirely French project with the authorization of the Chinese government. The rail reaches Kunming on April 1, 1910 after seven years of work in extremely severe conditions.
A 1 dollar silver coin surfaced in 1920. Its characteristics are unusual. An inscription in four Chinese characters on the reverse indicates that it was made in the spring of a year corresponding to 1910, defined in the calendar cycle of 60 years and not by the year of the reign. This is the only known example of a Chinese coinage naming a season. An English inscription on the side of the dragon recalls the Chinese value of 7 mace and 2 candareens and the production in the province of Yun-Nan.
This piece was considered unique after three runs of fakes had been identified. Graded AU55 by NGC, it was sold for US $ 1.06M including premium by Champion Hong Kong on August 22, 2010, lot 12 here linked on LiveAuctioneers bidding platform.
A few months later, another coin was authenticated. NGC and Champion testified that it was struck with the same dies as the discovery coin. Graded AU58 by NGC, it was sold twice by Heritage : for $ 550K including premium on September 8, 2011 and for $ 660K including premium on July 12, 2020, lot 30141.
The two surviving pieces referred above are certified AU (Almost Uncirculated) by NGC. This variety has thus the characteristics of a pattern coin which has not been followed by production. Champion supports the very plausible hypothesis of the project of a presentation coin to celebrate the completion of the rail line.
The 2020 Heritage catalog announces a total population of three units certified by NGC and confirms that the coin for sale is the finest.
1910 The Yunnan Spring
2020 SOLD for $ 660K including premium
Narrated before sale : see above.
1911 Silver Dragons by Luigi Giorgi
2010 SOLD for $ 430K including premium by Bowers and Merena
The standardization of the currency is essential for maintaining some political unity in China. The production of coins is centralized in Tianjin and the dollar replaces the complicated system based on fractions of the tael.
The Tianjin mint survives the changes of regime : the fall of the Qing is followed by the republic, established on January 1, 1912, interrupted in 1915 by the self-proclamation of its president Yuan Shikai as emperor and restored after his death in 1916.
From 1910 to 1920 the head designer and chief engraver of the Tianjin mint was Luigi Giorgi on whom biographical details are scarce. He produced several designs of silver coins, some of which were signed with his name. His coins are drawn and engraved with great sharpness. His One Dollar with the Dragon in the Clouds, dated to the 3rd year of the child emperor Xuantung which is 1911 CE, is the last imperial coinage of the Qing.
Designed in the same year by Giorgi, the silver dollar with the Long Whiskers Dragon was not released for circulation. The best surviving specimen is graded SP-65 by NGC. It was sold for $ 430K including premium by Bowers and Merena on December 4, 2010 from a lower estimate of $ 50K. It is estimated US $ 400K for sale on October 6 in Hong Kong as lot 41244 by Stack's Bowers successor to Bowers and Merena.
The fall of the Qing makes the dragon obsolete. This imperial symbol is soon replaced by the portrait of Yuan Shikai. The silver dollars with this effigy dated to the year 3 of the Republic, 1914 CE, were also prepared in Tianjin by Giorgi.
1916 The Last Imperial Dragon
2011 SOLD 203 K$ including premium
There was one last emperor of China after the fall of the Qing.
Yuan Shikai was the only candidate able to maintain some tradition in the following of the fallen Empire. This formermilitary officer soon controlled the power against the revolutionary Kuomintang. In 1914, he struck silver dollars in his image.
Caught in a political whirlwind, he thought he could maintain his power by self-proclaiming himself as emperor, on December 12, 1915. Thus began on January 1, 1916 the year 1 of Yuan with the reign name Hung Hsien, a politicallyambiguous name meaning "constitutional abundance".
This was quite ephemeral. His military colleagues disapproved the initiative, and moreover he was sick. The last Chinese emperor abdicated on March 22, 1916, and died on June 6.
We perfectly understand the extreme rarity of a presentation coin of the year 1 of Hung Hsien made by the Tientsinmint to commemorate the accession of Yuan to the supreme dignity.
This is a gold coin with a face value of $ 10. On one side, the military dictator shows his profile and his epaulets, as on the silver coins of 1914. On the other side, the change in continuity is symbolized by a dragon with seven clawsholding a bow in his mouth and a bunch of arrows in one of his hands.
It is estimated U.S. $ 100K, on sale by Stack's Bowers in Hong Kong on August 22, and once belonged to the collection of King Farouk.
POST SALE COMMENT
This extremely rare coin has far exceeded its estimate. It was sold $ 203K including premium.
1927 A Chinese Warlord
2012 SOLD 4.1 MHK$ including premium
When the central government is weak, warlords seek to establish military dictatorships. The money has kept the memory of Roman usurpers. In the early twentieth century, coins also provided the image of ephemeral rulers of China.
Zhang Zuolin (Chang Tso-lin) was one of these power-hungry generals. Having become the master of Manchuria aftersupporting the Japanese, he managed to win several provinces and to control Beijing in 1927. He then took the extravagant title of Grand Marshal of the military government of the Republic of China.
A gold coin of 50 yuan is then prepared in Tientsin, with his image in military uniform. The other side is dated to thesixteenth year of the Republic, assessing that Zhang had not, or not yet, the imperial ambitions of Yuan Shikai.
The regime of Zhang was short, and only a few prototypes of this coin was made. It is nevertheless important in the history of Chinese numismatics, because it is the largest gold coin of the Republic.
It is known in two copies only. One of them, which was presented to Zhang, was kept by his family. Remained in uncirculated condition, this piece of outstanding quality is estimated $ 650K, for sale by Bonhams in New York on December 16.
POST 2011 SALE COMMENT
Too expensive. Unsold.
POST 2012 SALE COMMENT
It was certainly more suitable to sell this coin in Hong Kong after lowering the price. Bonhams did it on November 24. Result: HK $ 4.1 million including premium.
I had not viewed this lot before the second sale. I include post sale the link to the catalog.