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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Asian Coins ▸ ChinaView Options:  |  |  | 

Coins of China

The earliest Chinese proto-coins, as early as 770 - 476 B.C., were imitations of the cowrie shells used in ceremonial exchanges. The first metal coins, also introduced in this period, were not initially round; instead, they were knife shaped or spade shaped. Round metal coins with a round hole, and then later a square hole, in the center were first introduced around 350 B.C. The beginning of the Qin Dynasty (221 - 206 B.C.), the first dynasty to unify China, standardized coinage for the whole Empire. At first, coinage was limited to use around the capital city district but by the beginning of the Han Dynasty, coins were widely used for paying taxes, salaries, and fines. Ancient Chinese coins are markedly different from coins produced in the west. Chinese coins were cast in molds, unlike western coins which were typically struck (hammered) or, in later times, milled. Chinese coins were usually made from bronze, brass, or iron. Precious metals like gold and silver were uncommonly used. The alloys of the coin metals varied considerably. Most Chinese coins were produced with a square hole in the middle. At the mint coins were threaded on a square rod so that the rough edges could be filed smooth on a lathe, after which they were threaded on strings for ease of handling. Official coin production was sometimes spread over many mint locations throughout the country. Aside from officially produced coins, private coining was common during many stages of Chinese history. At times private coining was tolerated, sometimes it was illegal. Some coins were produced in very large numbers. During the Western Han, an average of 220 million coins a year were produced. Some other types were of limited circulation and are extremely rare today.


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Hui Zong, 1101 - 1126 A.D.

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Huizong, one of the most famous Song Dynasty emperors, spent most of his life surrounded by luxury, sophistication, and art, but ended in tragedy. An artist, Huizong neglected the army, and Song China became increasingly weak. On Jan 18, 1126, after the forces of the Jin had crossed the Yellow River and came in sight of the Song capital, Kaifeng, Huizong abdicated in favor of his son Emperor Qinzong. The Jin entered Kaifeng on Jan 9, 1127, and many days of looting, rapes, and massacre followed. Huizong and Qinzong were captured and demoted to commoner. Huizong was deported to northern Manchuria, where he spent the last eight years of his life as a captive.
CH84031. Bronze 10 cash, Hartill 16.407, Schjoth 620, Fisher 1050, EF, encrustations, weight 11.222 g, maximum diameter 35.4 mm, 1102 - 1106 A.D.; obverse Chong Ning zong bao (coinage of greater reverence); orthodox script, top-bottom-right-left; reverse blank; $22.00 (€19.58)
 


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Hui Zong, 1101 - 1126 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Huizong, one of the most famous Song Dynasty emperors, spent most of his life surrounded by luxury, sophistication, and art, but ended in tragedy. An artist, Huizong neglected the army, and Song China became increasingly weak. On Jan 18, 1126, after the forces of the Jin had crossed the Yellow River and came in sight of the Song capital, Kaifeng, Huizong abdicated in favor of his son Emperor Qinzong. The Jin entered Kaifeng on Jan 9, 1127, and many days of looting, rapes, and massacre followed. Huizong and Qinzong were captured and demoted to commoner. Huizong was deported to northern Manchuria, where he spent the last eight years of his life as a captive.
CH84030. Bronze 10 cash, Hartill 16.407, Schjoth 620, Fisher 1050, EF, deposits, weight 9.002 g, maximum diameter 34.9 mm, 1102 - 1106 A.D.; obverse Chong Ning zong bao (coinage of greater reverence); orthodox script, top-bottom-right-left; reverse blank; $22.00 (€19.58)
 


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"Round as the heavens, square as the earth," is a Chinese saying used to metaphorically describe the fabric of the coins. On the practical side, it was discovered very early that a square hole fit a square shaft, which enabled a stacked quantity of coins to be turned on a lathe to remove casting irregularities.
CH54352. Bronze 2 cash, Shao Sheng Yuan Bao, seal script, clockwise, small size; Hartill 16.303, Schjoth 593, Fisher 995, gVF, weight 8.358 g, maximum diameter 30.5 mm, 1094 - 1097 A.D.; very common; $20.00 (€17.80)
 


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Zhe Zong, 1086 - 1100 A.D.

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"Round as the heavens, square as the earth," is a Chinese saying used to metaphorically describe the fabric of the coins. On the practical side, it was discovered very early that a square hole fit a square shaft, which enabled a stacked quantity of coins to be turned on a lathe to remove casting irregularities.
CH54355. Bronze 2 cash, Shao Sheng Yuan Bao, seal script, clockwise, small size; Hartill 16.303, Schjoth 593, Fisher 995, VF, weight 6.810 g, maximum diameter 30.6 mm, 1094 - 1097 A.D.; very common; $18.00 (€16.02)
 


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Zhe Zong, 1086 - 1100 A.D.

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Zhezong ascended the throne at age 10 under the supervision of Empress Dowager Gao. He was powerless until the Empress' death in 1093. Zhezong was unable to stop the fighting between conservatives and liberals in his government, which would lead to the northern Song's demise in the 12th century.
CH54357. Bronze 2 cash, Shao Sheng Yuan Bao, seal script, clockwise, small size; Hartill 16.303, Schjoth 593, Fisher 995, VF, weight 6.303 g, maximum diameter 30.3 mm, 1094 - 1097 A.D.; very common; $18.00 (€16.02)
 


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Zhe Zong, 1086 - 1100 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
"Round as the heavens, square as the earth," is a Chinese saying used to metaphorically describe the fabric of the coins. On the practical side, it was discovered very early that a square hole fit a square shaft, which enabled a stacked quantity of coins to be turned on a lathe to remove casting irregularities.
CH54353. Bronze 2 cash, Shao Sheng Yuan Bao, seal script, clockwise, small size; Hartill 16.303, Schjoth 593, Fisher 995, VF, weight 7.170 g, maximum diameter 31.0 mm, 1094 - 1097 A.D.; very common; $16.00 (€14.24)
 


China, Southern Song Dynasty, Emperor Gao Zong, 1127 - 1162 A.D.

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The reign title Jian Yan was changed in 1131 because of severe fires in the capital city. The character "yan" contains two "fire" elements -- thought to be unlucky in this case.
CH54358. Jian Yan Tong Bao, seal script; Hartill 17.9, Schjoth 674, Fisher 1147, VF, weight 6.816 g, maximum diameter 28.7 mm, 1127 - 1131; very common; $14.00 (€12.46)


China, Southern Song Dynasty, Emperor Gao Zong, 1127 - 1162 A.D.

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The reign title Jian Yan was changed in 1131 because of severe fires in the capital city. The character "yan" contains two "fire" elements -- thought to be unlucky in this case.
CH54359. Bronze 2 cash, Jian Yan Tong Bao, seal script; Hartill 17.9, Schjoth 674, Fisher 1147, VF, weight 7.457 g, maximum diameter 29.9 mm, 1127 - 1131; very common; $14.00 (€12.46)


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Ren Zong, 1022 - 1063 A.D.

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Despite his long reign of over 40 years, Renzong is not widely known. His reign marked the high point of Song influences and powers but was also the beginning of its slow disintegration that would persist over the next century and a half.
CH76048. Bronze 1 cash, Zhi He yuan bao, regular script, clockwise; Hartill 16.135, Schjoth 511, Fisher 919, VF, weight 4.034 g, maximum diameter 24.2 mm, 1054 - 1055 A.D.; very common; $10.00 (€8.90)


China, Former Shu Kingdom, Wang Yan, Son of Wang Jian, 919 - 925 A.D.

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Wang Yan's father was a village thief before, enlisting in the army, rising through the ranks, and eventually seizing control of the modern Sichuan and Chongqing region. Wang Yan was the youngest son but became heir because his mother, Consort Xu, was Wang Jian's favorite concubine and was able to gain the support of the chancellor Zhang Ge. Wang Yan's reign has been traditionally considered one of decadence, corruption, and incompetence. In 925, his state was conquered by its northeastern neighbor Later Tang. Wang Yan surrendered but was executed and posthumously demoted to commoner rank. Schjoth notes: "The currency of the father and son of the Wang family was coarse and vile."
CH36028. Bronze 1 cash, Qian De yuan bao, seal script, clockwise, large bao; Hartill 15.42, Schjoth 433, VF, nice for the type, weight 3.159 g, maximum diameter 22.9 mm, Sichuan, Chengdu mint, 919 - 924 A.D.; common; $4.50 (€4.01)







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REFERENCES

Calgary Coin Gallery. "Chinese Cast Coins Reference and Price Guide" - http://www.calgarycoin.com/reference/china/china.htm.
Coole, A., et al. An Encyclopedia of Chinese Coins. (1967 - 1976).
Fisher, G. Fisher's Ding. (1990).
Gorny, N. Northern Song Dynasty Cash Variety Guide, Volume 1: Fugo Senshi. (Portland, 2001).
Hartill, D. Cast Chinese Coins. (Victoria, BC, 2005).
Hartill, D. Qing Cash. RNS Special Publication 37. (London, 2003).
Krause, C. & C. Mishler. Standard Catalog of World Coins. (Iola, WI, 2010 - ).
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Mitchiner, M. Oriental Coins and Their Values, Vol. 2: the Ancient and Classical World. (London, 1978).
Mitchiner, M. Oriental Coins and Their Values, Vol. 3: Non-Islamic States & Western Colonies. (London, 1979).
Novak, J. A Working Aid for Collectors of Annamese Coins. (Merced, CA, 1989).
Peng, X. A Monetary History of China (Zhongguo Huobo Shi). Trans. Edward H Kaplan. (Bellingham, WA, 1994).
Schjoth, F. Chinese Currency. (Oslo, 1929).
Scott Semans World Coins, The Daniel K.E. Ching Sale, Seattle, 2 June 1991.
Thierry, F. Monnaies chinoises. I L'Antiquité préimpériale. (Paris, 1997).
Thierry, F. Monnaies chinoises. II Des Qin aux Cinq Dynasties. (Paris, 2003).
Tye, R. Wang Mang. (South Uist, UK, 1993).
Von Glahn, R. Fountain of Fortune: Money and Monetary Policy in China, 1000-1700. (Berkley, 1996).
Yuanjie, Z., ed. Xinjiang Numismatics. (Hong Kong, 1991).
Yuquan, W. Early Chinese Coinage. (New York, 1951).

Catalog current as of Thursday, May 25, 2017.
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