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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, Warring States, Chu Kingdom, c. 476 - 221 B.C., Ghost Face Money

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This cowrie form is nicknamed Ant Nose Money and the specific type is nicknamed the Ghost Face Coin. The "face" is actually the characters "Gui Lian Qian." David Hartill notes, "They have been found in areas to the south of the Yellow River corresponding to the State of Chu in the Warring States period. One hoard was of some 16,000 pieces. Their weight is very variable, and their alloy often contains a high proportion of lead."
CH93036. Bronze cowrie, Hartill 1.4, Schjoth 15-17, Fisher 4, VF, earthen deposits, holed, weight 2.490 g, maximum diameter 17.2 mm, c. 476 - 221 B.C.; obverse Gui Lian Qian; reverse plain; $45.00 (€39.60)
 


China, Warring States, Chu Kingdom, c. 476 - 221 B.C., Ghost Face Money

Click for a larger photo
This cowrie form is nicknamed Ant Nose Money and the specific type is nicknamed the Ghost Face Coin. The "face" is actually the characters "Gui Lian Qian." David Hartill notes, "They have been found in areas to the south of the Yellow River corresponding to the State of Chu in the Warring States period. One hoard was of some 16,000 pieces. Their weight is very variable, and their alloy often contains a high proportion of lead."
CH93035. Bronze cowrie, Hartill 1.4, Schjoth 15-17, Fisher 4, F, corrosion, earthen deposits, weight 3.300 g, maximum diameter 20.9 mm, c. 476 - 221 B.C.; obverse Gui Lian Qian; reverse plain; $45.00 (€39.60)
 


China, Warring States, Chu Kingdom, c. 476 - 221 B.C., Ghost Face Money

Click for a larger photo
This cowrie form is nicknamed Ant Nose Money and the specific type is nicknamed the Ghost Face Coin. The "face" is actually the characters "Gui Lian Qian." David Hartill notes, "They have been found in areas to the south of the Yellow River corresponding to the State of Chu in the Warring States period. One hoard was of some 16,000 pieces. Their weight is very variable, and their alloy often contains a high proportion of lead."
CH93042. Bronze cowrie, Hartill 1.4, Schjoth 15-17, Fisher 4, gVF, nice olive green patina, light earthen deposits, weight 2.976 g, maximum diameter 19.4 mm, c. 476 - 221 B.C.; obverse Gui Lian Qian; reverse plain; $80.00 (€70.40)
 


China, Eastern Han Dynasty, Dong Zhuo, 189 – 192 A.D.

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Wu-Shu (5 zhu) denomination was issued from 118 B.C. to 220 A.D., with additional varieties perhaps as late as 600 A.D. Dated molds have been found, and the calligraphy and other features changed over time, making it possible to more precisely date some examples. Small coins with or without characters are ascribed to Dong Zhuo who usurped the throne in 189 A.D. and was executed in 192 A.D. Many blank or nearly blank coins have been found dated to this period. They appear to be cast using filed old Han Dynasty Wu Zhus with little to transfer onto the mold.
CH89390. Bronze 5 zhu, Gratzer-Fishman Wu Zhu B4.366, Hartill 10.31, F, dark patina, pitted, weight 0.830 g, maximum diameter 19.2 mm, 189 - 192 A.D.; obverse plain (Wu faintly visible); reverse plain, faint inner rim; $5.00 (€4.40)
 


China, Eastern Han Dynasty, Dong Zhuo, 189 – 192 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Wu-Shu (5 zhu) denomination was issued from 118 B.C. to 220 A.D., with additional varieties perhaps as late as 600 A.D. Dated molds have been found, and the calligraphy and other features changed over time, making it possible to more precisely date some examples. Small coins with or without characters are ascribed to Dong Zhuo who usurped the throne in 189 A.D. and was executed in 192 A.D. Many blank or nearly blank coins have been found dated to this period. They appear to be cast using filed old Han Dynasty Wu Zhus with little to transfer onto the mold.
CH89392. Bronze 5 zhu, Gratzer-Fishman Wu Zhu B4.366, Hartill 10.31, F, dark patina, deposits and encrustations, weight 1.487 g, maximum diameter 19.9 mm, 189 - 192 A.D.; obverse plain; reverse plain; $5.00 (€4.40)
 


China, Eastern Han Dynasty, Dong Zhuo, 189 – 192 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Wu-Shu (5 zhu) denomination was issued from 118 B.C. to 220 A.D., with additional varieties perhaps as late as 600 A.D. Dated molds have been found, and the calligraphy and other features changed over time, making it possible to more precisely date some examples. Small coins with or without characters are ascribed to Dong Zhuo who usurped the throne in 189 A.D. and was executed in 192 A.D. Many blank or nearly blank coins have been found dated to this period. They appear to be cast using filed old Han Dynasty Wu Zhus with little to transfer onto the mold.
CH89394. Bronze 5 zhu, Gratzer-Fishman Wu Zhu B4.366, Hartill 10.31, F, deposits and encrustations, weight 1.158 g, maximum diameter 18.2 mm, 189 - 192 A.D.; obverse plain; reverse plain; $5.00 (€4.40)
 


China, Eastern Han Dynasty, Dong Zhuo, 189 – 192 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Wu-Shu (5 zhu) denomination was issued from 118 B.C. to 220 A.D., with additional varieties perhaps as late as 600 A.D. Dated molds have been found, and the calligraphy and other features changed over time, making it possible to more precisely date some examples. Small coins with or without characters are ascribed to Dong Zhuo who usurped the throne in 189 A.D. and was executed in 192 A.D. Many blank or nearly blank coins have been found dated to this period. They appear to be cast using filed old Han Dynasty Wu Zhus with little to transfer onto the mold.
CH89395. Bronze 5 zhu, Gratzer-Fishman Wu Zhu B4.366, Hartill 10.31, F, earthen deposits, encrustations, weight 1.289 g, maximum diameter 18.4 mm, 189 - 192 A.D.; obverse plain; reverse plain; $5.00 (€4.40)
 


China, Western Han Dynasty, 206 B.C. - 25 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Wu-Shu (5 zhu) denomination was issued from 118 B.C. to 220 A.D., with additional varieties perhaps as late as 600 A.D. Dated molds have been found, and the calligraphy and other features changed over time, making it possible to more precisely date some examples.
CH89253. Bronze 5 zhu, Hartill 8.9, Gratzer-Fishman B1.33 ff., F, original patina,, weight 4.983 g, maximum diameter 27.0 mm, c. 90 B.C.; obverse Wu Zhu (5 zhu); reverse plain; $3.51 (€3.09)


China, Western Han Dynasty, 206 B.C. - 25 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Wu-Shu (5 zhu) denomination was issued from 118 B.C. to 220 A.D., with additional varieties perhaps as late as 600 A.D. Dated molds have been found, and the calligraphy and other features changed over time, making it possible to more precisely date some examples.
CH89254. Bronze 5 zhu, Hartill 8.10, Gratzer-Fishman Wu Zhu B1.38 ff., aVF, original patina, earthen deposits and light encrustations, weight 3.676 g, maximum diameter 26.5 mm, c. 90 B.C.; obverse Wu Zhu (5 zhu), half moon mark below hole; reverse plain; $10.00 (€8.80)
 


China, Western Han Dynasty, 206 B.C. - 25 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Wu-Shu (5 zhu) denomination was issued from 118 B.C. to 220 A.D., with additional varieties perhaps as late as 600 A.D. Dated molds have been found, and the calligraphy and other features changed over time, making it possible to more precisely date some examples.
CH89255. Bronze 5 zhu, Hartill 8.9, Gratzer-Fishman B1.33 ff., aVF, original patina, light encrustations, earthen deposits, weight 3.697 g, maximum diameter 26.7 mm, c. 90 B.C.; obverse Wu Zhu (5 zhu); reverse plain; $10.00 (€8.80)
 




  






REFERENCES|

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