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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."
CH87310. Bronze cowrie, Hartill 1.4, Schjoth 15-17, Fisher 4, VF, red and green mottled patina, weight 2.026 g, maximum diameter 16.9 mm, c. 476 - 221 B.C.; obverse Gui Lian Qian; reverse plain; $60.00 (€51.00)
 


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."
CH87311. Bronze cowrie, Hartill 1.4, Schjoth 15-17, Fisher 4, VF, weight 2.464 g, maximum diameter 16.8 mm, c. 476 - 221 B.C.; obverse Gui Lian Qian; reverse plain; $60.00 (€51.00)
 


Lot of 40 Various Chinese Bronze Coins

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LT17204. Bronze Lot, Lot of 40 various Chinese bronze coins, unattributed (may include some Vietnamese, Korean or Japanese coins), condition varies, most F or better, appears to include an excellent variety of types, no tags, no flips, photo is random selection of the actual coins in the lot, as-is, no returns; $45.00 (€38.25)
 


China, Tang Dynasty, Emperor Xuanzong, 685 - 762 A.D.

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The Kai Yuan was the primary coin type issued by the Tang; cast for most of the dynasty, a period of nearly 300 years. A crescent-shaped mark is often found on the reverse of Kai Yuans. Legend says Empress Wende, the wife of Emperor Taizong and mother of Emperor Gaozong, inadvertently stuck one of her fingernails in a wax model of the coin when it was first presented to her, and the resulting mark was reverentially retained. Variations of the story attribute nail marks to other empresses or imperial consorts. More prosaically, they are probably control marks used to track mint operations or workers.
CH67412. Bronze 1 cash, Hartill 14.4, reverse variety: u, aVF, dark patina, weight 3.205 g, maximum diameter 24.6 mm, 718 - 732 A.D.; obverse Kai Yuan tong bao (the inaugural currency), middle type, whole bottom of Kai touches hole, left shoulder yuan, long narrow head of tong, distinct vertical parallel lines in er component of bao, two strokes inside bottom of bao do not touch verticals; reverse crescent above hole, horns upward (variety u); $30.00 (€25.50)
 


China, Southern Song Dynasty, Emperor Li Zong, 1225 - 1264 A.D.

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The government of the Southern Song was forced to establish a new capital city because of the Mongal invasions, at Lin'an (present day Hangzhou) which wasn't near any sources of copper so the quality of the coins produced under the Southern Song significantly deteriorated compared to the cast copper coins of the Northern Song dynasty. As the Mongols started to advance Southwards the last 3 emperors of the Song dynasty did not cast any coins as they had neither the time to set up any mints nor the resources to produce any cast coins.
CH67435. Bronze 1 cash, Hartill 17.718, Schjoth 979, Fisher 1481, aVF, dark patina, light earthen deposits, weight 3.876 g, maximum diameter 23.9 mm, Liu City mint, 1228 - 1233 A.D.; obverse Shao Sheng yuan bao, regular script, clockwise; reverse liu mint mark; $30.00 (€25.50)
 


China, Southern Tang Dynasty, Emperor Yuan Zu (Li Jing), 943 - 961 A.D.

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Yuan Zu (Li Jing, temple name: Yuanzong) was the second ruler of Southern Tang during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. The Southern Tang capital was in Jinling (Xidu), in present-day Nanjing in Jiangsu Province. The territory comprised parts of modern Fujian, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces and all of Jiangxi Province. Early in his reign, Li Jing expanded his borders, taking smaller neighboring states. However, this warfare exhausted the country, leaving it ill-prepared to resist the Later Zhou invasion in 956. Forced to cede all prefectures north of the Yangtze River, he also had to relinquish his title as an emperor and accept Later Zhou overlordship, and later Song Dynasty's overlordship.
CH67365. Bronze 1 cash, Hartill 15.93, Fischer 815, Schjöth -, VF, weight 3.584 g, maximum diameter 24.2 mm, 959 - 961 A.D.; obverse Tang Guo tong bao (Tang Kingdom currency), regular script, one dot tong; reverse plain; scarce; $28.00 (€23.80)
 


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

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Instead of the usual square, the shape of the hole on this coin resembles a flower. The Chinese referred to this type of hole as a flower hole, rosette hole, or chestnut hole. Westerners sometimes refer to them as a star hole. The Chinese call similar hexagon holes as turtle shell holes. These whole variations were created by mint workers doing final detail work, using a chisel or a file to remove excess metal that flowed into the center hole during casting. Creating these fancy holes was certainly intentional but the purpose is unknown.
CH67390. Bronze 1 cash, Hartill 16.261, Schjoth 566, Fisher 979, F, flower hole, weight 4.136 g, maximum diameter 24.7 mm, 1086 - 1093 A.D.; obverse Yuan You tong bao, seal script, clockwise, square bao with short feet; reverse plain; $25.00 (€21.25)
 


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

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Instead of the usual square, the shape of the hole on this coin resembles a flower. The Chinese referred to this type of hole as a flower hole, rosette hole, or chestnut hole. Westerners sometimes refer to them as a star hole. The Chinese call similar hexagon holes as turtle shell holes. These whole variations were created by mint workers doing final detail work, using a chisel or a file to remove excess metal that flowed into the center hole during casting. Creating these fancy holes was certainly intentional but the purpose is unknown.
CH67391. Bronze 1 cash, Hartill 16.89, Schjoth 494, Fisher 901, F, flower hole, weight 3.444 g, maximum diameter 25.2 mm, 1034 - 1038 A.D.; obverse Jing You yuan bao, regular script, clockwise; reverse plain; $25.00 (€21.25)
 


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Shen Zong, 1067 - 1085 A.D.

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Instead of the usual square, the shape of the hole on this coin resembles a flower. The Chinese referred to this type of hole as a flower hole, rosette hole, or chestnut hole. Westerners sometimes refer to them as a star hole. The Chinese call similar hexagon holes as turtle shell holes. These whole variations were created by mint workers doing final detail work, using a chisel or a file to remove excess metal that flowed into the center hole during casting. Creating these fancy holes was certainly intentional but the purpose is unknown.
CH67392. Bronze 1 cash, Hartill 16.235, Schjoth 547, Fisher 963, F, flower hole, weight 3.972 g, maximum diameter 24.2 mm, 1078 - 1085 A.D.; obverse Yuan Feng tong bao, running script, clockwise, large characters; reverse plain; $25.00 (€21.25)
 


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Shen Zong, 1067 - 1085 A.D.

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A diamond punch is a hole that has been punched offset to produce a diamond shape hole relative to the orientation of the coin.
CH87007. Bronze 2 cash, Gorny 2016 26b.36 D, Hartill 16.198, aVF, diamond punch variety, light encrustations, weight 8.424 g, maximum diameter 32.2 mm, 1068 - 1078 A.D.; obverse Xi Ning zhong bao, Lishu (clerical script), clockwise, squat boxy wide characters, no left hand stroke on Xi, short compact Ni, short boxy bao; reverse plain; $24.00 (€20.40)
 




  



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REFERENCES

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Gorny, N. Northern Song Dynasty Cash Variety Guide 2016. (Morrisville, NC, 2016).
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Hartill, D. Cast Chinese Coins. (Victoria, BC, 2005).
Hartill, D. Qing Cash. RNS Special Publication 37. (London, 2003).
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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).
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Catalog current as of Friday, July 20, 2018.
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