By Kerry Rodgers
Stack’s Bowers will be offering two rare pattern coins at the firm’s Hong Kong sale on Aug. 18-20. They provide a reminder that for the Chinese World War II commenced on the night of July 7, 1937, at the Marco Polo Bridge and brought with it massive socio-economic upheaval.
As the Imperial Japanese armies swept through China they set up puppet governments to administer the various conquered provinces. They ensured economic control via a series of regional central banks established under control of the Bank of Japan.
One of the earliest puppet regimes was the Provisional Government of the Republic of China established in the north. It was officially inaugurated on Dec. 14, 1937, to administer the provinces of Hopei, Shantung, Shansi, Honan and Kiangsu. Beijing was its capital. A year later this region’s puppet Federal Reserve Bank of China opened its doors.
The FRB issued both coins and notes to replace Chinese currency – a valuable war booty. Compared with other puppet banks the FRB did so conservatively and in relatively modest amounts.
The two patterns in Stack’s-Bowers Hong Kong sale consist of fen and 5 fen coins struck for this bank, SCWC KM-Pn1 and -Pn2. The coins are respectively 16 mm and 19 mm in diameter.
Both patterns are struck in silver whereas the issued coins, Y-523 and Y-524, were struck in aluminum, not regarded as strategic war material at this time.
Each obverse bears the Borromean-style interlocking ring symbol of the FRB at its center. Above the legend reads: “The Federal Reserve Bank of China”, and below: “Republic of China, Year 30 ”. Both reverses show the façade of the Temple of Heaven, specifically the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. On either side is the denomination.
The two patterns are rare. The fen has been graded NGC Specimen-61 and the 5 fen NGC Specimen-58. SCWC prices them at $1,500 each but it is expected they will fetch far more when they go up on the block.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Stack’s-Bowers cataloger Chris Chatigny for images and information.