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Chinese copper, pattern star in Stack’s Bowers sale

Quentin David Bowers is undoubtedly best known to numismatists for his in-depth knowledge of U.S. coins. In his spare time, he also assembled major collections of player pianos, archival cinematic publications, and Chinese copper coins.

The Chinese copper coin collection will be offered in its entirety on April 2-4 by Stack’s Bowers Ponterio at its Hong Kong sale. The range of the catalog covers the entire gambit of Chinese numismatic history from ancient types through cast cash to World War II.

Choice State of Qi six character knife money, Warring States Period (400-221 B.C.E.). (Image courtesy Stack’s-Bowers-Ponterio)

Ancients comprise both knives and spades. These come headed by an important collection of Qi knives – products of the Warring States period, c. 400 to 221 B.C.E. The quality of these pieces should see many realize comfortable five-figure amounts.

Machine-struck cash from both the latter days of the Empire and the Republic abound. These include types possessing and lacking square holes, military tokens and multiple patterns. Rarities are commonplace, some of which are the only known example in private hands. Condition is top-drawer.

Super-rare “Water Dragon” Szechuan 30 cash pattern c.1904 in bronze to be offered as part of the Q. David Bowers Collection of Chinese Copper by Stack’s Bowers Ponterio in their Hong Kong April sale. (Image courtesy Stack’s-Bowers-Ponterio)

For many specialist collectors, the most desirable piece of the entire collection will likely prove the rare Szechuan 30 cash pattern c.1904. It is an example of the “Water Dragon” type rather than the “Flying Dragon.” Water Dragon 30 cash were produced in both bronze and copper. That to go on sale is in bronze.

Mintage is unknown, but the auction firm tracked down 12 pieces, half of which are in institutional collections. As such, the coin will carry an estimate in the region of $100,000 to $150,000; but as all Szechuan 30 cash patterns are regarded as pearls of great price, this may well prove somewhat conservative.

Desirable undated Honan pattern 500 cash (1927-1928) cf. Hsu-445a that will be offered in PCGS MS-62 BN. (Image courtesy Stack’s-Bowers-Ponterio)

And then there is a Honan pattern 500 cash No Date c. 1927-1928 cf. Hsu-445a. This example is not tin-plated and comes graded a highly desirable Professional Coin Grading Service MS-62 BN. The auction firm expects it to fetch somewhere in the low to middle five figures. No estimate had been set at the time of writing, but an example in PCGS SP55 sold in Beijing in 2015 for RMB368,000 [U.S. $52,570].

Other lots expected to attract competitive bidding include a Kiangsu-Chingkiang pattern 20 cash, ND (1906), an Anhwei 10 cash pattern (1902-1906) with province spelled AN-HUI and a square central hole (KM-Y39.2), and a Republic 10 cash pattern (1914), signed ‘L. Giorgi’ (KM- PnA13).

Copper coins aside, for serious collectors of Chinese coins, the auction provides a number of opportunities to plug difficult gaps particularly among Republican silver.

Rare gold standard dollar ‘Birds-under-Junk’ reverse muled with a 1929 Sun Yat-sen pattern dollar obverse that will be offered at Stack’s Bowers April sale in Hong Kong. (Images courtesy Stack’s Bowers)

Leading the charge for many will be the rare “mint sport,” c. 1929, that features the “Birds-under-Junk” gold standard dollar reverse muled with the obverse of the contemporary Sun Yat-sen silver dollar pattern pieces (e.g KM-Pn100).

China’s gold standard dollar arose out of the Kemmerer Report commissioned by the Nanking Government in 1929 to examine the state of China’s finances. Professor Edwin Kemmerer was a strong advocate of the gold standard. Among other matters, he recommended China adopt a gold-based dollar. This would require a makeover of the country’s coinage using designs based on the existing Sun Yat-sen silver “Junk dollars.”

The U.S. Mint at Philadelphia was contracted to produce appropriate dies, and Chief Engraver John Sinnock set about modifying the “Birds-over-Junk” design.

His main change saw the three geese move from above the junk to flying above the water. According to Kann, this was done “Because the rising sun might have been confounded with the national emblem of Japan, and the wild geese likened to oncoming Japanese warplanes.”

A new legend translates as “Gold Standard Currency One Dollar”

A small trial run of pieces was struck before the dies were shipped to Shanghai. They were never used for circulation coins, and the few pieces struck from them are regarded by today’s collectors as great prizes.

The mule in this sale was struck in bronze in 1932, presumably at Shanghai. It is dated Year 18. It comes in a Numismatic Guaranty Corporation MS-62 Brown grade with an estimate of $40,000-$50,000.

Arguably one of the rarer Charles I triple unites, 1644 (KM-339; S-2730). It comes graded PCGS AU-55. (Images courtesy Stack’s Bowers)

However, if Chinese silver rarities aren’t your thing, how about King Charles I gold triple unites? Stack’s Bowers Hong-Kong catalog contains three superb examples of England’s largest and heaviest hammered gold coins.

The first, with a tall narrow bust, is dated 1642 (KM-234; S-2724) and NGC certified as MS-61. The second is from 1643 (KM-256.1; S-2726) and comes in Professional Coin Grading Service AU-58.

The third is dated 1644 (KM-339; S-2730) and graded PCGS AU-55.

Full auctions details and descriptions are available online at www.stacksbowers.com.

All collectors of historic Chinese coins will want to get their hands on this catalog. Post-sale it will prove to be a valuable reference.

For those who have not yet caught up, with it Stack’s Bowers Galleries now provides an easy-to-use app that enables prospective bidders to view and search auctions as well as manage all their bids online no matter where they are. Check it out. You will find that versions are available for both Apple and Android telephones.


This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.


More Collecting Resources

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000 is your guide to images, prices and information on coinage of the 1900s.

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1601-1700 is your guide to images, prices and information on coins from so long ago.

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