Sunday December 2nd was the day of the big Champion Hong Kong Auction. Among the more than 40 registered bidders were collectors, dealers and auction houses from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. Mrs. Zuo and Miss Wang from Cheng Xuan Auction Company in Beijing were present, as was Simon Cheng from Asia Pacific Auctions in Hong Kong.
Taiwan coin dealer, Chen Gi-mao, who some years ago had helped build the famous Haru S. C. Chang Collection in Taiwan, was an active bidder, but was the underbidder on the three stars of this sale – the 1000 Cash Pattern Coin, the 1907 Gold Dragon Tael, and the General Chu Yu Pu Dollar.
A leading collector from southern Taiwan, who had paid a record U.S. $210,000 for a Ming Dynasty silver sycee in the China Guardian auction the previous month, was present and would pay a record price for the Szechuan Dragon Dollar in this Champion Auction.
Ron Guth, President of Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), called the auction. Guth explained in his preliminary remarks that he was not acting on behalf of PCGS today, but as a private individual who had been asked to call the auction. Champion Galleries has no connecton with PCGS aside from its role as an authorized PCGS dealer.
The highlight of the 2007 Champion Auction was certainly the Chinese 1000 Cash Coin made in 1854. Lot 57 was a hand-carved, pattern mother coin of a 1000 Cash from the Board of Revenue Mint in Beijing. This piece is not one of the usual but nevertheless rare mother coins, also known as seed coins (mu ch’ien or mu qian), but instead one of the extremely rare “ancestor” (tzu ch’ien or zu qian) coins.
This piece was hand-carved from highly refined brass, and represents not only an extremely rare and important coin, but also a work of Chinese art. This coin is believed to have come from the A. ?. Tracey Woodward collection, and has not appeared on the market before. Only 3 or 4 examples of this coin are believed to exist, and this is believed to be of the highest quality of those known.
The foremost authority on Chinese cash coins in the United States, Dr. Che-lu Tseng (Zeng Zelu), has examined this coin carefully.
According the Dr. Tseng, most carved mother coins seen today are forgeries. Many were made for Japanese collectors in 1980’s. The best forgeries were made in early Republic times by former mint employees, using ordinary cast mother coins, and then carving them to make them look like Carved Mother Coins. These coins are not carved from blocks of brass, the brass is of inferior quality, and the pieces do not have the production quality of official Carved Mother Coins, which must be submitted to the Emperor for imperial inspection. The coin offered in this sale is first genuine Carved Mother 1000 Cash which Dr. Tseng has ever inspected outside of a ChineseMuseum.
Expected to bring U.S. $30,000 to $50,000, after a battle between floor bidders and an Ebay LiveAuction bidder, the coin finally sold for US $103,500 to the Ebay bidder (the prices quoted here include the 15% buyers fee). This is the highest price ever paid for a Chinese cash coin.
2. INFORMATION SHEET NO 2 CHINESE SILVER DOLAR GENERAL QU YUPU.
The finest known example of the General Ch’u Yu-p’u (Qu Yupu) Pattern Silver Dollar (Kann 690; incorrectly given as 609 in the catalog) was Lot 62 in the sale. The coin, with wire rims and sharp details, is likely a presentation piece and one of the first struck. This commemorative, with the general’s portrait in uniform and high hat on the obverse and crossed flags on the reverse, is dated April 7, 1927 and is believed to celebrate the completion of Warlord Ch’u’s first year as Governor of Chihli (Hopei or Hebei) Province.
Ch’u was so hated by the people that in 1929 he was buried alive. Purchased by the consignor in 1960, it was expected to sell for $25,000 to $30,000, but brought $57,500 from a collector in China.
3.INFORMATION SHEE NO 3 : EARLIEST CHINESE GOLD COIN.
One of the earliest Chinese gold coins and certainly the most artistic is the 1907 Kuping Dragon Tael (Lot 79). Kann lists this piece (K.1541) as an unissued pattern, however, in the spring of 1907 the Board of Revenue and the Director of the Tientsin Mint announced a resolution to produce gold coins for circulation. This resolution was recorded in the U.S. Monthly Consular Report for June 1907, but it is unlikely that the coin actually entered circulation, as only a few are known to exist today.
The example offered here was purchased in a Money Company Hong Kong sale over 20 years ago and was later submitted to NGC for professional grading and certification. So far, this is the only 1907 Dragon Gold Tael to be graded by NGC or PCGS. The bidding for this piece was mainly between a Taiwan dealer and a Chinese-American collector, who ultimately won the lot, paying a record $97,750.
4.INFORMATION SHEET NO 4. PEKING MINT PROOF 10 CENT
The Peking Mint Proof 10 Cent (Lot 87) is a famous and controversial coin. Part of a set of 5 silver dragon coins dated 1900 in Chinese cyclical characters, the best evidence today is that the 10 Cent and 20 Cent coins in this series were actually struck at the Peking Mint in the first half of 1900 while the mint was not yet complete.
During the Boxer Uprising in the summer of 1900, the mint was looted and destroyed. Later the dies for the set were obtained by a Shanghai coin dealer, who had restrikes made in the 1940’s.
Kann says the dies were made in Germany, while others think they were made in England by William Wyon, member of a whole family of mint directors and die engravers. All of the Peking coins, whether originals or restrikes, are rare today.
This particular piece is believed to have been made in England before the dies were sent to China. Graded Proof 64 by PCGS, this 10 Cent Peking Proof Coin (Kann 236), estimated at US $10,000 went for $25,300.
5.INFORMATION SHEET NO 5: CHINESE SILVER DRAGON SZECHUAN 1898
The finest known example of the undated 1898 Szechuan Dragon Silver Dollar (Y238; Kann 145) appeared as Lot 92 in the Champion Auction. Graded by PCGS as MS64, this fully struck coin is the finest example recorded by PCGS or NGC. The next best example is an NGC graded MS62 piece, which Champion Auctions sold in 2004, and which sold again in Hong Kong in September 2007 for $11,500.
Kann’s dating and arrangement of the Szechuan Dragon Dollars is not correct. The piece offered here, Kann 145, was actually the first dollar produced by Szechuan. Trial strikings were done by the Ferracute Company in Bridgeton, New Jersey, USA, using dies produced at the Philadelphia Mint, in 1897.
A photograph of the coins was published in the Harpers Weekly issue of August 14, 1897.
The equipment and dies arrived in Chengtu, Szechuan in 1898, but the dies were rusted due to a flood, and had to be replaced. The mint then closed down until 1901 or 1902.
When it reopened, it continued to strike coins using the Philadelphia replacement dies. The coin offered here may be a sample struck at Bridgeton or Philadelphia, either from the original dies before they were sent to China, or from the replacement dies.
The first modern coin made in Szechuan Province, this superb coin was expected to sell for $3,000 to $5,000, but brought an astonishing $36,800 because it is the finest known example (PCGS MS64) of a coin which is rarely found in uncirculated condition. This, too, was a record price for this coin, which saw a contest between a Taiwan bidder and a Chinese bidder. In the end the lot sold to the bidder from China.
6.INFORMATION SHEET NO 6 :YUANSHIHKAI DOLAR 1914
An ordinary looking coin with a very unusual edge, Lot 49 was an extremely rare version of the 1914 Yuan Shih Kai Dollar, stuck in Copper (Kann 651y). The edge, instead of being milled or reeded as on ordinary coins, has an edge design described as a herring bone pattern or chain pattern, imitating the edge seen on Mexican dollars of the 1800’s. This very coin was in the Kann and Goodman Collections, and comes with the original envelope from the 1971 Kann auction and the tag from the 1991 Goodman sale. In 1996 Champion Auctions sold a similar piece, struck in copper, but with a plain edge for $6,000. This superb uncirculated coin estimated at $3,000 to $5,000, sold for $25,300 following spirited floor bidding.
Two other Yuan Shih Kai coins, struck in gold, also sold for high prices. The first was a 1914 Flying Dragon $5 coin (Kann 1517), graded Specimen 58 by PCGS, which brought $12,075. The second was a 1919 $20 gold coin (Kann 1530), graded MS63 by NGC, which realized $9,200.
7. INFORMATION SHEET NO.7 KWANTUNG DRAGON DOLLAR1890
Lot 91 was a superb Proof Striking of the undated 1890 Kwangtung Dragon Dollar (Y203; Kann 26). This piece was actually struck at the Heaton Mint in Birmingham, England as a sample for its reference collection or for one of the handful of Proof Sets they produced for this mint. The coin has been encapsulated and graded Specimen Proof 63 by PCGS – the highest grade they have given for one of these coins. Kwangtung Province’s Canton Mint was completely outfitted by Heaton, who also supplied the senior staff for the mint. At the time, it was by far the largest mint in the world, with around 100 coining presses. By comparison, the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia at that time had less than 20 presses. A famous coin in Chinese numismatic history, and in the finest condition, this piece was expected to sell for $3,000 to $5,000, but brought $9,200.
8. THE INFORMATION SHEET NO.8 CHINESE BIRD OVER JUNK SILVER COIN WITH CHOPMARK
The first 48 lots in this sale consisted of the final offering of chopmarked coins from the Frank M. Rose Collection. The first installments of the Rose Collection were offered in mini-auctions in the Journal of East Asian Numismatics in the mid 1990’s and in the Champion Auctions held during 1996 and 1997. This group of coins had been misplaced and “lost” for 10 years. Their rediscovery was a thrill to chopmark collectors. Three lots sold for record prices. Lot 25 was a 1932 Birds Over Junk Dollar with chop, which sold for $1,680 — which is far more than the coin without the chop sells for! Lot 37 was a Mexican 1820 Royalist 8 Real coin from the Zacatecas Mint with four large chops, illustrated on the cover of the auction catalog. A rare coin to begin with, this piece sold for $1,320. The same price was obtained by Lot 39, an 1866 Peso issued by Mexican Emperor Maximillian, with two large chops. All three of these lots sold to the same chopmark collector in the United States, and all but one of the chopmarked coins sold to Ebay Live bidders.
INFORMATION SHEET NO 10.
The June 22, 2008 Champion Galleries sale in Hong Kong will contain many rare and interesting Chinese coins and bank notes, according to Champion Galleries President, Michael Chou. The sale will be held at the Holiday Inn Golden Mile in Kowloon, the site of major numismatic auctions and the Hong Kong Coin Show for more than 25 years. Bilingual catalogs, in both Chinese and English, may be reserved by contacting the company at the addresses at the end of this review.
Leading the list of rarities in this sale is the 1867 Shanghai Tael pattern stuck at the Hong Kong Mint (Kann 911a), from the Wayte Raymond Collection, certified Proof-64 by PCGS and NGC, and estimated to bring US $100,000 or more (all prices in this review are in U.S. dollars). Though inscribed with both Shanghai and Hong Kong, this coin was not intended for circulation in either place, but was to be a national coinage for use throughout China. Hong Kong in this case was simply a mintmark, and Shanghai indicated that it was struck to the standard of the Shanghai tael.
Another major rarity, certified by NGC as Specimen-64, is the 1903 Hupoo Tael (Kann 927). The dies for this coin, which features a unique type of dragon, were engraved in Japan, most likely at the Osaka Mint, but the coin itself was struck in Tientsin. This beautiful coin is expected to sell for $70.000. Estimated at the same level, is a 1907 Peiyang Tael (Kann 938a), which previously appeared in the 1991 sale of the Goodman Collection. Struck at the Tientsin Mint using the same Japanese style dragon as on the Hupoo coin, this piece is rated MS-62 by NGC.
From Kiangnan (the Nanking Mint) there is an undated Dragon Dollar struck in 1897, similar to Kann 66, but with a plain edge and struck in copper. Kann does not list this coin with a plain edge, though such exists in silver, and he does not list any copper strikings of the 1897 dollars. The plain edge 1897 dollars are listed in both silver and copper in H. Chang’s 1981 catalog, “Silver Dollars and Taels of China.” This copper pattern dollar is expected to bring $50,000.
Also in the sale are a Kiangnan 1897 Dollars with ornamented or security edges (Kann 66a ), NGC graded MS63 , and 1897 50, 10 cent and 5 cent coins NGC rated Proof-67 (Kann 69 and 70). From about the same time period, the sale includes an extremely rare, possibly unique, Chekiang Dragon Dollar struck in copper. Kann dates this series to 1902 (Kann 119-I), but the coins were really made in 1898 or 1899. This coin is inscribed CHE-KIANG PROVINCE (instead of Cheh-Kiang) and depicts what has been called a “drunken dragon” – a design only used on this set of patterns, which were never struck for circulation. The copper striking, however, is unlisted in the Kann catalog, and the example offered in this sale is certified by NGC as MS63. This copper striking, which first appeared in a Pacific Coast Auction in Hong Kong in September 1989, and now returns nearly 20 years later, is expected to bring $30,000 to $60,000.
Still another star of this sale is the Hunan Province Dragon Half Dollar in Proof. This coin and the matching Dragon Dollar are not listed in Kann and were unknown until the first dollar appeared in a 1975 Paramount auction. The first half dollar turned up two years later in a NASCA sale. There are now believed to be about six examples of the half dollar in existence. Both dollar and the half dollar were actually struck at the Heaton Mint in Birmingham, England as samples for the Changsha Mint, which Heaton had supplied with some minting equipment, but not apparently with dies. The dollar and half dollar were never struck for circulation. The Proof example offered in the Champion sale is expected to sell for $50,000 to $80,000.
Two spectacular pattern coins from the Tientsin Mint include the 1906 Gold Tael (Kann 1540) NGC graded MS63, expected to bring $70,000 or more, and a 1911 Long Whiskers Dragon Dollar with standard reverse (Kann 223b), NGC certified Proof-63, estimated at $40,000.
Five outstanding coins from Republican China round out that section of the sale. These include two Shantung Province Gold Coins, the 1926 $20 and $10 patterns (Kann 1535 and 1536), which feature on the obverse the dragon and phoenix design used on the 1923 silver dollar. Little is known of these extremely rare pattern coins, which were probably struck at the Tientsin Mint, where other coins with the dragon and phoenix design were produced during the 1920’s. The two coins offered here are rated MS64 and MS65 by NGC and are expected to realize around $100,000. Another pair of rarely seen coins in this sale are the 1936 Small Size Silver Dollar and Half Dollar with Sun Yat Sen portrait on the obverse and a sailing junk on the reverse (Kann 634 and 635). These exceedingly rare and much underrated coins, certified by NGC as MS63 and MS65 (the half dollar was formerly in the Goodman Collection), could bring as much as $20,000 each.
Finally there is a 1919 Yuan Shih-kai Dollar (Kann 665 type), which at first glance looks like the common coin of this date, but this is an extremely rare pattern striking done at the Heaton Mint, probably in 1949. In that year, China switched from its Gold Yuan Currency system to the Silver Yuan Currency, and was in desperate need of silver dollars as a reserve for this paper currency. Apparently the Heaton Mint made this piece as a sample in a bid to obtain a contract from China to produce millions of such coins. The United States won the contract, possibly by agreeing to ship the coins by air instead of by sea. All three U.S. mints struck 1934 dated Sun Yat Sen Junk Dollars for China in 1949, as well as large numbers of 1898 dated Mexican pesos. The Heaton Yuan Shih-Kai Dollar remained only a very rare trial strike. The piece in the Champion Hong Kong Auction is certified as Specimen-65 by NGC and is expected to sell for over $20,000.
A collection of over 100 Chinese notes will also be offered in the sale. Among these are a 1950 Peoples Republic of China 10,000 Yuan Camel note and a 1953 PRC 10 Yuan note. The latter note is the highest denomination issued in the series, and is rare because it was printed in the Soviet Union, and after China and Russia had a falling out around 1960, China feared the Russians might mass produce the notes in an attempt to destroy its economy. Other notes in the sale include many specimens and color trials of various notes.