China Numismatic Literature: Reviews    (557)

Following in no particular order are informal commentaries and reviews of numismatic works which do not appear in public domain web pages. Often they originated as postings in discussion groups or private emails, and are not as rigorous as a scholarly review might be, but still contain useful insights on the works covered. If you know of any additional online reviews of these works, please CONTACT ME.

Terrien de Lacouperie, Albert: Catalogue of Chinese Coins from the VIIth Cent BC to AD 621 (British Museum Catalogue)

     Lacouperie's catalog of ancient Chinese coins was a very good work for its time -- the first extensive catalog in a western language of Chinese knife, spade and early round coins. Only a few of the coins listed in this catalog were actually in the British Museum, and some of those were obvious fakes. Lacouperie identified the fakes when he recognized them -- quite an innovation in those days. Most of the coins listed in the catalog are taken from Chinese works, especially Li Tso-hsien's "Ku Ch'uan Hui," which Lacouperie abbreviates K.C.H. By including the listings in Chinese works, Lacouperie was the first westerner to attempt a corpus of all ancient Chinese coins. Many of the readings of the inscriptions on the knife and spade coins are wrong, but Lacouperie was only following the readings in Chinese works. Lacouperie's most original contribution, however, is his theory of Chinese monetary unions. In classical Greek coinage, it is well established that certain Greek city states formed unions and issued coins in the same standards. Lacouperie thought he saw the same situation in Chou dynasty coinage and devotes some space to the subject in the catalog. As far as I know, no one today believes that such monetary unions existed in ancient China. Lacouperie was a believer in the idea of diffusion, which theorizes that all civilizations developed from an original civilization in Mesopotamia. One of Lacouperie's other works attempts to show that Chinese characters are actually derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs or Mesopotamian cuneiform writing. Such ideas were widely held in the 19th century -- supporting the idea of western superiority. In the 20th century, diffusionism was discarded, but now it seems a bit too hastily. For example, it is now pretty well accepted that the ancient Chinese chariot was a direct import from the middle east. And there is the question of how Chinese writing suddenly appeared in the late Shang as a fully developed system, with no apparent precursors. I read somewhere that there was a furor over the appointment of Lacouperie, a Frenchman, to compile the British Museum's Chinese catalog. If I remember correctly, the decision was made, in part, because Lacouperie was in need of an income, and so he was hired to do the job. The catalog does have a handy collection of historical notes about ancient Chinese cities, something not found in western works until Arthur Coole's series of catalogs (Encyclopedia of Chinese Coins, volumes 2-6). Unfortunately Coole chose to make his own reading of the inscriptions on Chinese spade coins, and he was often wrong. His bits of geographical information, from what he called the DG (Geographical Dictionary - a dictionary of historical geography published in the 1930's), are mostly useless because he had the wrong reading of the inscription, or because he chose the wrong place name in the geographical dictionary, or because he did not understand the dictionary's passage and mistranslated the information. As a result, he has attributed some spade coins to places which were not part of ancient China (the far south and Sinkiang) or which did not come into existence till centuries later. Lacouperie's catalog is also useful for his glossary of terms. Though Lacouperie's British Museum catalog has been largely superceeded by later works -- Coole's Encyclopedia in English and various recent works in Chinese -- it is still useful, particularly for identifying ancient Chinese coins in old auction catalogs which use the BMC as a reference.
Source: Bruce W. Smith: Fri Dec 12, 2008: Posting to

Ha Van Tho: Lich Su Tien Te Viet Nam (History of Viet Nam Money)

A local Vietnamese has just produced a book; Lich Su Tien Te Viet Nam (History of Viet Nam Money). He is Ha Van Tho (family, middle, first names) whose nickname in Viet Nam is "Tho 100."

His main collecting specialty is anything with 100 on it. He also has a large collection of SRVN 100 Dong 1980-dated notes with the signatures of all of the numismatists he can find who collect Vietnamese pieces.

The book is made in only 100 copies on a laser printer hardbound in a nice leatherette binding with gold lettering. There is no license in the book, which worries me about getting any quantity to the USA. We shall see. He has sold about 15 of them in Viet Nam for 500,000 Dong ($23.81) each. There are 399 pages printed back to back in color.

Pages 1-83 are about cash coins but there are also some silver pieces. It is incomplete and likely just his collection but there are some nice pieces in it.

Pages 84-93 is French Cochinchina and Indochina coins. Page 94 is French Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos coins. Pages 95-98 are State and Republic of Viet Nam, to include the very rare 1975-dated 50 Dong.

Pages 99-113 are the Democratic Republic and Socialist Republic of Viet Nam coins and some bullion rounds. He shows the 1945-dated 2 Dong rare varieties with the obverse error of Ninh instead of Minh in Ho's name, and the reverse Noa instead of Hoa. There is also a previously unknown to me DRVN 2 Xu 1973-dated aluminum coin! I have Quoc obtaining the next one on the market for me. And the 1975-dated 2 Xu I bought last year which still might not be in the SCWC.

Pages 114-122 are about silver Dollar-sized coins that circulated in Asia but there are also one small Cambodian coin mixed in with them. And there are two of the 1 Tael (Vietnamese ounce) silver rounds minted in Hanoi during WWII.

Pages 123-167 are about Banque de l'Indochine and Gouvernement General de l'Indochina paper money. There is at least one note new to me and it is the 20 Piastres Yellow and Green WWII note with ANNULE overstamped on the face and back to make it into a Specimen. Then the Institut d'Emission paper money is shown, to include one pattern note for Viet Nam that is completely new to me.

Pages 168-199 has the paper money for the State and Republic of Viet Nam. There are many patterns included and some were unknown to me.

Pages 200-259 has the paper money of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam, to include the special issues for Nam Bo (Southern Region) and Trung Bo (Central Region). There is one new pattern for Trung Bo that was unknown to me and many new Nam Bo patterns too! There are also many fantasy notes with most of them identified as such. There is also a section on the American-printed propaganda leaflet with the 1958-dated notes on them, and two pages of the National Liberation Front (VC) tax receipts that are often identified as bonds. The rare 5000 and 10000 Dong denomination tax receipts are shown too.

Pages 260-286 has the paper money of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam from 1976 to date. There is a new to me 2 Hao paper money pattern that was likely created as a possible replacement for the 1976-dated 2 Hao coin but inflation probably made both of them useless. There is one specimen of the paper 500,000 Dong note but it was not issued because the polymer notes replaced the paper. There is also a polymer 1000 Dong commemorative note that was going to be issued for the 1000th anniversary of the founding of Hanoi (Thang Long) but it was not issued for some reason. We were greatly disappointed here in Viet Nam that it was not issued. I had heard about the note but this is the first images I have seen of it. Pages 287-295 have foreign exchange certificates, high denomination bank checks, and bonds from 100 to 10,000,000 Dong.

Pages 296-369 have American and Allied Forces club tokens. They seem to all have Cunningham numbers but some of the illustrations seem to be new to me. It is followed with page 370-381 with United States Military Payment Certificates, then pages 382-384 have the Japanese WWII notes for Viet Nam and China. Pages 385-389 has Chinese Custom Gold Units notes which were the Chinese Nationalist Army military currency in Viet Nam and Laos above the 16th parallel after WWII. There are some Chinese "Cents" tokens which are supposed to have been issued at the same time but I see no documentation to support them. Pages 390-397 have the Korean and Thai coupons to be used with the United States Military Payment Certificates.

Page 398 shows many 1980-dated 100 Dong notes autographed by collectors of Vietnamese numismatic pieces. I just signed one the other day. Page 399 is the final page with data about the book.