Modern China Introduction
Click on the thumbnail to see an enlarged scan. The thumbnail is usually NOT made from the actual coin being sold. Most full-sized scans are designed to fill 10-12+" of screen at full resolution, so you can enlarge for detail or reduce with your browser. This is the actual coin offered unless text or photo says SAMPLES. If you get an ERROR PAGE I have made a coding mistake, the coin is not sold. Please report any missing scans.
SAMPLES are shown for inexpensive coins where we have many specimens. We show the worst coins in the grade range offered. You will receive one of the coins shown, or a better one. If you ask for a particular coin shown, you are asking me to send you one of the worst in stock. But if there is some feature that you do, or do not, want please let me know and I will try to accommodate this. Grades depend on wear and quality of strike; nicks and bagmarks will "demote" a coin into a lower range. Some collectors prefer a more worn or weakly struck coin over a sharper coin with nicks or light scratches, others just the opposite.
COLOR & CONTRAST: Scanners let in too much light when used on thick objects such as coins. I must enhance the brightness, then enhance contrast to compensate for the washed-out look. This means that slight differences in color are magnified: dirt spots stand out. Green in the surface dirt appears to be corrosion. Slightly redder areas due to imperfectly alloyed copper, barely noticeable by the eye, can appear as vast areas of blood-red. Brassy coins appear too yellow. Harshly cleaned, over-bright coins look wonderfully clear. Weakly struck coins appear even weaker in enlarged scans than to the eye. My scans are 500-1000%, larger than most seen in auctions and ebay. Black and green spots can be removed by soaking in olive oil.
FRONT / BACK ALIGNMENT Chinese mints were often very careless in aligning front and back dies, especially for copper. I am unable to show the true alignment in photos; some are shown top / top regardless of coin alignment, others are random. If this matters to you, please ask.
MAIN REFERENCE NUMBERS (Y) are from Yeoman Modern World Coins, 14th (2008) ed., as modified in (KM) Standard Catalog of World Coins (SCWC), or as modified by myself. The China sections in recent editions of KM degrade with each new edition: missing sections, inadequate or incomprehensible descriptions, switched or deleted photos, and values not updated for many years. The best edition is 23rd (1996) which includes all struck China in one volume, photos of most varieties, and clear descriptions rather than a crowded mixture of generic and useful information; the 34th (2007) is the last before photos were dropped. To avoid confusion, we point out switched photos and other gaffes as they appear in the largely worthless 42nd (2015) ed. and 7th ed. for 1800s.
SECONDARY REFERENCES are important both to clarify obscure listings in KM and to differentiate either minor or significant varieties overlooked there; they appear after the coin description in our listings.
CCC = Zhongguo Tong Yuan Ch'ien Shang, by Zheng Ren Jie (1997) is still cited in Ponterio and other auctions.
ZL = Concise Catalogue of Modern Chinese Copper Coins, by Zhou & Li (2012) is far more comprehensive and Western-friendly, and still in print.
W = The Minted Ten-Cash Coins of China, by Tracey Woodward (1936R1971) is still the ultimate reference for Westerners, but its poor photos are best supplemented by ZL which often gives Woodward cross-references.
D = Various titles by Duan Hong Gang, each with different numbers, are even more detailed; our numbers refer to his 2007 work.
LM = Lin & Ma's 7th ed. (2012) provides variety breakdowns similar to KM, but with realistic market prices,
W Wang's more lavish and detailed 2012 work.
K = Kann (1954), all of which are essentially titled Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Gold and Silver Coins
Daxi = vol. 8 of "Shanghai Encyclopedia," covering machine struck copper & silver (and sycee).
YZM = Yin Zheng Min's Zhong guo xi zang qian bi tu lu (Illustrated Catalog of the Money of China's Tibet). For more specialized Tibet references I can provide a key.
We have most of these books for sale. Please note that minimum U.S. postal shipping charge for a book outside the USA is $25.
Historically, new types arose within Chinese coinage only with a change of Emperor, for mint identification, or occasionally the addition of some symbol marking special origin or use. Beneath this was a secret pattern of intricate calligraphy variations and a system of master and sample cash, designed to check the larceny of mint masters and workers. As the coinage of China's common man was replaced by European dies and machinery this practice ceased, and new sources of variation arose. Major changes in legends as well as the form of the dragon were made within a single reign, both locally, and nationally in attempts to make the coinage more uniform. A single "Y" number may include three or four significantly different dragon types. Finally, huge production runs resulted in the constant need to replace dies, the details of which were apparently left to European engravers. In many mints, failing dies were retouched creating even more subtle varieties. Drawn from Woodward's described 1300 varieties (excluding Kirin & Sinkiang), the SCWC categorizes about 400 for 10 Cash; some Chinese works identify well over 3000.
I have broken down my own listings more finely in some cases than those in the SCWC, though not as finely as Woodward, and so have added "Y" number variants not shown as such in any catalog. My variety descriptions usually refer to design elements mentioned in Woodward or SCWC, though sometimes I have started fresh with details which seem more obvious to me, or more easily described. Some mints produced no variations in a given type, or only trivial ones - others quite the opposite! A cataloguer's choice of design element to describe, however, should not be confused with the significance or level of the variation. When differentiating very different dragons, I may refer only to one small element which is easily compared and described. For collectors deciding which varieties to ignore as minor, I suggest comparing photos of the pieces offered, or from a well-illustrated catalog such as Zhou & Li, and look for additional sources of variation.
I have usually identified the common or commonest variety(s) for collectors who simply want the best grade coin for a major type.
Compare my assigned grade to the photo to understand my standards. I believe I am usually more conservative than NGC or PCGS, but do not guarantee any particular grade from third party graders. Minor defects are incorporated into the basic grade, but mentioned defects - such as "scratch" or "weak strike" do not affect the basic grade assigned. My grading standards for all world coins.
CLEANED OR HAIRLINED COINS: Most circulated modern coins found in collections have been cleaned at some time. We have noted "cleaned" or "hairlines" for coins where either abrasive or chemical cleaning creates an unpleasant or artificial appearance. Where cleaning is detectable, suspected, or minor without negative effect, we do not make note. A glossy appearance in a photo (coppers) may be due to soaking in olive oil to remove surface dirt, a widely-accepted practice. Hairline scratches ("scs") on silver due to cleaning may not show up in photos, but will be noted. In my opinion, slabbed coins noting cleaning not visible with a glass often sell too cheaply in auctions, while coins receiving a high number grade but sealed in plastic with soils, tar, or unattractive toning are unaesthetic and may not hold their value. Coins that have been soaked or dip-cleaned by some coin-care products, without abrasives, and properly neutralized, will usually regain a natural look if allowed to retone in unpolluted air; but not if sealed in an air-tight capsule.
I don't recommend submitting Chinese coins of good provenance to authentication services. I have very little experience examining slabbed Chinese coins, but the few I've seen suggest to me that the base grades, and the assignment of "detail" or no-grade are somewhat arbitrary. If you plan to submit, or simply don't want coins that have ever been cleaned no matter how healthy they look now, let me know. I will take a second look at coins you order and warn you off any that I suspect, or that NGC or PCGS might tag as cleaned.
In the SAMPLES photos, I deliberately include cleaned coins if ANY coins in that grade category are cleaned. If you don't want a cleaned coin, mention this and I will exclude specimens which I can so identify, even though these are likely in better grade than the uncleaned coins in the same category.
Most coins in this offering come from four collections / hoards, all formed prior to the advent of factory forgeries. The following abbreviations appear in the right-hand () column:
DC = Daniel Ching of Los Angeles collected c. 1970 to early 80s. He was widely known to collectors and dealers in the U.S. as an answer man on Chinese coins, and had opportunity to examine and buy thousands of common to scarce coins, selected for variety or high grade, including many duplicates. His coins are easily identified by Dan's neatly inked kraft envelopes. In June, 1991 we auctioned many of his coins worth at least $50 at the time in a name sale. Many overlooked rarities and high-grade common coins now in the $200++ range were sold in Stacks-Bowers-Ponterio HongKong sale of August, 2015, bearing NCG pedigrees. If you buy DC coins from my offering, keep the envelopes as proof of provenance. Daniel Ching biography from the original sale, and condensed version in Chinese from the Ponterio sale.
DM = Joe DeMarco of Orlando, FL was active from the 1980s through 1993 and specialized in struck 10-Cash, sorting and identifying by Woodward thousands sent by myself and other dealers and bulk importers. His main collection was sold privately in 1994. Offered here are selections from his many duplicates. His envelopes are scrawled, with sorting notes as he worked through Woodward, and often suffer from Florida's humidity. I have retained the original (ugly!) envelopes, when not too deteriorated, as a sort of pedigree.
Vy = Vygovsky, is a generational Russian collection of worldwide coins begun in the 1940s. The Chinese coins were acquired in the 1960s from a Russian advisor who left as Sino-Soviet relations soured. The most valuable piece was the Sungarei Tael acquired as a "second pick" when a rival collector snagged an auto dollar from the returning diplomat. Unfortunately the silver coins were not seen as valuable at the time and somewhere along the line many were cleaned by pencil eraser. Wary of "distressed" factory fakes, NCG and PCGS have declined to certify several coins from this collection, resulting in their offer here at lower prices than they would achieve at auction.
BW = R. Byron White of Cumberland, RI had nearly completed a book on Chinese copper coins when he passed in 2006. His main collection was sold privately a few years prior, and I had purchased thousands of his research duplicates in 1990. Perhaps when I finish working on the DC and DM coins I will find courage to work up this accumulation, which is bigger than both combined, and meticulously sorted by minor varieties. His collection is offered in the May, 2018 Stacks-Bowers-Ponterio HongKong sale.
P, D = In 2011 I combined two good American collections of Tibet coins and banknotes, formerly owned by Dr. Eck Prud'homme, and Gary Damkoehler. The Damkoehler collection was sold in Heritage's 12/11-12/2015 sale. Duplicates from both have appeared in several auctions, and some are offered here. Variety information comes mainly from scattered articles by Nicholas Rhodes and Wolfgang Bertsch, hopefully to be published as a book in due course.
Photos do not always show the whole truth of a coin - you must see it to know if you love it! Please feel free to return any item you buy from me. I hope you will tell me the problem, so I can consider changing the photo or description, or paying your return postage if I have made a mistake. If you need more than one week after receiving to study or get opinions from others, please let me know and it will be OK, but please do not delay return to submit to a grading service in hopes of a lucky outcome - this is not fair to me, nor to other buyers who will miss the item.
More than 99% of the coins offered here was outside of China before the mid-late 1980s when the most dangerous factory forgeries began to emerge. PLEASE tell me if you doubt any coin shown at my site, and I will withdraw it for sale pending further research. There is no time limit for return of any provably counterfeit coin purchased from me. See full Authenticity Guarantee. I can accept that NGC and PCGS are skilled at detecting counterfeit modern Chinese coins, but not so good at identifying varieties or special (pattern) issues. For purposes of return guarantee, I accept definitive opinions of NGC, PCGS, and some private experts, even if I disagree. As a collector, I prefer "raw" coins for proper examination and appreciation, even if a lucky grade will add value when selling.
Ebay bidders: Lately there are offers from one seller in Spain and one in Netherlands that are all fakes. Maybe the buyers who pay $25 for a $10,000 coin only want to "fill the hole" but they encourage a bad practice. Every coin we own will outlive us, and the fakes will haunt future collectors unless you mark them. Having a steel COPY die made is an investment in the future of our hobby.
Contemporary (circulating) forgeries are a part of Chinese monetary history and quite collectable. I do not stamp them COPY but identify as circulating forgeries when offering. I will have a special offering of these interesting pieces in future.