The April Hong Kong auction being presented by
legendary rare coin firm Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio features countless
highlights from the Pinnacle Collection, with a majestic Year 3 (1870) Pattern Set
standing as quite possibly the most impressive. Containing eight denominations
ranging from the gold 10 Yen all the way down to the copper-nickel 1/20 Yen,
the quality of the set is exemplified by each piece’s Gem or Superb Gem
designation as well as by the way the surfaces shimmer and glisten when
rotated in the light.
This set’s history can be traced to an exciting
period of change within Japan following the opening of the island nation to the
West and the closing of the feudal period much glamorized through tales of the
noble samurai and stealthy ninja. The Meiji Emperor revolutionized the
country’s coinage system in 1869, replacing the old, ingot-and-plate-like
denominations with more standardized, uniformly round decimal denominations.
Prototypes were produced by Japan’s master engraver, Natsuo Kano, in
conjunction with Tomoo Masuda, who worked on design, and Hyoka Ishii, who
focused on calligraphy. These designs were then sent to London where the
nascent Japanese coinage could be taken to the next level. Engraver Leonard Charles
Wyon, from the famous Wyon family of engravers, prepared dies for the new
coinage. These dies, along with their subsequently produced patterns, arrived
in Osaka in the spring of 1870. Some modifications were made to the reverse
design as well as denominations represented, with the 20 Yen being added and
the 2-1/2 being reduced to 2 Yen for the initial output. By the end of the
year, a new era of coinage began at the Osaka Mint.
While it remains unclear how many patterns were
produced by Wyon in London, it is certain that the numbers are incredibly low,
with just two complete sets remaining extant. One is believed to have remained
with the British Royal Mint, now located in the Welsh countryside in
Llantrisant, and other is the set offered here from the Pinnacle Collection. A
handful of singles and strikings in other metals appear in the British Museum
and Bank of Japan Collection; in private hands, the Yen turns up from time to
time, but appearances are rare. The set offered in the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio
April Hong Kong Auction provides a unique bidding opportunity and may be
impossible for any collector to duplicate. As such, it represents one of
the most desirable—if not the most desirable—items in Japan’s numismatic
history, as not only is its rarity unsurpassed, but it is the patriarch of
modern Japanese coinage and a symbol of the country’s progress. A true national
treasure, its April 2021 offering may well represent the last appearance for
many generations to come.
To view our upcoming auction
schedule and future offerings, please visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in this and
other forthcoming sales.
We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper
money for our future auctions, and are currently accepting submissions for our
June Collector’s Choice Online (CCO) auction as well as our Official Auction of
the ANA World’s Fair of Money in August. If you would like to learn more about
consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one
of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best
possible return on your material.