1904 Hupeh Tael

The Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio August Hong Kong auction is just a few days away, and everyone involved in this auction is eagerly awaiting stellar activity. China provides our final preview item for this auction, a highly sought after 1904 Hupeh Tael in a high grade that is sure to attract spirited bidding activity. Viceroy Chang Chi Tung put forth the order to strike a Kuping Tael silver coin. The Hupeh provincial mint in the city of Wuchang produced nearly 648,000 coins, with two varieties, a large character and a small character variety. This example is the small character variety, and is slightly more common than the large character variety. It is unclear exactly how many of each type were struck. Kann mentions that a plan was put forth to produce smaller denominations in the values of 5, 2 and 1 Mace. However, no such pieces have surfaced (even in pattern form) and it seems unlikely that they were ever produced. Ultimately this coinage type never saw a long tenure in circulation, and was discontinued the following year. Although the mintage figures seem high, most of the coinage was melted down to be reused in later coinage, including the Unified Tai Ching Ti Kuo coinage series. One possible reason for the unpopular reception could be its lower silver content of 0.877 fine silver, much lower than the 0.960 fine silver set forth by the currency regulations of 1905 (one year after these Hupeh Taels were minted). The melting down of a good sized portion of this series has driven the demand up for these iconic coins.

The obverse of this coin features the infamous Chinese dragon, but this design surpasses the standard design by incorporating two of the awe-inspiring beasts. Two dragons are depicted flying and striving towards a flaming pearl which is descending towards the middle of coin’s design. The dragons appear to mirror each other, with spiraling clouds placed intermittently around them. Within the circle formed by these two flying dragons are the Chinese characters denoting One Tael. Manchu characters at the right and left also state the denomination of One Tael. The upper and lower English legends convey the location of Hu-peh Province and One Tael. The reverse of the coin displays an all Chinese and Manchu legend. The upper portion states in Chinese: “Made in Hupeh Province (in the) 30th Year (of emperor) Kuang Hsu. The lower legend reads: Kuping (weight) 1 Tael and these legends are separated by a rosette composed of seven dots. The inner inscription is surrounded by a border of dots, and dominates most of the visual field for the reverse. The center legend contains four Chinese symbols which denote: “Valuable Coin (of the) Kuang Hsu (regime).” Four Manchu characters appear within the larger Chinese characters and convey the same meaning as the central inscription. This example grades an impressive Mint State 63 by PCGS, and is an excellent example of this much sought after type.

Look for this and other Asian numismatic rarities in our upcoming August Hong Kong Sale. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this August at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Auction Schedule/Details link under Current Auctions at To schedule an appointment, please call 800.566.2580. While our Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio Hong Kong sale is closed for further consignments, we are currently taking consignments of world and Asian coins and paper money for our November Baltimore, January New York International, and April 2014 Hong Kong sales. If you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.

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