One of the iconic Chinese coinage eras is the Republican period and this week’s coin bears the effigy of an influential leader from China’s early Republican period, Yuan Shih-Kai. This elegant coin features a front-view portrait of Yuan Shih-kai, complete in full military regalia. His jacket proudly displays prestigious medals and decorations for his years of service in the military; a sash is visible running across his chest from his right shoulder, and epaulets add a significant degree of prestige to his bust. On the obverse Yuan’s high feathered military hat catches the eye and symbolizes his status at the pinnacle of the Chinese Republican military and government. The most interesting item on the obverse is the name of the engraver, L. Giorgi, found on the right side of the portrait. Luigi Giorgi was an Italian engraver who served as the head designer and chief engraver of the Tientsin Mint from 1910 to 1920. He designed the various Yuan Shih-kai dollar types, among other coins and his work is widely renowned for his artistic abilities. Most of his coins that entered circulation (especially later dates) do not feature his signature. The coins that do bear his signature or initials are all pattern coins. As such, the pattern coins that bear the signature of Mr. Giorgi are scarce, and command a premium over unsigned examples.
The reverse for this piece contains the necessary information for the coin as the obverse featured just the portrait. The upper inscription states in Chinese: “To commemorate the union of the Republic of China.” An elaborate rosette composed of a cross within a diamond with four circles separates the upper legend from the lower English legend of “One Dollar.” A border separates the outer inscriptions and the inner design of a good harvest. Two sprigs of grain form a wreath around the two Chinese symbols denoting “One Yuan (Dollar).” This coin is tied for the finest certified by NGC at an impressive Mint State 65 grade. The strike is choice and borders on proof or specimen quality. There is attractive dark coloring in the fields, present on the obverse and reverse.
Like most historical figures Yuan Shih-Kai’s legacy is complex and fraught with negative repercussions. Yuan Shih-Kai, an important general and politician, is best known for his military reforms and his role in the transition from monarchy to a republic in China at the turn of the century. Yuan’s greatest achievement turned out to be a double-edged sword, as his military reforms fostered a loyalty that resulted in rival warlords who competed with each other after his death. This fractioning of the army, coupled with his bid to restore the monarchy (with himself as emperor), eroded the ideals of the Republican movement he helped establish years earlier. Despite this negative association from later historians, his coinage proved immensely popular during its time, and was minted for nearly ten years after his death. Yuan Shih-Kai remains an important figure in Chinese history and his coinage ensures that his history will endure. Yuan represents just a portion of the Republican era coinage offered in this upcoming sale; also included is coinage of the inaugural president, Sun Yat-Sen and other important Chinese figures. In addition to the Republican coinage, coins and currency from multiple eras of China’s history – Empire, Provincial issues, and the People’s Republic – will be featured in the August Hong Kong auction. In this weekly blog post you can preview some of the most exciting Asian numismatic pieces to be offered in our August Hong Kong auction.
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 www.StacksBowers.com. 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 for our November Baltimore and New York International 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.