Once every few years, our numismatists come across a collection of equal parts historical and numismatic value. Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio is proud to offer one such collection in our April 2014 Hong Kong Showcase Auction — The Arthur Cox Collection of Ferracute Machine Company Archival Material. This monumental collection is brought to this auction by Arthur Cox, an art teacher and recreational historian of his hometown of Bridgeton, New Jersey. His passion for craftsmanship and his place of origin led to his fascination with the Ferracute Machine Company, one of the major companies in Bridgeton. The Ferracute Machine Company produced machinery that formed and shaped metal, which eventually led them to produce minting machinery. After successfully selling minting presses to the United States Mint in Philadelphia, the Ferracute Machine Company achieved international status as a manufacturer of minting presses and attracted the attention of the Chinese Government. This new client requested three fully outfitted mints, two to produce copper coinage at Wuchang in Hupeh Province and Chengtu in Szechuan Province and a third to produce silver coinage at Chengtu. As the provider of the minting press, Ferracute was also expected (and paid) to furnish all the equipment necessary to set up the proposed mints, including melting furnaces, annealing furnaces, casting equipment, rolling mills, boilers to turn the overhead shafts, the apparatus for driving the machinery – shafts, belts, pulleys – and a complete machine shop maintaining the mint. All of this was in addition to the Ferracute coining and punching presses and the blanking and coining dies for making the coins. In addition to the necessary machinery, Ferracute would send a representative from the company to oversee the set up of the mints in Wuchang and Chengtu. Henry Janvier was selected to oversee this process, and he meticulously recorded his journey across the United States and deep into China through journals, letters and expert photography. The full story of Henry Janvier’s journey can be found in the April Hong Kong Showcase Auction Catalog, available in print and online in just a few weeks.
As a preview, we have selected three highlights from the collection to pique your interest. All three were struck as patterns and in off metals as well. These pieces were also expertly preserved, and received grades of Specimen 61-63 from PCGS. The first coin is a very rare Pattern square hole Cash coin for Hupeh Province, struck in aluminum. It is very possible that this coin was struck in Ferracute’s New Jersey factory as a demonstration piece in 1898, just before Janvier set up the mints in China. This example (one of two being offered in this auction) has the distinction of being the first this auction team has seen. The obverse features the standard legend, arranged around the square hole, reading top, bottom, and right, left: “Kuang-Hsu T’ung-Pao”, meaning “Valuable Coin (of the) Kuang Hsu (regime)”. The reverse displays the Manchu inscription of “Boo-U” which means the Wu mint, also known as Wuchang in Hupeh Province.
The second coin that we have chosen to preview here is a Pattern 10 Cash struck in brass minted in Honan Province around 1905. This coin shows some partial obverse toning due to uneven storage, but the lustrous brass is visible along the lower inscription and on the reverse. The obverse design features the serpentine Asiatic dragon, flying amid clouds, with a fiery pearl issuing from its mouth. A stormy sea and a lone mountain appear below the dragon, with the design surrounded by “HONAN” as the upper inscription, four rosaces on either side of the design, and the denomination of “TEN CASH” below. The reverse design incorporates an all Chinese legend, with the upper portion stating: “Made in Honan Province”, the middle Manchu legend states the mint location (Ho mint) in K’aifeng, Honan. The lower legend indicates the denomination of ten cash. A pearled border separates the legend from the inscriptions. The central inscription states: “Kuang-Hsu Yuan-Pao” meaning “Valuable Coin (of the) Kuang Hsu (regime)”. A Yin-Yang symbol appears in the middle of this design.
The final piece highlighted here is a Pattern 7 Mace 2 Candareens (Dollar) struck in brass for Szechuan Province. As with the Hupeh piece mentioned at the beginning of this article, this coin may have been minted in the Ferracute New Jersey factory, as a demonstration piece in 1898, just before Janvier set up the mints in Szechuan Province. This very rare piece is extremely well struck with a nice even toning, and is truly magnificent. The obverse design features the iconic standard eastern dragon coiling and flying, surrounded by clouds with a fiery pearl issuing from its mouth. Around the dragon, the upper legend reads: “SZECHUAN PROVINCE” with the lower legend stating “7 MACE 2 CANDAREENS” with these legends separated by two rosaces. The reverse of the coin bears an all Chinese legend, which follows the usual pattern, the upper portion stating: “Made in Szechuan Province” and the lower legend indicates the denomination of 7 Mace 2 Candareens (Dollar). A pearled border separates the legend from the central inscriptions. The central inscription states: “Kuang-Hsu Yuan-Pao” meaning “Valuable Coin (of the) Kuang Hsu (regime)”, with a smaller Manchu inscription in the direct center.
These three examples from the Arthur Cox Collection of Ferracute Machine Company Archival Material constitute just a small portion of the collection, and there is a multitude of rare pattern coinage (most struck in off-metals), tokens produced by the Ferracute Company to advertise their expertise at creating minting machinery, a plethora of planchets intended for use in the Chinese mints that Ferracute set up, and finally a scholarly lot of archival information, including displays, blueprints, photographs and other information. This collection is one of the most remarkable numismatic and historical gatherings that this auction team has had the pleasure of researching and cataloging. Be sure to view the whole collection when our auction catalog goes live!
Look for this and other Asian numismatic rarities in our upcoming April Hong Kong Showcase Auction and Sale. Preview the entire auction this March at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Events Calendar link at www.StacksBowers.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646. While our Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio April Hong Kong Showcase Auction is closed for further consignments, we are currently taking consignments of world and ancient coins for our 2014 August Hong Kong and August ANA 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.