The Boxer Rebellion and its Numismatic Ramifications

Following the Sino-Japanese War of 1895, western influence increased within China (both in terms of trade and an influx of European and American nationals). Similarly, anti-western sentiments among the native Chinese populace began to increase. One aspect that left many bewildered was the great latitude granted to Christian missionaries to spread the "western gospel." These missionaries were able to purchase land and avoid taxes, further incensing the overwhelming majority of the natives who remained unconverted. One of these groups in particular was the "boxers," a martial society so-called because of their athletic training and skillful swordsmanship. It was likely a band of these "boxers" who were behind the Juye Incident, an 1897 attack on two German missionaries in Shandong Province. This event precipitated a German response, with Kaiser Wilhelm II seizing territory as a reprisal. Other colonial powers quickly followed, only enraging the boxers even further.

By 1900, Chinese Empress Dowager Cixi (the real power in the empire, as in 1898 she had placed her installed nephew, the Guangxu [Kuang-hsü] Emperor under  house-arrest), sided with the boxers in their growing attacks upon Christian missionaries, foreign nationals, and even native Chinese who had converted to Christianity. This was followed by the imperial court declaring war upon all foreign powers on 21 June, with numerous foreign soldiers, diplomats, and native converts besieged in the Legation Quarter in Beijing [Peking] for some 55 days. The Eight-Nation Alliance, composed of the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, Germany, the United States, France, Italy, and Austria-Hungary, ended the siege with little loss of life to the allies, ultimately subjugating the boxers and the ruling Qing [Ch’ing] dynasty. Plunder and destruction ensued, with the boxers—and even those suspected of being boxers—summarily executed. Even government officials were unable to escape the western wrath, with many of those who had been most supportive of the boxers executed as well. Making matters worse, the empire was wracked with war reparations to be paid to the allies, further weakening an already struggling realm.

One of the casualties of the rebellion and its aftermath was the destruction of the Pei Yang Arsenal mint—the facility responsible for the striking of the local coinage for Zhili [Chihli]. As such, the year 26 coinage of the Guangxu Emperor—corresponding to 1900—is much more difficult to find than other years. Despite this scarcity within the marketplace, our Official Auction of the Hong Kong Show in May will contain no fewer than five "dragon dollars" produced at this mint in the months or even weeks leading up to the ruinous events that would unfold. These five dollars are led by a particularly lustrous and lightly handled example, graded PCGS AU-58. Look for all of these pleasing and historically interesting specimens, as well as the entirety of our Hong Kong offerings, in our monumental 10th anniversary sale—online in the coming weeks!

Though originally scheduled for mid-March, this sale—as well as the entire Hong Kong spring show—has been postponed until mid-May due to the threat and uncertainty presented by the COVID-19 (coronavirus), which has been especially present in east Asia. The new dates for the show are 9-10 May, while the auction will occur at the beginning of that week, from 4-6 May. All venues will remain unchanged for these events.

To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.

We are always seeking coins, medals, and pieces of paper money for our future sales, and are currently accepting submissions (until May 4th) for our upcoming CCO (Collectors Choice Online) auction in June 2020. Following that, our next larger format sales will be our Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money and our Official Auction of the Hong Kong Show, both in August 2020! 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.

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