Extremely Rare “Chi Hai” 1899 Kiangnan 50 Cents

Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio is thrilled to preview an extreme rarity to be offered in our inaugural December 2014 Macau Showcase Auction. Described by the great Eduard Kann as “the scarcest of all Kiangnan coins and a rarity amongst all Chinese coins,” this 1899 50 Cents is most definitely a blockbuster. It was produced by the Nanking mint for Kiangnan Province (Kiangnan meaning “South of the River” with the river referenced being the Yangtze). Nanking mint was the largest mint in the area at that time, and was supplied with minting machinery by the Birmingham mint. Kann notes that in general the 50 Cent pieces produced by this mint for the Nanking-Shanghai districts never achieved any degree of popularity. This has certainly changed, as it is now one of the extreme rarities throughout the provincial issues. This piece will most definitely elevate its new collection into the upper levels of prestige.

The obverse for this magnificent rarity features the established pattern for Chinese provincial silver issues.  This type has been identified as the “Old Kiangnan” style. The outer border contains the English legend: “Kiangnan Province” at the top and “3 Mace and 6 Candareens” along the bottom. These borders are separated by six pointed stars. An eastern dragon, wound up in a wide “S” shape, with a large head comprises the central imagery. This dragon is also releasing a fiery pearl from his mouth, congruent with the provincial style. The enormous eyes of the dragon seem to stare out intensely and make for a truly memorable coin. The reverse contains the all Chinese legends, and they mirror the placement of the English legends on the dragon side. The upper four Chinese characters denote “Made in Kiangnan Province.” At approximately nine and three o’clock the sexagenarian date known as “Chi Hai” and attributed to 1899 appears. The lower portion of the Chinese inscription also mirrors the information found below the dragon, and expresses the coin’s denomination as a 3 Mace, 6 Candareen (50 Cents). The bulk of the reverse is taken up by the larger Chinese and smaller Manchu inscription that describes the coin in general terms: “Valuable Coin of the Kuang Hsu (regime).”

This “Valuable Coin” is most certainly one of our top highlights of this inaugural Macau Showcase auction. NGC has certified this piece as AU-50, and it stands as the only example numerically graded by NGC. PCGS has graded a single example of this coin, also an AU-50. Be sure to view this piece in the upcoming weeks! It may not resurface at an auction for decades.

Look for this and other Asian and world numismatic rarities in our upcoming December Macau Showcase Auction and Sale. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this November at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Events Calendar link at To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646. While our Stack’s Bowers Galleries December Macau Showcase Auction is no longer open for consignments, we are currently taking consignments of Asian and world coins for our April 2015 Hong Kong Showcase Auction of Asian Coins and our January 2015 New York International Auction. Time is running short, so 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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