Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio is thrilled to preview our auction highlights for the inaugural December Macau Showcase Auction. This week we feature a lovely Hupeh Tael with small characters that stands as the finest certified by NGC. Originally 648,000 Hupeh Taels were minted, this includes both large and small character types, however it is unknown exactly how many of each were struck. The Hupeh Tael was part of a projected coinage reform based on the traditional Chinese weight standard rather than the dollar system. The initial proposal to produce these coins included smaller denominations in the values of 5, 2 and 1 Mace. However, no such pieces have surfaced (even in pattern form) and it is unlikely they were ever produced. People found it complicated to convert two distinctly different coinage systems, especially when making change. A Hupeh tael housed in the British museum supports this by showing evidence of cutting to make change. The British museum specimen is essentially Mint State with a large pie shape section cut from the coin in a similar manner to the "broken dollars" picture on pg.121 figure.4.10 of Joe Cribb’s reference "Money in the Bank." This series circulated for only a brief period of time and was soon after replaced by the unified Tai Ching Ti Kuo silver coinage. Although the Hupeh Tael coinage had a fairly large mintage, most likely much of this was melted down to be made into later coinage. It is interesting to note that the Hupeh Taels were struck in 0.877 fine silver as opposed to the 0.960 fine silver set forth by the currency regulations of 1905.
The obverse features the Chinese dragon, but this design incorporates two of the awe-inspiring beasts. Two dragons are depicted flying and striving towards a flaming pearl, which is descending toward the middle of coin’s design. The dragons appear to mirror each other, with spiraling clouds placed intermittently around them. Within the circle that these two flying dragons form the Chinese characters denoting One Tael are found. 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 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 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. The grade is a remarkable NGC MS-65 and it is currently the finest small characters type certified by NGC.
Look for this and other Asian and world numismatic rarities in our upcoming December Macau Showcase Auction and Sale. Preview this 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 www.StacksBowers.com. 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 January 2015 New York International Auction and our April 2015 Hong Kong Showcase Auction of Asian Coins and Currency. 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.