Proof 1889-A French Indo-China Piastre

This week we would like to spotlight a stunning piece from Stack’s Bowers & Ponterio’s upcoming Hong Kong Auction in August. In past issues we have highlighted several rarities that have been offered in Hong Kong but all had been of Chinese origin. This week we have a coin from further south, the French colonial holding of Indo-China. The term Indo-China itself refers to the large region of Southeast Asia where Indian and Chinese influences mingled and formed cultures apart from either of these entities. French Indo-China however refers to the lands of French protection and control in the region during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, specifically the three regions of Tonkin, Annam and Cochin China, which comprise modern day Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as Laos and parts of Thailand which were not added until after this coin was struck.

By the mid-nineteenth century French merchants and missionaries had been trading and preaching all over Southeast Asia, and by the early 1880s French troops had been establishing firmer control in the region under the auspice of protection for French citizens in Indo-China. Tensions flared in 1884 after several instances of military skirmishes between the French military and the Chinese “Black Flags” under Liu Yongfu, who had come to aid the Vietnamese in resisting French colonial hegemony. These early skirmishes soon mushroomed into the Sino-French War which, while not strictly a French victory, did conclude with China relinquishing its protection of Tonkin, Annam, Cochin China and Cambodia to France. Thus in 1887 France established French Indo-China with local royal rulers governing as figure heads in three of the four territories and a prefect and French bureaucracy governing in Cochin China.

It was two years after the establishment of this French protectorate region that our coin of the week was struck at the mint in Paris with a mintage of only 100 Proof coins struck. This coin is graded NGC Proof 66 and is an excellent example from this small mintage. With a nice old cabinet tone giving evidence to its age this piece still maintains every detail of the design impressed upon it by a needle sharp strike. The seated figure of Liberty is sheathed with a nice even tone while the legends which surround her have blue and red highlights on lustrous surfaces. Satin smooth fields within the wreath on the reverse add to this piece’s air of perfection. A must see! Be sure to look for this piece along with many other rarities in Stack’s Bowers & Ponterio’s August 20-22, 2012 Hong Kong auction.

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