Late in the 19th century, China began to modernize their coining system, moving away from the cast "cash" coinage that had been standard for over two millennia, and toward a denominated rubric more in line with the western world. Various provincial mints began striking the "7 mace 2 candareens" denomination—corresponding to the Mexican 8 reales, American dollar and other similar crown sized silver issues—along with its respective minors. Copper issues were also produced, but often featured designs akin to their silver counterparts instead of those with central holes that had been used on the longstanding cast coinage. Though many of these "new style" coins were struck with locally produced dies, the mint in Nanking (within Kiangsu province) specially commissioned Ralph Heaton’s mint in Birmingham, England in 1897 to produce the dies for a set of silver denominations. As the province wanted to denote these differently than their copper issues struck, the regional name of "Kiangnan," no longer extant as an official province, was utilized for the silver set. The Heaton mint produced a series of five denominations—"dollar," "50 cents," "20 cents," "10 cents," and "5 cents," all struck in low mintages and at a specimen quality standard. The mint then sent these specimen sets along with the dies to Nanking where future issues could be produced. Within the series of Chinese ‘dragon’ coins, the dragon created by the Heaton mint stands out for its more intense, somewhat anthropomorphic style, featuring a dragon with rather large, piercing eyes, a more pronounced snout, and clawed forearms ready to pounce. Once observed, this "Heaton style" dragon is instantly recognizable and serves as a highlight in any collection.
Our upcoming October Hong Kong auction—set to be yet another incredible offering with nearly 4,000 lots split between coin and paper sessions—will feature one of these exceptionally rare Heaton mint specimens: a "1 mace 4.4 candareens" or 20 cents. This mostly steel gray example, which has received the rather elite grade of SPECIMEN-67+ from PCGS, features mirrored fields, peripheries that present an intense mélange of champagne and magenta, and devices with just a hint of charming frosting. The only other example of the type seen at PCGS attained the level of a 64, so it is easy to see just how monumental this incredibly attractive pattern minor is.
To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in this and other sales.
We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our sales, and are currently accepting submissions for our next CCO (Collectors Choice Online) auction, the consignment deadline for which is September 8. Following that, our next larger format auction will be our official auction of the 2021 N.Y.I.N.C. in January. 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.