Manchukuo Taels Prove to be Pure Gold

One of the most eclectic and unusual issues mentioned in Kann’s seminal Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Coins, Gold, Silver, Nickel and Aluminum, are the Manchukuo Gold Tael issues. These are found at the very end of the general issues section, right before the forgeries and fantasy coins. These were produced with three different varieties featuring different obverse characters meaning "double happiness," "blessing," and "Wealth, Honor, for 10,000 Years." The story Kann gives, and one that has often been retold, is that these pieces were used as gold reserves in the Manchukuo Central Bank and did not circulate. There are strong inductive reasons to doubt this story, the first of which is the reverse purity mark. A 24k over 1000 is seen on the reverse of all types, though it is a chemical impossibility to refine gold to absolute purity. It makes little sense to intentionally mismark reserve bullion with the improper fineness. Second, the Japanese puppet issues in Manchukuo, East Hopei, and other areas were always produced with high quality strikes in the prewar years and had intricate design elements. These pieces are of a more rudimentary style and a bit crude in manufacture. Lastly, a considerable number of these types have experienced heavy handling and many often come with problems, such as cleaning or having been mounted in jewelry. Though it is impossible to know for sure, it seems quite possible that these types are old fantasy pieces, with a somewhat spurious connection to Japanese occupied Manchuria. Whatever the story, these examples do appear to be exceedingly rare and are heavily desired. Stack’s Bowers Galleries offered three examples in the May Hong Kong Auction, with an NGC Unc Details-Removed from Jewelry selling for $15,600; a PCGS AU Details-Scratched example reaching $20,400; and a PCGS MS-60 specimen bringing an astonishing $216,000.

These prices illustrate the continuing trend of strong realized prices across nearly all areas of numismatics, with Chinese coins performing particularly well. We are always seeking world and ancient coins, medals, and paper money for our auctions, and are currently accepting consignments for our August 2022 Global Showcase Auction and our October Collectors Choice Online (CCO) sale. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact a consignment director or email [email protected] today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.

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