The Pinnacle Collection’s Samurai-Era Gold Plate Money from Feudal Japan

Within the incredible Pinnacle Collection, a featured cabinet in the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio April 2021 Hong Kong auction, a group of massive gold Obans and Kobans certainly stands out. Quite large in size, these fit within the aspect of “odd and curious” money, as they are such a departure from the typically encountered types of coinage. A variety of stampings is present on the obverse and reverse of each, indicating the type and time period of manufacture. Additionally, the obverses display rather skillfully and elegantly inked calligraphy—enhancing their beauty, artistry, and sense of uniqueness. These issues served as large multiples of the more transactional denominations like the Shu and Bu, also somewhat odd and curious in that they were rectangular rather than round, but at least their overall dimensions were more typical. These interesting pieces also serve as a direct link to the fabled pre-Meiji era of Japan, dominated by feudalism and the legendary backdrop of samurai and ninjas. With the opening up of Japan to the west, a currency reform took place under the Meiji Emperor in 1870, replacing the fanciful denominations of yore with a system and designs that mirrored those of the western world.

 When viewing these exceptional offerings of early Japanese coinage, one is transported back in time. The number of examples found in the Pinnacle Collection could easily lead one to erroneously conclude that they are encountered quite often in the marketplace. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, as these large gold denominations are extremely rare. The completeness of the types represented in the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio April auction rivals – and even surpasses – the most prestigious of museums. Beginning with the Hishi Oban, the first Oban of Japan, the immense rarity is clear, as it stands as one of just a few, possibly six, examples known. Many of these examples are held in museum collections and thus unobtainable to collectors. Meanwhile, another specimen, this time from the Genroku Era (ca. 1695-1704), stands apart due to its stunning beauty. Featuring nearly-choice quality along with a rather dazzling iridescent tone, this piece offers exceptional eye appeal. A scarce Goto signature variety from the Kyoho Era (ca. 1725-1837) focuses on the inking, and exhibits stunning boldness with ink that is quite sharp and decisive, with the signature running over the edge at the base of the obverse. This outstanding subset of the Pinnacle Collection is sure to generate a great deal of enthusiasm among advanced collectors, allowing many the chance of a lifetime, whether it is the opportunity to acquire generational rarities or to simply view that which is normally relegated to the museum or the occasional catalog page.

To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.

We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our future auctions, and are currently accepting submissions for our June Collector’s Choice Online (CCO) auction as well as our Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money in August and our fall Hong Kong Auction in October. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a single 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.

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