Old and New Rarities to Highlight Stack’s Bowers August HK Auction

​Old and New Hong Kong Highlights


As the
19th century was coming to a close, the desire to compete in a burgeoning world
economy was felt in nearly all parts of the globe. This included China—an
empire home to roughly 400 million people (nearly a quarter of the world’s
population at that time). Throughout her realms, strings of ‘cash’ were used as
a lower-value currency for over two millennia, with larger sums represented in
the form of ‘sycee’—ingots cast in gold or silver. With the western world’s
growing spheres of the influence, change even came to China’s monetary system,
as silver denominations more akin to those circulating in the west began to be
struck at various mints throughout the empire. Though many of these issues were
rather formulaic in their design, there existed a vast array of craftsmanship
in the execution of the coinage, as familiarity with the English language (or,
for that matter, the Roman alphabet in general) was not always strong.

The most encountered design structure for this new ‘crown/dollar’-sized coinage
and its silver and bronze subsidiary issues was the ‘imperial dragon’ type. On
one side, these pieces featured a stylized dragon coiled around a fireball,
along with indications of the issuing province and denomination in English. On
the other, Chinese characters were employed, conveying the emperor in the
central field, while paralleling the other side with the issuing province and
denomination. Standing out in particular within this vast series were the 1897
issues struck at Nanking with dies supplied by the Heaton mint in Birmingham.
These pieces feature taller, more elegant English letter forms as well as more
ornate borders and decorations. Most striking, however, is the design of the
dragon itself, with an overall larger size and somewhat ‘cartoonish’ (though
mesmerizing) depiction.

The ‘dollar’ in this emission, denominated in the traditional units of ‘7 mace
and 2 candareens,’ is now a fairly difficult piece to find, especially in
higher grades. Nevertheless, our upcoming Hong Kong auction will feature one of
these dollars, lot 51189,
in a state of preservation seldom seen; it is certified to have Uncirculated
details by PCGS with very slight evidence of a light cleaning that has now
toned over. Augmenting this example’s appeal is the fact that it contains an often-missing
stroke within the shěng character
character meaning ‘province.’ This is an incredibly rare variety and is sure to
attract tremendous interest from those passionate about this series.

Fast-forwarding to the present day, China currently produces one of the more
iconic and sought after series of bullion coinage—the endearing ‘Panda’ series,
featuring one or more of these lovable animals in various poses. Along with the
popularity of contemporary issues, the market for vintage Chinese is as strong
as ever. In an attempt to capitalize on both of these aspects, a series of
eight commemoratives (each with a mintage of just 100 pieces and containing one
ounce of .999 fine gold) will be struck, drawing upon some of China’s most
popular historic coins. The first design honored is none other than the
aforementioned Nanking dollar from 1897, displaying its elegant and enigmatic
style. Of further note is that the exact character variety (with the completed
stroke) is reproduced, mirroring our offering in this sale. Most tantalizing,
however, is that the trial piece for this initial commemorative release will
also be available in our upcoming Hong Kong auction (lot 51191).
Struck on a half ounce planchet (rather than one ounce), this unique specimen
(also graded by PCGS), is a faithful companion to the original and was such a
convincing prototype that a packager at the mint mistakenly placed this
singular example into an order for one of the regular one ounce strikings. As
one can imagine, this trial piece represents a majestic rarity and an
unparalleled opportunity to acquire a classic re-issue not meant to escape the
mint. Accordingly, these two specimens, serve as important bookends to a
nation’s revolution in coinage—from a newly-adopted system and standard
influenced heavily by the west to a series of numismatic treasures now
collected and endlessly desired across the globe.


The Stack’s Bowers summer Hong Kong auction will
soon be open for bidding on and the live sale will take place from August 19-22 at The Mira
Hong Kong.  For more information about this auction, or to find out more
information about consigning to a future auction event, please contact us
at 800-458-4646 or by email at 
[email protected].

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West Coast Office • (800) 458-4646

Midwest Office • (800) 817-2646

East Coast Office • (800) 566-2580

[email protected]

Hong Kong, China Office • +852 2117 1191

[email protected]

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