Extremely Rare Manchurian 50 Tael Sycee

This week’s highlight from our March 25-28, 2019, Hong Kong Auction, held at the Mira hotel in conjunction with the 6th Hong Kong Coin Show (HKCS), features an extremely rare Manchurian Sycee ingot:

Lot # 60047 – Jilin Dachibao. Jilin Province Big Winged Ingots. Silver 50 Tael Local Tax Ingot dated Year 31 (1905) of Guangxu

Like many 50 Tael Sycee ingots, this piece exhibits high tipped wings with several inscription stamps added to the face, which usually identify the place of manufacture and silversmith responsible for quality.  The added inscriptions on this example are as follows, top central stamp "明高江" (Jiāng gāomíng [Smith Gao Ming]), left side stamp "宽成同顺成" (Kuān chéng tóng shùn cheng) and right side stamp "绪三十一年" (Guāngxù sānshíyī nián [Guangxu Period 31st year]).  Of note on this piece is the dramatic pitch of the face, which differentiates it from other more common types.

It was produced in Jilin (Kirin) province, part of Manchuria which comprises the three most north-eastern provinces in China bordering Russia to the North and Korea to the south-east and consisting of Jilin (Kirin), Liaoning  (Fengtian) and Heilongjiang provinces. In the year this piece was produced, Manchuria saw quite a bit of action, considering that the second Russo-Japanese War (fought at least in part to establish supremacy in Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula) was in full swing.  In the early days of the war, Japan pleaded with Russia to settle matters through arbitration, but Russia refused and continued to engage Japanese forces. After a surprise victory by the Japanese over the Russians, the Russians finally conceded to talks, the result of which was the signing of the "Treaty of Portsmouth," which was overseen by United States President Theodore Roosevelt.

The type offered in our March Hong Kong auction is from a location that is far less frequently encountered in the market place, institutions or reference books.  Joe Cribb, in his fabulous standard reference, A Catalogue of Sycee in the British Museum, lists nearly 1,300 different types of Sycee ingots and ingot-like coins, only five of which are from Jilin (Kirin), most of which reside in institutions outside the British Museum. The other references at our disposal lists two to six examples each. Considering both its massive size and regional rarity, this is a great opportunity for advanced collectors of Sycee ingots.

We are currently taking consignments of world and ancient coins and world paper money for our June Collectors Choice Online (CCO) Auction and the August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction in Rosemont, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. We are also accepting consignments of Chinese and other Asian coins and currency for our August 19-22, 2019, Hong Kong Showcase Auction.  If you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) contact one of our consignment directors.

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