For this week’s August Hong Kong Showcase Auction preview Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio presents a classic Chinese numismatic rarity — the famous “Bamboo Dollar” from Kweichow Province. According to Kann, this “dollar” was issued as rampant inflation in the 1940s devalued paper currency in China leading some provinces to begin minting their own metallic money. Minted in the “38th year of the Republic” (1949) this coin shows an incredible level of artistry and does not seem to have entered circulation, remaining as an essay piece. The scarcity of this piece can be partially attributed to the historical events unfolding around the time period. In the late 1940s the Chinese Civil War resumed, with the communist forces controlling Beijing and other major Kuomintang cities came under Communist control. As these were minted during this tumultuous period (under the Republican government), these republican coinage designs were most likely buried (leading to often seen corrosion on this issue), hidden away in stashes (providing excellent collectible examples) or simply destroyed by the communist government and repurposed. As such, this coinage type from the twilight of the mainland Republic of China is a scarce type and with its beautiful design stands among the classic Chinese numismatic rarities.
The obverse design contains a stunning image of an iconic three story Chinese pavilion known as the Jiaxiu Tower (First Scholar’s Tower). The name Jiaxiu hails from the Ming dynasty era when the tower was built and means “getting the very best in Imperial examinations”. The building was a place to live and study for these “number one scholars”, and records indicate that three such officials honored the city by residing there. Standing at 66 feet high the tower is adorned with green tiles, red pillars, artistically engraved windows and stunning white stone parapets. This architectural marvel sits atop the Fuyu Bridge over the Nanming River, and casts a wonderful reflection in the water (especially at night when hundreds of lanterns are lit). A single Chinese character (Kuo) is found on the door to the pavilion, which refers to the then governor of the province, Kuo Tseng Kuang. The initials “TLK” appear just below the door of the pavilion and are speculated to refer to the engraver of the coin. Two varieties exist for this “Bamboo Dollar”, and are identified by the window in the top story, with this being the “round window” variety. An ornate border surrounds the Jiaxiu Tower on bridge design, with descriptive legends around. The upper legend states: “38th Year of the Republic of China” which means the year 1949. Beautiful rosettes separate the upper legend from the lower legend which states: “Made in Kweichow Province”. The reverse design offers this coin its informal title of “Bamboo Dollar”; three stems of bamboo with leaves are encompassed by a saw-tooth border, followed by a beaded border and finally a crenulated outer border. The Chinese characters for “One Dollar” appear at either side of the Bamboo image. This example is lightly toned, which enhances and outlines the various devices on the coin. A marginal amount of wear is present on the central design; however it does not detract from the beauty and complexity of the artistic design.
Look for this and other Asian numismatic rarities in our upcoming August Hong Kong Showcase Auction and Sale. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this July and August at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Events Calendar link at www.StacksBowers.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646. Our Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio August Hong Kong Showcase Auction is still open for further consignments of Asian coins, and our 2014 August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction and sale is still taking consignments of world and ancient coins as well. Time is running short, so if you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.