Pattern K’uping Tael Struck in Gold

This week we feature one of the few Chinese imperial gold coins created by an official mint. Although this experimental piece never saw full circulation, its rarity has attracted a following and the demand will only continue to rise. This coin was minted at the Central Mint at Tientsin (Tianjin) in Chihli province in northeastern China, a region that contains the eastern end of the Great Wall. This Gold Tael was minted in the 32nd year of the reign of Kuang Hsu (1906), in the year Ping Wu of the sexagenary cycle of dating. Kuang Hsu of the Qing Dynasty ascended to the throne in 1875, with the assistance of the Empress Dowager Tz’u-hsi, his aunt. Tz’u-hsi adopted him so she could act as regent until he came of age, effectively ruling from behind the throne. The Chinese government at the time could not support an effective implementation of a gold standard, due in part to the insufficient gold reserves. This led to the limited number of these pattern Taels struck in gold and accounts for the small number of gold coins struck overall in China at the time.

This Gold Tael is significant when compared to the other struck coins used at the time as it features an exclusively Chinese legend. The central inscription reads: “Ta Ching Gold Coin,” or simply gold coin of great Qing. The top portion of the outer inscription states: “Made (during) the Kuang Hsu (regime) in the Year of Ping Wu (1906).” Two six-point rosettes situated at the right and left separate the outer inscriptions. The lower inscription contains the weight and denomination: “K’uping 1 Tael.” With the obverse containing all of the logistics, the reverse is available for a stunning artistic rendering, and this Pattern Gold Tael does not disappoint.

A striking reverse really sets this gold coin apart as an unparalleled and desirable piece of Chinese numismatic history. Large bold clouds and plum blossoms surround a remarkable Dragon in the typical side view Dragon left variety. The fireball issuing from the Dragon’s mouth has seven flames trailing. This piece is a plain edge variety and the absence of a reverse inscription allows for the Dragon illustrated to dominate the scene. A pattern Gold Tael of this caliber contains immense value and when the rarity is taken into consideration the significance of this piece sky-rockets. Although not struck for official circulation due to the lack of a gold standard or an abundance of gold reserves, the Chinese government nevertheless succeeded in creating a scarce item of immense historical value.

Look for this and other Asian numismatic rarities in our upcoming April Hong Kong Sale. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this March at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Auction Schedule/Details link under Current Auctions at To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646 or 949.253.0916.

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