The Famous “Auto Dollars” of the Kweichow Province

Among the many iconic and enigmatic designs found on world coins of the 20th century, it is hard to look past the famed Chinese “Auto Dollar.” Dated to year 17 of the founding of the Republic (1928) and emanating from the province of Kweichow (an otherwise scant producer of coins), this design is a classic and offers seemingly timeless appeal. While the reverse merely conveys its denomination, metal, date, and issuing authority, the obverse features the main collecting objective—its automotive motif. According to Eduard Kann, author of the “Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Coins (Gold, Silver, Nickel & Aluminum),” the type was struck to commemorate the completion of the Kweichow Provincial Highway, the first road for automobiles in the province. What’s more, Kann alleges that the car itself is a representation of the provincial governor, Zhou Xicheng (Chow His-chien). Kann even mentions that the numerous blades of grass in the field below the automobile could be a stylized depiction of the governor’s name, with the grass blades paralleling the incised nature of earlier Chinese epigraphy (though this may be a bit fanciful). Nevertheless, their odd styling and manner of overlapping in spots does lead to the conclusion that they may indeed have a deeper meaning. Adding to the grassy intrigue, the type is found with two varieties—one with two small initial grass blades under the car’s final tire, and one with with three small initial grass blades instead (the latter of these two variants being the scarcer and far less encountered).

Given the omnipresent nature of the automobile in our daily lives, the fact that this “Auto Dollar” represents one of the earliest depictions within the world of numismatics should not be underappreciated. Its presentation on this immensely popular world crown continues to evoke the imagery of a bygone era and serves as a tangible timestamp to the period of its manufacture. As interest in Chinese numismatics continues to soar, this type seemingly serves as the pace car, leading the way as this field of numismatics shifts into yet a higher gear. Our fall Hong Kong auction will feature ten of these classic Kweichow Dollars, nine of which will be among the highlights in our Rarities Night. With grades that run the spectrum, it is assured that those seeking an example of this famed type will have much from which to choose, making this auction an event that simply should not be missed.

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 Official Auction of the January 2023 NYINC and our Spring Hong Kong auction. Additionally, we are accepting submissions for our Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auctions, the next of which will be held in November, and the next for which we are accepting consignments scheduled for February 2023. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular 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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