The Year 17 (1928) “Auto Dollar”

This week we highlight an exciting piece from our upcoming Hong Kong sale to be held August 19-22 at the Mira Hotel. From the province of Kweichow comes one of the most distinctive coins of the Republican era. The Year 17 (1928) “Auto Dollar” is a scarce issue in its own right and is even rarer to find in a healthy state of preservation. This fascinating issue was minted by the order of Zhou Xicheng, struck to commemorate the completion of the Kweichow (Guizhou) provincial highway. A highway opening may seem like a trivial event to commemorate with a coin, however back in the 1920s this was no small feat. Kweichow is marked with mountainous terrain and today is home to some of the world’s highest bridges; when you consider this fact the completion of the first road built for motorized vehicles is indeed a noteworthy event.

Zhou Xicheng was the provincial warlord governor of Kweichow, ruling from July 1927 until April 1929. Although his rule was short, Xicheng focused heavily on education and modernizing the province through public works. The car featured is said to have been the personal automobile of Zhou Xichang which makes sense as his would likely be the nicest and most modern vehicle, which made a visual statement about his aims at modernization. Ironically this rapidly modernizing area had no mint of its own until 1939 and these pieces were almost certainly struck at the Chengtu Mint in neighboring Szechuan province. This theory is supported by the use of the same central floral crest found on most Republican coinage from Szechuan. Directly below the automobile, found in a hidden arrangement of blades of grass is the secret mark of "Xicheng". Some accounts state that Zhou Xicheng died on this very road. As the story goes, while driving down the road with advancing troops a skirmish erupted and as Zhou Xicheng fled from his automobile, he was shot dead on the grass beside the road.

The piece we will be offering in our August sale is remarkably well struck with full lines visible in the car doors and is very original and untouched. In terms of overall appearance, this ranks as one of the nicer Auto Dollars we have seen. Conservatively graded PCGS AU-55 this piece is an eye pleaser for the type and definitely asserts itself as a cut above most Auto Dollars. Collectors hoping to fill this tough gap in their collections will also be pleased to know that aside from this remarkable piece, this sale has a strong selection of Auto Dollars in more commonly seen grades. Catalogs for this sale will be mailed out shortly so be sure to look for this and other thrilling rarities when Stack’s Bowers & Ponterio returns to Hong Kong this August.

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