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China Year 33 (1907) Chihli Tael

For our April 2014 Hong Kong Showcase Auction highlight, we here at Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio are proud to offer a classic Chinese numismatic rarity. This coin represents one of a few attempts made by the Chinese Imperial government to institute a standard coinage system based on the Tael, while simultaneously circulating with the coinage system based on the foreign denomination of dollars (7 Mace 2 Candareens) and cents. Ultimately, the Tael coinage system never caught on, partially due to the fact that Emperor Kuang Hsu died in 1908, very shortly after the official Imperial Decree was issued. This piece 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 coinage met with mixed approval and never gained wide acceptance. Shortly after the death of the emperor, the project was aborted and replaced with attempts at producing a unified coinage. Allegedly only about 7,000 Pei Yang Taels were struck; however, most never entered circulation and the majority of the mintage was recalled and melted. This has significantly reduced the population of these coins and greatly enhanced the rarity of the pieces that remain.

The archetypal symbol for China, the eastern serpentine dragon, constitutes the majority of the obverse design. The dragon displays a fearsome visage, its great scaly form winding and twisting in flight. Its four limbs, tipped with fierce claws appear equidistant from each other in a square pattern. Wisps of clouds surround the dragon, providing visual markers of its lofty presence in the sky. The dragon’s tail ends in eight sharp spikes, with a ridge of spikes along its back culminating in a veritable crown of barbs atop its head. Long whiskers drape down past its open mouth, with an ornate flaming pearl issuing forth from its mouth. The flaming pearl contains seven flames and three dots, which provide the type. Around the motif of the dragon, the English legend: “33rd Year of Kuang Hsu” (1907) appears above, with “Pei Yang” (mint location) appearing below. The upper and lower legends are separated by two small rosaces.

The reverse design contains an all Chinese legend, within a pearled ring the large center inscription states: “Valuable Coin (of the) Kuang Hsu (regime)”. The upper Manchu legend is preceded and followed by a single dot. Two symbols on either side of the outer ring denote the location of Pei Yang. The lower inscription states the weight and denomination of “K’uping 1 Tael". This stunning coin is certain to attract frenzied bidding once it reaches the auction podium.

Look for this and other Asian numismatic rarities in our upcoming April Hong Kong Showcase Auction and 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 Events Calendar link at www.StacksBowers.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646. While our Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio April Hong Kong Showcase Auction is closed for further consignments, we are currently taking consignments of world and ancient coins for our 2014 August Hong Kong and August ANA sales. 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.

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