Rare and impressive Yuan Shih-Kai gold 20 Dollars

The Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio August Hong Kong Showcase Auction is rapidly acquiring a variety of coins and paper currency for what promises to be an excellent auction. Our featured coin for this week offers both scarcity and a high grade. This coin bears the effigy of an influential leader from China’s early Republican period, Yuan Shih-Kai. Like most historical figures Yuan Shih-Kai’s legacy is complex and fraught with negative repercussions. Yuan Shih-Kai, an important general and politician, is best known for his military reforms and his role in the transition from monarchy to a republic in China at the turn of the century. Yuan’s greatest achievement turned out to be a double-edged sword, as his military reforms fostered a loyalty that resulted in rival warlords competing with each other after his death. This fractioning of the army, coupled with his bid to restore the monarchy (with himself as emperor) eroded the ideals of the Republican movement he helped establish years earlier. Despite this, his coinage proved immensely popular during its time, and was minted for nearly ten years after his death. Yuan Shih-Kai, despite his tarnished legacy, remains an important figure in Chinese history and his coinage ensures that his history will endure.

Early 20th century China saw many attempts at the institution of a gold currency standard. This 20 Dollar piece (along with a similar 10 Dollar piece) was ordered to be minted at the Tientsin Mint, but as gold reserves were lacking, only a small number were produced. Kann notes that the few examples minted were quickly snatched up by numismatists before they entered circulation. The obverse design features the familiar left facing portrait of Yuan Shih-Kai, despite the fact that he died nearly three years earlier (in 1916). The obverse design is simplistic yet artfully done, without any form of inscription, either in English or Chinese. The recognizable bust of Yuan Shih-Kai in military dress appears within a decorative border. The reverse features the same decorative outer border, along with the well-known wreath surrounding the vertical expression of denomination in Chinese characters (20 Dollars). The upper Chinese legend states, “Made in the Eighth Year of the Chinese Republic.” This rare piece expresses the ongoing flirtation between China and the gold standard, and also exemplifies the complicated feelings held for General and politician turned autocrat Yuan Shih-Kai. These coins have been highly desirable and collected for their near-century of existence in collections. Worthy of the most sophisticated collections, the opportunity to own this impressive item will be yours next month when this exquisite NGC-MS 62 piece arrives at the auction podium.

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 To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646. While our Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio August Hong Kong Showcase Auction is closed for further consignments, we are currently taking consignments of Asian, world and ancient coins for our April Hong Kong, November Baltimore and January New York International auctions. 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.


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