Lovely Mint State Large Characters Hupeh Tael

The next preview coin for our upcoming Stack’s Bowers and
Ponterio April Hong Kong Showcase Auction is a lovely example of a perennially
popular issue. The Hupeh Tael was part of a projected coinage reform based on
the traditional Chinese weight standard rather than the dollar system. In the
initial proposal to produce these coins it was also suggested to produce
smaller denominations in the values of 5, 2 and 1 Mace. However, no such pieces
have surfaced (even in pattern form) and it is unlikely they were ever made.
The general population found it complicated to convert two distinctly different
coinage systems, especially when making change. A Hupeh tael housed in the
British Museum supports this by showing evidence of cutting to make change. The
British Museum specimen is essentially Mint State with a large pie shape
section cut from the coin (similar to the “broken dollars” picture on
page 121; figure 4.10 of Joe Cribb’s reference “Money in the Bank”).

This series circulated for only a brief period of time
and was soon replaced by the unified Tai Ching Ti Kuo silver coinage. The Hupeh
Tael has a mintage of 648,000 coins, which includes both large and small
character types, however it is unknown exactly how many of each were struck. Most
likely much of the mintage was melted down to be made into later coinage. It is
interesting to note that the Hupeh Taels were struck in 0.877 fine silver as
opposed to the 0.960 fine silver set forth by the currency regulations of 1905.

The obverse of this coin features the Chinese dragon, but this design
surpasses the standard design by incorporating two of the beasts. Two dragons
are depicted flying and striving towards a flaming pearl which is descending
towards the middle of the coin’s design. The dragons appear to mirror each other,
with spiraling clouds placed intermittently around them. Within the circle that
these two flying dragons form the Chinese characters denoting One Tael are
found. Manchu characters at the right and left also state the denomination of
One Tael. The upper and lower English legends convey the location of Hu-peh
Province and One Tael. The reverse of the coin displays an all Chinese and
Manchu legend. The upper portion states in Chinese: “Made in Hupeh Province (in
the) 30th Year (of emperor) Kuang Hsu.” The lower legend reads: Kuping (weight)
1 Tael and these legends are separated by a rosette composed of seven dots. The
inner inscription is surrounded by a border of dots, and dominates most of the
visual field for the reverse. The center legend contains four Chinese symbols
that denote: “Valuable Coin (of the) Kuang Hsu (regime).” Four Manchu
characters appear within the larger Chinese characters and convey the same
meaning as the central inscription.

While we are no longer accepting consignments for our April Hong Kong
Showcase Auction, we are accepting consignments of Chinese and other Asian
coins and currency for our August 2017 Hong Kong Showcase Auction. In addition
to this, we are currently taking consignments of world and ancient coins as
well as world paper money for our May 2017 Collector’s Choice Online Auction
and August 2017 ANA Auction. 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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