The Chinese Connection to World War I

Though western Europe and the United States were all initially allied in their approach to opening up China during the mid-late 19th century, civil unrest toward the emerging colonizers led to Germany seeking and securing a 99-year lease on the area surrounding what is now known as Jiaozhou Bay in 1898. This takeover, known then as the Kiautschou Bay concession, gave Germany prime position for her navy in the Pacific, a more formal colonial foothold in China, and fortifications to defend against any future aggression. Other western powers, however, viewed this as an unparalleled growth of influence in the emerging market, and began to seek footholds of their own.

As tensions rose in Europe during the lead up to and eventual outbreak of World War I, it was inevitable that the Great War would find its way to the Far East. The United Kingdom, in an alliance with the Japanese Empire, issued an ultimatum to the German Empire, calling upon the latter to vacate their holdings around Kiautschou Bay as well as her capital city, Tsingtao. When this ultimatum passed without adherence, the allied forces engaged in increasing hostilities toward German interests, eventually leading to a siege of the port. Despite their efforts to repel the allies, German and Austro-Hungarian forces conceded, seeking terms and an exit from the region on 7 November. Under Japanese control for the next eight years, the territory would eventually return to China in 1922.

Our upcoming fall Hong Kong auction, to be presented 5-8 October, 2020, is set to offer over 3,000 lots of interesting coins, medals, and pieces of paper currency mostly pertaining to Asia. Further highlights will be forthcoming later this month and into September, but here we focus on a German medal on the topic of this engagement between the allied forces of the United Kingdom and Japan and Germany. Engraved by Hummel at Lauer’s private mint in Nuremberg, it presents a rather idealized image of the German defense at Tsingtao on the obverse, with a nude male soldier standing defiantly over his fallen comrades. In his hands are a sword and German colonial banner, and to the left is the phrase "stand up and fulfill one’s duty to the best that one can." The reverse simply presents the phrase "German heroes – immortal glory" within an oak wreath. This scarce and interesting piece of medallic art offers a glimpse into the crossroads of German colonialism, World War I, and an emerging China. It is also the first glimpse into what will be yet another exceptional Hong Kong auction presented by Stack’s Bowers & Ponterio.

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 sales, and are currently accepting submissions for our next CCO (Collectors Choice Online) auction, the consignment deadline of which is September 8th. Following that, our next larger format auction will be our official auction of the 2021 N.Y.I.N.C. in January. 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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