The Issues that Weren’t: Off-Metal Patterns in the Early Chinese Republic

​Following over two millennia of highly standardized and predictable currency in the form of cash, Chinese coins began a period of experimentation in the early part of the 20th century. The rather simplistic cast, holed coinage offering a few characters and possibly a mint signature or other subsidiary symbol, gave way to a silver standard during the reign of the penultimate ruler of the Qīng dynasty, the Guāngxù emperor. Using modern mint equipment and the ability to strike rather than simply cast coins, the minting facilities created designs that offered much more detail than anything that had circulated in the past. The 7 Mace 2 Candareens (taking the role of the “Dollar”), along with its subsidiary denominations, employed numerous intricate renditions of the imperial dragon coiled around a fireball. While this continued during the brief reign of Guāngxù’s successor and last monarch, the Xuāntǒng emperor, it was under the early decades of the Republic that China saw an immense output of experimental designs and motifs.

Right from its start, the coinage of the Republic presented a stark change from the more recent imperial issues, with numerous dollars offering the busts of prominent contemporary figures, such as Sun Yixian (Sun Yat-sen), Lí Yuánhóng (Li Yuan Hung), and Yuán Shìkǎi (Yuan Shih-kai). Just as coinage had remained rather consistent seemingly forever, so too had the government, with the absolute rule of the emperor offering little in the way of change from century to century. Now, the years of the Republic were enumerated, quickly recounting the passage of time under this newfound rule of the people. Similarly, the proposal of new designs seemed to parallel each year, with numerous pattern dollars struck during the 1920s. From the so-called “Pu Yi Wedding” and Xú Shìchāng (Hsu Shih-chang) “Pavilion” types, to the Sun Yat-sen “Memento” and “Junk” types, there was an endless array of iconography from which to create new ideas. Outreach to other mints from around the world for proposals, had engravers based in Rome, London, and Paris offering their own renditions of, for example, the “Junk” type. Given the experimental nature of these pattern issues, the mint also did not feel the constraints that a regular coinage would demand, and some are encountered in metals other than silver, such as gold, copper, or even brass. These unusual “off-metal” issues in this avidly collected series are, in many instances, extremely rare and desirable.

Our monumental 10th anniversary Hong Kong Auction next month will present one of these incredibly rare off-metal pattern issues in gold. The “Peaceful Unification” type, celebrating the first decade-plus of the Republic and featuring Duàn Qíruì (Tuan Chi Jui), is already quite difficult to acquire in the usual silver, but in gold, it is seldom seen. There is very little evidence of the minor spot removal that is the only aspect accounting for the NGC “Unc Details” designation. The coin retains abundant field luster and offers a rather sharp strike. In addition to this off-metal striking, numerous other pattern issues are found in this impressive auction, offering the opportunity for connoisseurs to acquire long desired rarities.

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 pieces of paper money for our future sales, and are currently accepting submissions (until May 4th) for our upcoming CCO (Collectors Choice Online) auction in June 2020. Following that will be our Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money and our Official Auction of the Hong Kong Show, both in August 2020! 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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