Two Examples of a Manen Oban

With the recent wrap-up of the April Hong Kong Showcase Auction last week, we turn our attention to the next major world coin auction for Stack’s Bowers: the August ANA World’s Fair of Money in Chicago. Our showcase items for this week are two fascinating pieces of Shogun-era Japanese currency. The Tokugawa Shogunate was a feudal Japanese military government which followed the Japanese “Warring States” period. For over 250 years the Tokugawa Shoguns ruled feudal Japan as autocrats with the Samurai as the elite warrior-caste. This era had a strict class hierarchy, and while the emperor acted as a religious and political leader, the Shogun held the military power and were ultimately more powerful than the emperor.

The currency system of Japan before the Tokugawa Shoguns was dependent on the Chinese bronze cash coinage. The founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Ieyasu, established a gold, silver, and bronze denomination system that lasted until the Meiji Restoration ended the Shogunate’s rule. The largest denomination in this coinage system was the “Oban” gold piece, which was typically used as a special reward or gift rather than in day-to-day transactions. The two varieties we present here are the machine-made and the handmade crenulations (the subtle grooving on the obverse face) types. These pieces are both from the Manen era, the final era before the Meiji Restoration and after U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry helped to end Japan’s isolationist policies under the Shogunate. These ovoid gold plate pieces each weigh approximately 113 grams and are composed of approximately .344 gold and .639 silver. The designs for these two items are the same; the obverse features the Kiri Crest of the Office of the Prime Minister of Japan. The symbol – or Mon – is the Paulownia flower and is known as the Princess Tree in Japan. The symbol appears in the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. These pieces each display beautiful luster, which draws the eye to the stunning calligraphy at the center. An interesting feature of this piece is its security edge, which prevents any unscrupulous individuals from shaving or filing the edge of the coin. The reverse of these pieces feature the Paulownia flower Mon seal punched in the center and one just above center. Below the center punch is another Japanese symbol punch. The 7 o’clock position contains a triangle design of three smaller punches as well. Both of these Obans are truly beautiful. The inking on these particular pieces is original, as guaranteed for each Oban by the Japanese Numismatic Dealers Association (JNDA). The JNDA includes an official certification placard signed by the president of the JNDA: Keiji Sako. Each Oban is housed within a red leather official JNDA holder, and in a wooden display case with a red velvet interior. Both pieces are estimated to be in Mint State condition, with the handmade piece a superb example. A quality Oban makes an excellent centerpiece for any numismatic collection, so be sure to view and bid on these pieces later this summer!

Look for this and other World numismatic rarities in our upcoming August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this July 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. Our Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction is still open for further consignments of world and ancient coins for both our 2014 August Hong Kong and August ANA sales. 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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