On August 20, Champion Auctions will offer more than 500 lots of rare and collectible coins from Asia, Europe, and the United States. Many pieces come from the Charles E. Tanant Collection, a former French official at the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service. Over his almost four-decade-long career, Tanant collected Imperial provincial and early Republic coins. Other selections in the Champion Hong Kong auction cover a wide swath of Chinese numismatic history in the early 20th century.
CoinWeek’s editors have studied the catalog to provide you the following Lots You Need to Know.
As the largest of the old imperial provinces, Sichuan (formerly called Szechuan) has been a traditionally important seat of Chinese agriculture, industry and culture. The capital city of Chengdu (formerly Chengtu) has been the location of a working mint since 1732, while the mint in Chongqing (formerly Chungking, and also found within Sichuan province) has been in operation since 1913.
And as a recent display from Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) at the 2017 ANA World’s Fair of Money has made better known, a new Sichuan mint with all-new equipment was built by the Ferracute Machine Company of New Jersey.
In the first few years of the 20th century, the western province of Sichuan decided to combat the influence and circulation of foreign coinage in the region by minting its own versions–especially the British Indian rupee, which the government attempted to counter with a silver coin and two fractional silver issues.
The Sichuan One Rupee coin was initially made of 90% silver, but as the decades passed it was eventually debased. On the obverse is a left-facing portrait of the emperor, Guang Xu, who had actually been under house arrest since 1898 after he was rendered a figurehead by a coup orchestrated by the Empress Dowager. Adding to the irony, his may be the first portrait of an emperor on all of Chinese coinage.
The reverse is dominated by the leaves and flowers of a vegetal filigree. At the center of the design is a Chinese inscription designating its origin and denomination – in the middle of which is a small rosette, which shall become important shortly.
Befitting a coin with its origins in a faraway provincial mint, several collectible varieties of the Sichuan rupee exist. The present coin is an example of what is known as the Type 1 Guang Xu, which features a vertical rosette on the reverse and is missing a collar around the bottom of the emperor’s neck (as seen on other types). From the Tanant Collection, it is the second-highest-graded specimen known to PCGS, earning an MS65+. The coin sold in a previous Champion auction in December of last year for a total of $32,000 USD.
Based on its auction history alone, the 1998 Celebration of Spring 500 yuan is one of the rarest of modern Chinese coins. The current specimen has appeared on the market only once over the last 10 years, going for about $280,000 USD. It is also the highest graded coin of its type by NGC.
But based on its mintage of only 128 pieces, the five ounce, .999 fine gold Proof (NGC PF68 UCAM) is definitely within the elite rarities among modern world coinage.
The obverse features three small children, boys and girls in traditional dress, painting and flying traditional Chinese kites. Their faces present happy, almost transcendental smiles, turning the children into symbols of eternal Spring. The denomination of 500 yuan is inscribed below and to the left of the trio.
The reverse features a striking rendition of a traditional Chinese lantern with a bold arrangement of rays shooting forth from the center behind it. Along the top is inscribed (in Chinese) is “People’s Republic of China”. The date “1998” is found at the very bottom.
As an extra bonus for this extreme rarity, lot 490 also includes the original box and Certificate of Authenticity.
四川, 成都, 重庆, 香港