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China Kirin (1898) Dollar Coins

By Jay Turner for PCGS ……

China Kirin (1898) Dollar Coins
China Kirin (1898) Dollar LM-515 “Deer Horn” Dragon, PCGS MS64. Courtesy of PCGS.

The Kirin province of China boasts more varieties for Chinese machine-struck coinage than any other province. Between silver and copper machine-struck issues, thousands of variations are documented for the 12 years between 1898 and 1909. With the dichotomy between volume and variation, collecting the coinage of the Kirin province of China offers a challenge for collecting with great diversity.

China Kirin (1898) Dollar Coins
China Kirin (1898) Dollar LM-509 (Large Rosettes), PCGS VF25. Courtesy of PCGS.
China Kirin (1898) Dollar Coins
China Kirin (1898) Dollar LM-510 (Small Rosettes), PCGS AU50. Courtesy of PCGS.
China Kirin (1898) Dollar Coins
China Kirin (1898) Dollar LM-510 (Small Rosettes) No Rosette before 7, PCGS (Genuine) Cleaned. Courtesy of PCGS.

One of the most-prized coins for Chinese collectors is the dollar coinage. This is true with the Kirin province of China as well. For the coinage of (1898), four basic varieties are listed in the LM book for the dollar, with a total of seven varieties currently recognized by PCGS. While it is written in Eduard Kann’s Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Coins that the minting of undated silver coins of the Imperial dragon design was from 1895 until 1898, most coinage is attributed to the date of (c.1898) or just (1898), which is the practice of PCGS.

The first major difference in the dollars of Kirin from (1898) is the Chinese for “PAO”, with the characters used being “士尔” or “土缶”. With Chinese coinage, the variation of Chinese characters is of much higher concern and consequence than that of the English lettering, so variation of such is highly regarded. For the use of “士尔”, two listings in LM are noted, with references LM-509 and LM-510 noting the size difference on the rosettes with 509 having larger rosettes and 510 having smaller. LM-509 also has a distinguishing feature of no rosette in front of the 7 of “7 ∙ CANDARINS ∙ 2”.

A sub-variety, likely a mule, also exists on the 510 small rosettes coin, in which the rosette that normally appears before the 7 of “7 ∙ CANDARINS ∙ 2” is missing. To date, PCGS has only certified one example of this sub-variety.

China Kirin (1898) Dollar LM-516 Large Scales, PCGS AU58. Courtesy of PCGS.
China Kirin (1898) Dollar LM-516 Small Scales, PCGS MS62. Courtesy of PCGS.
China Kirin (1898) Dollar Coins
China Kirin (1898) LM-516 “CANDAPINS,” PCGS XF40. Courtesy of PCGS.

For the Kirin dollars of (1898) with the spelling of “土缶” the two variations are noted in the LM reference, with LM-515 for a design with the dragon having “branched horns” or “deer horns” listed by PCGS as “D Horn”. A sub-variety exists for LM-515 with an extended “PEI” character, but PCGS has yet to classify one.

For the normal horn issues of “土缶”, LM-516 features three different varieties, with the dragon having either large scales or small scales. A spelling variation is the third main variety with the English “CANDARINS” incorrectly spelled as “CANDAPINS”. While there are other known varieties for Kirin (1898) dollars, these are the seven examples currently recognized by PCGS.

The valuation for such coins can vary greatly on countless factors. However, we can give some ideas on auction records.

An example of (1898) LM-509 sold in November 2021 in a Ginza Coins auction certified by PCGS as cleaned XF Details and bringing over $18,500 USD. An example of LM-510 sold in a Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction in Hong Kong during September 2021 that was certified by PCGS as having been repaired but with VF details; it brought over $1,600. Examples of the LM-515 “Deer Horn” can vary with an example in a European auction in June 2022 fetching under $800, but a PCGS MS64 example set a record of over $160,000 in a September 2018 Stephen Album Rare Coins auction. The same can be said for LM-516 examples with a PCGS XF Details bearing a chopmark selling for $1,800 in a Stephen Album Rare Coins auction in May of 2022. Yet, that same month a PCGS MS62 example sold for over $70,000 in a Stack’s Bowers Galleries Hong Kong auction.

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  1. Kirin was the old romanized spelling for today’s Jilin (吉林) province. The current spelling of Jilin is more accurate in how it’s pronounced in Mandarin Chinese (JEE-lin). In Taiwan, there are still lots of place names and signs that use the old romanized spellings, such as using “k” instead of “j” or “g”.


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