GreatCollections is currently offering collectors the opportunity to bid on one of the most popular commemorative silver dollar coins struck by Republican China. Despite having lived a full life in circulation, this handsome Kweichow (modern-day Guizhou) Auto Dollar has received a well-deserved XF 40 grade from NGC. Interested bidders should note that the hammer comes down on this lot Sunday, October 30, 2022, at 8:23:00 PM Pacific Time (11:23 PM Eastern).
At the time of publication, and with 23 days remaining, the coin has already garnered lots of attention with the highest of 35 bids standing at $9,000 USD.
Perhaps more so than any other inter-war Chinese silver dollar, this type has a particularly fascinating backstory that starts with a letter to Henry Ford.
Sun Yat-sen, known as the Father of Modern China, was adamant that his country needed to modernize rapidly if it were to have any chance of resisting encroachment from outside forces. In 1924, Sun wrote to Ford about his dream of an industrialized China. He stated that, with Ford’s help, China could build one million miles of roads, as well as create a vibrant domestic car manufacturing sector.
This is where Zhou Xicheng enters the story. Made governor of Kweichow Province in 1926, Zhou oversaw the completion of the Kweichow Provincial Highway. This roadway was intended to accomplish three main goals: keep Kweichow on par with other more developed provinces, strengthen Zhou’s political power and military capabilities, and increase his personal reputation. Around this time, Zhou imported a seven-seater American automobile for his personal use. Despite several photos of the car surviving, it is unknown what the actual model is. Regardless, as the first car in the entire province, this proved to be a point of pride for the governor.
During the Warlord Period (1916-1928), it was quite common for these types of commemorative silver dollar coins to be struck as markers of important events in the lives of provincial governors and warlords. It was quite understandable for Zhou not to want to use his own portrait as the coin’s obverse. Especially since many of his predecessors and contemporaries, who did, fell victim to their own hubris in one way or another. As such, Zhou used his car as the obverse design. In fact, this was the world’s first coin to feature a car as the main design. His name is, however, hidden in the blades of grass beneath the car. In total, 648 000 coins were struck during 1928 (Year 17 of the Republic). It is thought that Zhou used coin presses stolen from neighboring provinces since Kweichow province did not have an official mint at the time.
This particular coin, a 2 Leaves type, is the most common variety. Free of any distracting marks, this problem-free coin boasts a subtle gray toning that hides fully original surfaces. With only 72 examples graded higher, this coin is a solid example of the type. In recent years, examples in this condition (XF 40) have sold at auction for an average of $20,000. But in May 2022, a slightly nicer example sold for $72,000!
The obverse design of the Kweichow Auto Dollar uses the traditional Chinese Silver Dollar framework: a central motif within an inner circle that is then ringed by a written legend. The obverse design, struck in 1928, features Governor Zhou’s car driving towards the left with a stylized field of grass in the foreground. The Governor’s name is hidden in this grass. The Chinese legend reads “Made by the Kweichow Government” above and the denomination “Seven Mace and Two Candareens”. This was also equal to 1 yuan. These two inscriptions were separated by two rosettes.
On the reverse, the design is centered on a stylized poppy flower. Around the flower are three separate legends: “Kweichow Silver Coin”, “Seventeenth Year of the Republic of China (1928)”, and “One Yuan”.
Bidding ends on Sunday, October 30, 2022, 8:23 PM Pacific Time.
* * *
To search through GreatCollection’s archive of over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past eight years, please visit the GreatCollections Auction Archives.