Featured in the August 25 Platinum Night session of the Heritage Auctions Chicago World and Ancient Coins Signature Auction is an amazing Meiji gold Pattern 10 Yen Year 3 (1870), graded MS66 by NGC and arguably one of the finest representatives within the entire Japanese series.
Indescribable in just a few words, this coin represents the epitome of both conditional and absolute rarity. Pattern coins produced during the Meiji era remain a notoriously difficult section of the Japanese numismatic market, with so few ever reaching the market, especially in as advanced a state of preservation as seen here.
For hundreds of years prior to the Meiji era, during a tumultuous time of shogunate rule, commerce had been conducted using various cast and hammered coinage, with cash pieces inspired by the circulating Chinese issues of the day. Similar to their western counterparts, minting in this fashion had numerous drawbacks as economies grew and evolved, including inconsistency of quality and volume of production to keep up with increasing demand.
The 19th century brought about substantial foreign influence in Japanese politics, leading to the Meiji Restoration in 1868. This period of “Enlightened Rule” marked the beginning of industrialization for the nation, radically changing economic conditions and accommodated by the establishment of a gold standard based on the Yen. This required the modernization of minting capabilities, and thus a central minting facility in Osaka was established. Presses purchased from the British colonial Hong Kong mint, which shuttered after just two years from both poor economic performance and negative local reception of its coinage, would produce a series of Patterns and circulation issues shortly thereafter, including the present example.
This Premium Gem endures as the finest Pattern representative of Osaka origin from not only this denomination, but across all gold denominations. While a full set of Year 3 Pattern issues, struck by Leonard Charles Wyon at the Royal Mint and offered in April of 2021 as part of the Pinnacle Collection, included a technically finer representative of the denomination, it is of a completely different reverse design than what would ultimately be adopted, as seen here.
This issue is distinguished by a 32mm planchet that was initially intended for circulation, later being reduced to 29.42mm and increased in thickness. Dressed in a wholly appreciable visual character, the honeyed golden expanses shimmer with gentle reflectivity, a clear indication of the care and attention given to the piece’s production and preservation. Crisp, unhandled devices persist, notably devoid of anything remotely considered distracting, proving its advanced and unfathomable MS66 grade fully deserved.
Heritage has had the pleasure of offering now three of the five examples currently certified between NGC and PCGS, this ranked at the peak of the condition census, besting the Norman Jacobs specimen we offering in 2011 by two full grade-points and the Pinnacle example offered by Stack’s by five points. The opportunity presented here is singular; to own one of the most coveted Patterns in the entirety of the Japanese series comes around once in a generation, and as such we wait with anticipation where the hammer may fall.