The coins were the first to be evaluated by the newly established NGC Advanced Chinese Authentication Bureau (ACAB), led by noted expert Chen Gi Mao
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®) announced on March 9 that it certified one of just three known complete sets of 1897 Szechuan pattern coins struck by the Ferracute Machine Company of Bridgeton, New Jersey. An image gallery of this extremely rare set has now been posted at NGCcoin.com/Ferracute.
History Behind the Coins
These pattern coins were struck in 1897 after Ferracute was selected to provide coining presses and other equipment for the new Chinese mint in Szechuan Province. Ferracute was awarded the contract through the American Trading Company, a New York-based importer/exporter with a presence in several Chinese cities. Ferracute beat out a European firm for the contract. The NGC-certified 1897 Szechuan Ferracute pattern set is pedigreed to the American Trading Company, which had displayed the coins in an attractive wooden case for many years.
Founded by inventor Oberlin Smith, Ferracute had previously provided presses for the US Mint at Philadelphia. The Imperial Government of China wanted to engage a single company to handle everything necessary to establish a new mint. Ferracute would build the equipment, deliver it and install it.
On March 24, 1897, Ferracute demonstrated the presses it built for China to US Mint officials and other dignitaries. A small number of patterns were struck in silver with more struck in brass. A photograph from the event shows visitors in formal attire inspecting the coins. Among the people present was US Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber, who engraved the dies for these patterns, using a Kwangtung dollar as a model. The day after the demonstration, the equipment was packed and shipped to China.
Nine months later, Ferracute employee Henry Janvier and his friend, Sidney Bowen, left for China from New Jersey. They took a number of fascinating photographs along their journey. Many of these photographs were exhibited several years ago and can be viewed online at oberlinsmith.org.
After a cross-country train trip and a harrowing voyage across the Pacific, Janvier and Bowen arrived in Yokohama, Japan, just south of Tokyo. Bowen returned to the US while Janvier continued on to Shanghai, where he met Henry Everall of the American Trading Company. They traveled together to Chengdu in Szechuan Province, where the new mint was located.
The mint equipment had already arrived but was left in an area that had flooded. The presses and dies were rusted, but a long effort was made to restore them. On July 12, 1898, Janvier wrote in a letter home that the Chengdu Mint was now operational. A representative of the Chinese government accepted the sample coins minted by Janvier with the rusted dies. New dies were later created but the lettering was imperfect, unlike the lettering on the original dies made by Barber.
This extraordinary story is represented by the 10 coins in the 1897 Szechuan Ferracute pattern set. Considered to be among the most important vintage Chinese coins, these pieces also have a significant connection to American numismatics.
ACAB & NCS
The 1897 Szechuan Ferracute patterns were the first coins evaluated by the newly established NGC Advanced Chinese Authentication Bureau (ACAB), led by noted expert Chen Gi Mao.
China (1897) Silver Dollar Szechuan L&M-345 Ferracute Pattern with the NGC ACAB Red Dragon Label. NGC SP 65. Images courtesy NGC
After more than 100 years of being glued inside a wooden case the coins required expert conservation before they could be graded. Numismatic Conservation Services (NCS), an independent affiliate of NGC, expertly removed the glue residue and fibers. The coins were then evaluated by the NGC ACAB, graded by NGC and encapsulated in NGC’s secure, protective holder with the distinctive NGC ACAB Red Dragon label.
The coins were graded by NGC as follows:
- Silver 7 Mace and 2 Candareens (Dollar): NGC SP 65
- Silver 3 Mace and 6 Candareens (50 Cents): NGC SP 63
- Silver 1 Mace and 4.4 Candareens (20 Cents): NGC SP 65
- Silver 7.2 Candareens (10 Cents): NGC SP 65
- Silver 3.6 Candareens (5 Cents): NGC SP 65
- Brass 7 Mace and 2 Candareens (Dollar): NGC SP 63
- Brass 3 Mace and 6 Candareens (50 Cents): NGC SP 64
- Brass 1 Mace and 4.4 Candareens (20 Cents): NGC SP 66
- Brass 7.2 Candareens (10 Cents): NGC SP 65
- Brass 3.6 Candareens (5 Cents): NGC SP 64
All of the coins represent the finest graded example of each type with the sole exception of the brass 7 Mace and 2 Candareens (Dollar), which is bested by an SP 63+ representative. In fact, no other silver examples have been graded.
This phenomenal set will be displayed at the NGC booth at the American Numismatic Association (ANA) World’s Fair of Money in Denver, Colorado, from August 1-5, 2017.
For more information about the NGC ACAB, visit NGCcoin.com/ACAB.