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Macau Exhibit of 1897 Otto Beh Coin Dies


Unveiling a Centennial Mystery of Chinese Pattern Coins

This portfolio of 42 dies and 36 letter punches used by the Otto Beh Company of Esslingen, Germany to produce coins for China in 1897-98 is an important document of Chinese numismatic history and of the close economic ties between Germany and China at the end of the 19th century.

Before 2012, where extremely rare pattern coins from the five provinces (Heilungkiang, Chekiang, Anhwei, Feng-Tien and Sinkiang) were struck was a numismatic mystery. This portfolio of 42 dies and 36 letter punches, which was auctioned in June 2012, has unveiled this perennial mystery of Chinese pattern coins and is an important discovery in Chinese numismatic history.

Closely linked with the Otto Beh Company (established in 1884) was the firm of Louis Schuler (established in 1839) from neighbouring Göppingen. Today the world’s leading producer of coining machines, in the 19th century Schuler specialized in manufacturing sheet metal working machines – and presses in particular.


Schuler obtained the order to supply coin presses in 1895 – in all probability at the Leipzig Trade Fair. This order was probably an achievement of mutual agreement by the Qing imperial court envoy Li Hung-chang and Otto Bismarck, the former chancellor of Germany. The Otto Beh company archive retains the original order.

Schuler, in turn, commissioned Otto Beh, who specialized in the production of seals and dies, with manufacturing the coining dies. Otto Beh supplied Schuler with over 200 dies for Chinese coins in 1897 and 1898. At the time this was by far the largest order for Otto Beh.

The company celebrated its 125 year anniversary in 2009. To mark this occasion, numismatist Gerhard E. Kümmel from Esslingen drafted a history of the company with a catalogue of the medals, badges and pins brought out by Beh (Gerhard E. Kümmel; 125 Jahre Gravier-und Prägeanstalt Otto Beh, Esslingen, Medaillen-Plaketten-Anstecknadeln, Esslingen 2011), with Heilungkiang, Chekiang, Anhwei, Feng-Tien and Sinkiang coin dies included. Unfortunately, the catalog gained little attention from Chinese numismatists due to its limited print size.

The 42 coin dies and 36 letter punches were offered for sale at Künker Auction No. 211, June 18-19, 2012 as lot 2528, but they were withdrawn from sale because of its particular historical importance and so they could be donated to a museum to be studied by numismatic specialists.

The dies were purchased by Michael Chou of Champion Auction. According to the terms of the purchase agreement, the dies will be donated to a museum without compensation and Michael Chou has the final decision on which museum shall be the recipient of the dies.

In June 2014, Michael Chou and independent observer J.C. Lee travelled to Germany and evaluated possible candidates for a permanent home for the dies. In March 2015 Moritzburg Halle (Saale) – Museum of Art of the State of Saxony-Anhalt was selected as the final home for the Otto Beh dies.

After the Macau special exhibit on December 3-6, 2015, the dies and letter punches will be displayed at the Berlin World Money Fair on February 5-6, 2016, and transferred from Michael Chou to the Museum on February 6, after which they will enter the museum for permanent display.

brass_probeFive rare Chinese prototype coins displayed are listed as follows:

  • 1897 Sinkiang (Sungarai) 1 Mace Brass Pattern, NGC SP-63, only 2-3 examples known to exist
  • 1897 Feng-Tien Province One Dollar Brass Pattern, NGC SP-62, unique
  • 1897 Heilungkiang Province 20 Cents Brass Pattern, NGC SP-62, only 2 examples known to exist
  • 1897 Heilungkiang Province 10 Cents Brass Pattern, NGC SP-64, unique
  • 1897 Hunan Province 10 Cash Copper Pattern, NGC PF64, unique

The Otto Beh Company sold its nine trial specimens through Künker Auctions during 2012-2015. Besides the above-mentioned five rare Chinese patterns, the other four rare patterns are 1897 Anhwei One Dollar Silver-plated Brass Pattern, only 2-3 examples known to exist; 2 1897 Feng-Tien Province 20 Cents Brass Pattern, only 3-4 examples known to exist; 1897 Heilungkiang Province 20 Cents Brass Pattern, only 2 examples known to exist.

42 coin dies: Anhwei Province 4 dies; Chekiang Province 12 dies; Feng-Tien Province 9 dies; Heilungkiang Province 1 die; Sinkiang Province 4 dies; no province 12 dies; 36 letter punches

Coinweek is the top independent online media source for rare coin and currency news, with analysis and information contributed by leading experts across the numismatic spectrum.

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  1. I have a 6 mace and 3 Candareen coin that I have determined is made of Sterling silver using a jewelry scale and the Tare function and it says “Teng-Tien Province on it. Could I get a higher resolution photo of the 3 mace and 6 Candareen die that is in your image posted on this article? From what I can see in your blurry image my coin seem to match it exactly except it is a mirror image as it should be. The person I purchased the coin from has a good reputation and is not known for selling fake coins. In my opinion the coin seems to be in at least AU condition but is probably about an MS62 and does not look to have been cleaned.


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