By Jay Turner for PCGS ……
With vintage Chinese coins, I have come to see unimaginably fantastic forgeries and alterations. Yet one alteration goes above and beyond.
In a submission from the PCGS Asia office in Hong Kong, a coin was submitted as a Chinese Manchuria Year 33 (1907) Dollar, yet the entire coin had been altered from a much more common China Chihli Province Dollar.
The dollar coinage from the China Manchurian Province is much scarcer than those coins from the Chihli Province and hence are much more expensive. With the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, most of the dollar coins were seized and melted for their silver content, making survivors rare today. As such, many counterfeits have been produced and sold into the marketplace as real coins. Yet, altering a coin to make it into a Manchurian Province piece isn’t as common.
Alterations require a skilled hand and the ability to do metal work. For this piece, the amount of work done for alteration is outstanding. First, the year was changed from “34th” to “33rd,” then the bottom legend “PEI YANG” was removed and changed to “MANCHURIAN PROVINCES.” Finally, the period after “HSU” was removed and the metal smoothed to make it appear to be more even. For the character side, the top three characters “造洋北” or “Made at Pei Yang” were removed and four characters added “造省三東” to say “Made in the Three East Provinces.” While this tremendous amount of work was done to deceive, the host coin used was a variety of Chihli Dollar from Year 34 in which the dragon’s tail was abraded short, a common variety known as “Short Spine” it even has its own variety designation in most catalogs being unique to this province and date.
In my numismatic career, I have seen a few alterations on Chinese dollars to attempt to convert them into Manchurian Province Dollars. On one such example, the alteration was done completely on the Chinese character side, neglecting or forgetting the English lettering on the back. Yet, this alteration is the most alteration work I have seen submitted to a grading service to convert the coin to a different province.
Currently, a Repaired problem-issue Manchurian Dollar can bring over $4,000 USD at auction in a graded holder. A problem Details-graded Chihli Short Tail variety can bring $600 at auction.
For those who collect, invest, and trade in Chinese coinage, the pitfalls are great and abundant. Not every alteration is this extreme and noticeable. Even experts in Chinese coinage can be deceived and fail. That is why it is important that if you want to collect Chinese coins you have a guaranteed product from a service that has experts on staff who can catch these issues.
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