Collecting Rare Pre-1950 Chinese Currency by Dr. Richard S. Appel – UniqueRareCoins.com ……
As I discussed in earlier articles in this series, the rise to power of the Chinese Communists in 1949 created numerous rarities among the heretofore circulating Chinese banknotes. This was due to the cancelation of the earlier currency issued by the overthrown Republic of China’s (ROC) government (1912-1949).
When Mao Zedong’s forces were finally victorious after the long, bloody, 20+ year Chinese Civil War, they no longer recognized the Republic’s money and replaced it with their own People’s Republic of China (PRC) coins and currency. This devasted the Chinese citizenry because the money they depended upon for their daily and future needs became worthless literally overnight. Wealthy individuals became paupers, and the poor became hopelessly destitute.
The realization that their futures turned bleak, after seeing their wealth and savings disappear, not only created great fear and anger among the Chinese People but also made them loathe the paper money that they had used their entire lives. It was now without value and only reminded them of their former content lives. Their response was not surprising!
People discarded, burned, and otherwise destroyed an enormous amount of their earlier valuable paper money. Why not? Chinese currency had become worth less than the paper upon which they were printed. Many once-common banknotes became scarce, while others became quite rare. There was no reason to hold onto any for they were all worthless. This was in stark comparison to the Republic’s coinage. Most coins were preserved because at least they were worth their contained metal value.
In my opinion, this sequence of events created a unique opportunity for astute collectors and investors that is just being realized. All desirable collectibles, whether they are antiques, stamps, rare coins, artwork, etc., have a few things in common. They are sought for their great beauty or rarity – better yet if they possess both! Collectors especially covet objects few others or only they can possess. For the investor, they aim to acquire properties offering great price appreciation potential. I believe the remaining banknotes issued by the Republic of China possess all these features.
The widespread collecting of Republic of China currency is relatively in its infancy. The attraction of collecting the later PRC banknotes (1948-date) has consumed many Chinese collectors. While some individuals collect both, the great majority have focused solely on the Communist banknotes. This has created a great price discrepancy between the PRC and the earlier Republic notes. Republic banknotes trade for a fraction of similarly rare or even less rare PRC notes.
Until recently, most collectors of Republic banknotes were satisfied with obtaining one of each example. The fact that some notes were printed by more than one printing factory or in different locations and displayed their markings, didn’t interest them. This is typical worldwide for collectible areas that are in their infancy.
Numerous provinces, large and small cities, as well as various entities, printed their own currency during the early years of the Republic. A banknote stamped or overprinted with a location’s name often indicated it was only recognized and accepted where it was issued. Chungking became the wartime capital of China. There and throughout China during the war with Japan, some banknotes were marked “Chungking”. This was to limit their use to areas under the control of the ROC and prevent the acceptance of Chinese currency printed by the Japanese. Japan hoped this would damage China’s economy and help them win the war.
Like U.S. coins, the importance of ROC banknotes from secondary printing factories or different places are now similarly becoming recognized for their desirability. Many of the valuable rarer place notes have long been included in the finest collections. Now, less known but rare examples are beginning to be sought. The primary problem for collectors and investors will be finding some of these rarities! It won’t matter the amount one may be willing to pay. What will matter, however, is locating certain notes due to the great infrequency with which they enter the market.
For even the most dedicated or wealthy collector, it will be IMPOSSIBLE to assemble a complete uncirculated collection. Many rare issues seldom appear above very fine condition, and banknotes from some printers or places are thought to no longer exist.
Currently, relatively common ROC notes in high grade are in enormous demand and are trading at record high prices. I believe in many cases this is overdone. However, it gives one an idea of the potential for the truly rare Republic of China banknotes which are still reasonably priced, as more people enter the market and compete for them.
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About Dr. Richard Appel
Dr. Richard S. Appel has been a numismatic expert for 50 years. He offers his personal services as a rare coin broker or rare coin consultant to both beginner and experienced consumers alike. Please visit, or contact him at his website www.uniquerarecoins.com. He can also be reached by phone at (800) 782-2646. For a modest fee he will treat every purchase or sale of your coins as if they were his own, and will negotiate the best possible prices on your behalf.