By Chris Chatigny, Numismatist & Cataloger – Stacks Bowers ……
This preview for our upcoming Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio August Hong Kong Showcase Auction features a lovely Hupeh Tael, a perennially popular issue.
The Hupeh Tael was part of a projected coinage reform based on the traditional Chinese weight standard rather than the dollar system. In the initial proposal to produce these coins it was also suggested to produce smaller denominations in the values of 5, 2 and 1 Mace. However, no such pieces have surfaced (even in pattern form) and it is unlikely they were ever made. The general population found converting two distinctly different coinage systems complicated, especially when making change. A Hupeh Tael housed in the British Museum supports this by showing evidence of cutting to make change. The British Museum specimen is essentially Mint State with a large pie shape section cut from the coin in a similar manner to the “broken dollars” pictured on page 121; figure 4.10 of Joe Cribb’s reference Money in the Bank.
This short-lived series circulated for only a brief time and was soon replaced by the unified Tai Ching Ti Kuo silver coinage. The Hupeh Tael has a mintage of 648,000 coins, which includes both large and small character types, however it is unknown exactly how many of each were struck. Despite the fairly large mintage, most likely many were melted down to be made into later coinage. It is interesting to note that the Hupeh Taels were struck in 0.877 fine silver as opposed to the 0.960 fine silver set forth by the currency regulations of 1905.
The obverse of this coin features the Chinese dragon, but this design surpasses the standard by incorporating two of the awe-inspiring beasts. Two dragons are depicted flying and striving towards a flaming pearl that is descending towards the middle of the coin’s design. The dragons appear to mirror each other, with spiraling clouds placed intermittently around them. Within the circle formed by these two flying dragons the Chinese characters denoting One Tael are found.
Manchu characters at the right and left also state the denomination of One Tael. The upper and lower English legends convey the location of Hu-peh Province and One Tael.
The reverse of the coin displays an all Chinese and Manchu legend. The upper portion states in Chinese: “Made in Hupeh Province (in the) 30th Year (of emperor) Kuang Hsu.” The lower legend reads: Kuping (weight) 1 Tael and these legends are separated by a rosette composed of seven dots. The inner inscription is surrounded by a border of dots, and dominates most of the reverse field. The center legend contains four Chinese symbols that denote: “Valuable Coin (of the) Kuang Hsu (regime).” Four Manchu characters appear within the larger Chinese characters and convey the same meaning as the central inscription.
Though our Stack’s Bowers August Hong Kong Showcase Auction is no longer open for consignments, we are now accepting consignments of world and ancient coins for our January 2017 New York International (NYINC) Auction as well as Chinese and other Asian coins and currency for our April 2017 Hong Kong Showcase Auction. If you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.
I found a 1 Tael Coin in my own collection. I have been unable to get a numeric value on the coin through internet searches. The coin appears to be in very good condition, with all of the symbols, etc., clearly legible. However, I do not place much credit toward valuations that I have seen for this coin. I would be happy to send photos of the coin to anyone who would be interested.