By Chris Chatigny – Numismatist & Cataloger, Stack’s Bowers Galleries ……
This week’s preview coin for our upcoming Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio April Hong Kong Showcase Auction is steeped in historical importance — a choice “Reversed Pattern” China Kwangtung 3 Mace 6½ Candareens. Authorization to establish the Kwangtung Mint was granted in 1887, implemented by Viceroy Chang Chi-Tung. In order to modernize the mint, minting machinery, dies, hubs, and other equipment were ordered from the Heaton Mint at Birmingham. Upon their arrival in 1888, Kwangtung became the first mint in China to use modern minting machinery.
At the time, it was the largest mint in the world.
Allan Wyon designed patterns for the first coins in the denominations of 1 Dollar, 50 Cents, 20 Cents, and 10 Cents. The first Heaton patterns were later delivered to the Chinese ambassador in London. For some reason, the initial order did not include the 5 Cent piece, struck later at the Kwangtung mint. The series is referred to by numismatists as the “Reversed Pattern,” referring to the English and Chinese legends, which are reversed from what later became standard. Initially, Kwangtung introduced the first coinage with a higher silver value, with the intention of replacing foreign coins circulating within China. The standard of 7 Mace 2 Candareens (Dollar) was raised to 7 Mace 3 Candareens in order to gain public acceptance and replace the Mexican 8 Reales.
The obverse contains four large Chinese characters, which depict “Kuang Hsu Yuan Pao” which means Valuable Coin (from the) Kuang Hsu (regime). In the exact center are found four Manchu characters which denote the same information. The upper legend states “Kwang-Tung Province” and the lower legend provides the weight, 3 Mace And 6 ½ Candareens, which also provides its value of 50 Cents when converted to the Tael system. These upper and lower legends are separated by small rosettes.
The reverse of the coin features the distinctive Imperial flying Dragon in the center, surrounded by Chinese characters. This upper legend reads: Made in Kwangtung Province. The lower portion states: Treasury scales, 3 Mace and 6 ½ Candareens (denomination/weight). This coin represents the Chinese emerging into modern minting, and is historically significant as it is the first of the modern machine struck silver coins of China. Represented here is the first use of what became the “standard design” for provincial mints, bearing the effigy of a facing dragon. This type became the standard design, not only for the Kwangtung mint, but for all mints in China that adopted the dragon design.
The piece offered for sale here is quite rare in that it is actually a circulation strike, most of which were melted down to retrieve the extra silver. Light clear almond color tone is enhanced by generous amounts of underlying luster. Upon close inspection the tone can be seen to be an amalgam of other colors. Well struck, with the reverse center Manchu characters all crisp and clear, plus full scales the entire length of the dragon.
Though our Stack’s Bowers April Hong Kong Showcase Auction is no longer open for consignments, we are now accepting consignments of world and ancient coins for our August 2016 ANA Auction as well as Chinese and other Asian coins and currency for our August 2016 Hong Kong Showcase Auction.
Time is running short, so 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.