On November 18, 1975, the Ministry of Finance in China submitted to the State Council a report on the design and production of a new edition of the renminbi (the Chinese circulating currency). Since 1955, the coinage designs had remained the same for the circulating fen coinage. However, several proposed design changes were offered, and a few pattern issues were struck featuring these unadopted designs.
The proposal for the coinage design change, had it been adopted, would have been the second series of renminbi, following the first issues of fen coins starting in 1955. However, these patterns were never adopted, making the second series of renminbi start in 1980 with the issuance of jiao and yuan coinage. The third series features the redesign of the peony design for some of the coinage beginning in 1991, and the fourth series, as with the yuan, features the chrysanthemum as of 2000.
But the proposed coins featured two different design concepts. The first concept was “Industry and Agriculture” – also known as the “Crop” series patterns. The fen, the 2 fen, and the 5 fen would feature three different designs, replacing the single uniform design shared by the then-current circulating coins. The fen features soybeans and a dam; the 2 fen showcases cotton and a factory; and the 5 fen depicts wheat and a tractor. Two different concepts of these patterns were produced, one featuring the same obverse as the normal circulating coinage (the common national emblem), and another featuring Tiananmen Gatetower above a wreath made from wheat ears and a gear. The date placement on the Tiananmen Gatetower changed from the obverse to the reverse, creating two different designs for each denomination.
Another concept was for the coinage to feature the people of the People’s Republic of China. For this series, the fen features a young member of the Red Guard watering a plant; the 2 fen shows a female member of the People’s Commune harvesting wheat, and the 5 fen reveals a steel worker.
Again, two different concepts for these issues were struck with the national emblem obverse with the date on the reverse and with the Tiananmen Gatetower obverse with the date on the obverse.
None of these concept patterns were adopted for circulation, and the few coins struck as patterns today are very rare and highly desirable. In the Chengxuan Autumn Auction in 2020, two sets of the Industry and Agriculture coins were offered for auction, a total of six coins – all graded by PCGS. The total sales price was 2,242,500 RMB, or about $335,000 USD. The last sale for the People’s Republic of China set was in 2016, which also featured all six coins certified by PCGS and sold by Chengxuan’s Spring Auction; it crossed the block for 2,530,000 RMB or about $378,000 USD.
These patterns are special relics of a special historical period for China. Besides their intrinsic value, as cultural and historical artifacts they are worth so much more.
* * *