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Coins of China

The earliest Chinese proto-coins, as early as 770 - 476 B.C., were imitations of the cowrie shells used in ceremonial exchanges. The first metal coins, also introduced in this period, were not initially round; instead, they were knife shaped or spade shaped. Round metal coins with a round hole, and then later a square hole, in the center were first introduced around 350 B.C. The beginning of the Qin Dynasty (221 - 206 B.C.), the first dynasty to unify China, standardized coinage for the whole Empire. At first, coinage was limited to use around the capital city district but by the beginning of the Han Dynasty, coins were widely used for paying taxes, salaries, and fines. Ancient Chinese coins are markedly different from coins produced in the west. Chinese coins were cast in molds, unlike western coins which were typically struck (hammered) or, in later times, milled. Chinese coins were usually made from bronze, brass, or iron. Precious metals like gold and silver were uncommonly used. The alloys of the coin metals varied considerably. Most Chinese coins were produced with a square hole in the middle. At the mint coins were threaded on a square rod so that the rough edges could be filed smooth on a lathe, after which they were threaded on strings for ease of handling. Official coin production was sometimes spread over many mint locations throughout the country. Aside from officially produced coins, private coining was common during many stages of Chinese history. At times private coining was tolerated, sometimes it was illegal. Some coins were produced in very large numbers. During the Western Han, an average of 220 million coins a year were produced. Some other types were of limited circulation and are extremely rare today.


China, Northern Wei Dynasty, Emperor Xiao Zhuang (and Later?), Autumn 529 - c. 543 A.D.

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Xiaozhuang was emperor of China of the Northern Wei (528 - 531). He was placed on the throne by General Erzhu Rong, who refused to recognize the young emperor, Yuan Zhao, who Empress Dowager Hu had placed on the throne after she poisoned her son Emperor Xiaoming. During Xiaozhuang's reign, General Erzhu largely controlled the military. In 530, Xiaozhuang, jealous and believing that General Erzhu might usurp the throne, had him ambushed and killed in the palace. Not long after, Erzhu Rong's cousin Erzhu Shilong and nephew Erzhu Zhao captured and killed Xiaozhuang.
CH19987. Bronze 5 zhu, Hartill 13.23, Schjoth 239, Fisher 608, EF, beautiful natural azurite patina, weight 2.092 g, maximum diameter 23.2 mm, 529 - 543 A.D.; obverse Yong An Wu Zhu (Yong An [period], five zhu); reverse plain; $90.00 (€76.50)
 


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Shen Zong, 1067 - 1085 A.D.

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A diamond punch is a hole that has been punched offset to produce a diamond shape hole relative to the orientation of the coin.
CH87007. Bronze 2 cash, Gorny 2016 26b.36 D, Hartill 16.198, aVF, diamond punch variety, light encrustations, weight 8.424 g, maximum diameter 32.2 mm, 1068 - 1078 A.D.; obverse Xi Ning zhong bao, Lishu (clerical script), clockwise, squat boxy wide characters, no left hand stroke on Xi, short compact Ni, short boxy bao; reverse plain; $28.00 (€23.80)
 


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Zhe Zong, 1086 - 1100 A.D.

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Semi-cursive script is a partially cursive style of Chinese calligraphy. Also referred to in English both as running script and by its Mandarin Chinese name, xíngshu, it is derived from clerical script, and was for a long time after its development in the first centuries A.D. the usual style of handwriting.
CH86020. Bronze 2 cash, Hartill 16.349, Schjoth 605, Fisher 1009, VF, earthen deposits, weight 7.588 g, maximum diameter 31.18 mm, 1098 - 1100 A.D.; obverse Yuan Fu tong bao, running script, clockwise; reverse plain; $26.00 (€22.10)
 


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Zhe Zong, 1086 - 1100 A.D.

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Semi-cursive script is a partially cursive style of Chinese calligraphy. Also referred to in English both as running script and by its Mandarin Chinese name, xíngshu, it is derived from clerical script, and was for a long time after its development in the first centuries A.D. the usual style of handwriting.
CH86022. Bronze 2 cash, Hartill 16.349, Schjoth 605, Fisher 1009, VF, earthen deposits, weight 8.326 g, maximum diameter 31.6 mm, 1098 - 1100 A.D.; obverse Yuan Fu tong bao, running script, clockwise; reverse plain; $26.00 (€22.10)
 


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Hui Zong, 1101 - 1126 A.D.

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Huizong, one of the most famous Song Dynasty emperors, spent most of his life surrounded by luxury, sophistication, and art, but ended in tragedy. An artist, Huizong neglected the army, and Song China became increasingly weak. On Jan 18, 1126, after the forces of the Jin had crossed the Yellow River and came in sight of the Song capital, Kaifeng, Huizong abdicated in favor of his son Emperor Qinzong. The Jin entered Kaifeng on Jan 9, 1127, and many days of looting, rapes, and massacre followed. Huizong and Qinzong were captured and demoted to commoner. Huizong was deported to northern Manchuria, where he spent the last eight years of his life as a captive.
CH86063. Bronze 2 cash, Hartill 16.449, Schjoth 640, Fisher 1079, VF, weight 6.871 g, maximum diameter 23.2 mm, 1111 - 1117 A.D.; obverse Zheng He tong bao, li script, round bao; reverse plain; $25.00 (€21.25)
 


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Hui Zong, 1101 - 1126 A.D.

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Huizong, one of the most famous Song Dynasty emperors, spent most of his life surrounded by luxury, sophistication, and art, but ended in tragedy. An artist, Huizong neglected the army, and Song China became increasingly weak. On Jan 18, 1126, after the forces of the Jin had crossed the Yellow River and came in sight of the Song capital, Kaifeng, Huizong abdicated in favor of his son Emperor Qinzong. The Jin entered Kaifeng on Jan 9, 1127, and many days of looting, rapes, and massacre followed. Huizong and Qinzong were captured and demoted to commoner. Huizong was deported to northern Manchuria, where he spent the last eight years of his life as a captive.
CH86064. Bronze 2 cash, Hartill 16.449, Schjoth 640, Fisher 1079, VF, weight 7.187 g, maximum diameter 29.9 mm, 1111 - 1117 A.D.; obverse Zheng He tong bao, li script, round bao; reverse plain; $25.00 (€21.25)
 


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Hui Zong, 1101 - 1126 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Huizong, one of the most famous Song Dynasty emperors, spent most of his life surrounded by luxury, sophistication, and art, but ended in tragedy. An artist, Huizong neglected the army, and Song China became increasingly weak. On Jan 18, 1126, after the forces of the Jin had crossed the Yellow River and came in sight of the Song capital, Kaifeng, Huizong abdicated in favor of his son Emperor Qinzong. The Jin entered Kaifeng on Jan 9, 1127, and many days of looting, rapes, and massacre followed. Huizong and Qinzong were captured and demoted to commoner. Huizong was deported to northern Manchuria, where he spent the last eight years of his life as a captive.
CH86065. Bronze 2 cash, Hartill 16.449, Schjoth 640, Fisher 1079, VF, weight 8.549 g, maximum diameter 29.2 mm, 1111 - 1117 A.D.; obverse Zheng He tong bao, li script, round bao; reverse plain; $25.00 (€21.25)
 


China, Southern Song Dynasty, Emperor Gao Zong, 1127 - 1162 A.D.

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The reign title Jian Yan was changed in 1131 because of severe fires in the capital city. The character "yan" contains two "fire" elements -- thought to be unlucky in this case.
CH86073. Bronze 2 cash, Hartill 17.26, Schjoth 676, Fisher 1148, VF, earthen deposits, weight 5.710 g, maximum diameter 28.2 mm, 1127 - 1130; obverse Jian Yan tong bao, regular script, long characters; reverse plain; scarce; $25.00 (€21.25)
 


China, Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Zhe Zong, 1086 - 1100 A.D.

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Seal script, Zhuan Shu in Mandrin Chinese, is a formal style of Chinese calligraphy, closest to the archaic form of the charicters.
CH86067. Bronze 2 cash, Hartill 16.270, Schjoth 575, Fisher 983, VF, weight 7.055 g, maximum diameter 29.7 mm, 1086 - 1093 A.D.; obverse Yuan Yu tong bao, seal script, clockwise, round bao; reverse plain; $24.00 (€20.40)
 


China, Southern Song Dynasty, Emperor Gao Zong, 1127 - 1162 A.D.

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The reign title Jian Yan was changed in 1131 because of severe fires in the capital city. The character "yan" contains two "fire" elements -- thought to be unlucky in this case.
CH86070. Bronze 2 cash, Hartill 17.26, Schjoth 676, Fisher 1148, VF, weight 6.923 g, maximum diameter 28.8 mm, 1127 - 1130; obverse Jian Yan tong bao, regular script, long characters; reverse plain; scarce; $24.00 (€20.40)
 




  



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REFERENCES

Calgary Coin Gallery. "Chinese Cast Coins Reference and Price Guide" - http://www.calgarycoin.com/reference/china/china.htm.
Coole, A., et al. An Encyclopedia of Chinese Coins. (1967 - 1976).
Fisher, G. Fisher's Ding. (1990).
Gorny, N. Northern Song Dynasty Cash Variety Guide 2016. (Morrisville, NC, 2016).
Gorny, N. Northern Song Dynasty Cash Variety Guide, Volume 1: Fugo Senshi. (Portland, 2001).
Hartill, D. Cast Chinese Coins. (Victoria, BC, 2005).
Hartill, D. Qing Cash. RNS Special Publication 37. (London, 2003).
Jorgensen, H. Old Coins of China. (1944).
Kann, E. Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Coins. (Hong Kong, 1954).
Krause, C. & C. Mishler. Standard Catalog of World Coins. (Iola, WI, 2010 - ).
Mitchiner, M. Ancient Trade and Early Coinage. (London, 2004).
Mitchiner, M. Oriental Coins and Their Values, Vol. 2: the Ancient and Classical World. (London, 1978).
Mitchiner, M. Oriental Coins and Their Values, Vol. 3: Non-Islamic States & Western Colonies. (London, 1979).
Novak, J. A Working Aid for Collectors of Annamese Coins. (Merced, CA, 1989).
Peng, X. A Monetary History of China (Zhongguo Huobo Shi). Trans. Edward H Kaplan. (Bellingham, WA, 1994).
Schjoth, F. Chinese Currency. (Oslo, 1929).
Scott Semans World Coins, The Daniel K.E. Ching Sale, Seattle, 2 June 1991.
Thierry, F. Monnaies chinoises. I L'Antiquité préimpériale. (Paris, 1997).
Thierry, F. Monnaies chinoises. II Des Qin aux Cinq Dynasties. (Paris, 2003).
Tye, R. Wang Mang. (South Uist, UK, 1993).
Von Glahn, R. Fountain of Fortune: Money and Monetary Policy in China, 1000-1700. (Berkley, 1996).
Yuanjie, Z., ed. Xinjiang Numismatics. (Hong Kong, 1991).
Yuquan, W. Early Chinese Coinage. (New York, 1951).

Catalog current as of Thursday, June 21, 2018.
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