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Historical Background 1929 was the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the Republic of China, with the announcement on December 29th...March 19, 2015
Series Overview The “Possessing a Piece of the Homeland” (from now on referred to as the “Homeland”) set was a one-off commemorative set struck...March 13, 2015
The Tael as a Unit of Measurement in China Before the standardisation of the tael to 50 g by the People’s Republic of China...March 6, 2015
The Dragon and Phoenix in Chinese Culture Culturally for the Chinese, the dragon and phoenix depicted together symbolise balance, and are the animal embodiment...March 1, 2015
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Chinese coins have been released in four precious metals since their first introduction to the world in 1979. The gold, silver, platinum and palladium coins each have the year of issue on the obverse face of the coin as well as images from Chinese culture, history, famous works of art and much more. We sell coins to investors, collectors, coin-dealers, speculators and they are frequently given as gifts to commemorate special occasions such as wedding anniversaries, holidays and birthdays and in corporate settings.
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1928 (Year 17) Auto Dollar
L&M-609; K-757; Y-428
Guizhou Province in southern China is a rocky, mountainous and rugged region, and even with today’s technology and modern infrastructure, getting around can still be fairly challenging! Rewind the clock back to the 1920s during the Warlords Period in the history of the Republic of China, and the transportation problem in Guizhou becomes a nightmare. Beijing had lost effective control of many peripheral provinces which were ruled by a number of rival warlords and factions. Between 1927 and 1929 Guizhou, formerly known as Kweichow, was ruled by a certain warlord by the name of Zhou Xicheng, who in his spare time was a bit of an automobile fanatic. He reportedly had his car (which appears in the image to be a Packard touring car) imported from the USA, taken to pieces, and then carried on foot through this rugged terrain to be reassembled. At this stage this was the only car in the province – a province that had no roads.
This was not a problem for Zhou Xicheng, who ordered the construction of the Guizhou’s first road capable of taking a car. An embellished version of the story to highlight the waste and corruption of a warlord’s rule has it that the road had no actual destination, and was merely a way for Zhou Xicheng to enjoy his favourite pastime – and probably the scenery. However, having said that, Zhou Xicheng has been remembered by history for investing heavily in education and infrastructure, so may not have been as exploitative as the story would at first indicate.
In order to celebrate the monumental achievement of the construction of the first highway in the province, Zhou Xicheng understandably wanted to have a commemorative coin struck. The legend goes that he naturally wanted to have his image on the coin, as well as the car – a symbol representative of such an achievement. His advisors, apparently a rather superstitious group, warned him that if he had a coin struck with his head on it he would die early. After agonising over this at length, Zhou Xicheng finally conceded and his image was not included on the coin. The image of the iconic car, however, was to remain.
The story continues, that on the first celebratory drive on his new highway, Zhou Xicheng left his armed escort behind and sped ahead in his car, only to be ambushed by the forces of a rival warlord, who gunned him down at the side of the road as he fled his car, in a mafia-style killing.
Specifications and Curious Features
The 1928 (year 17) Auto Dollar is a round silver coin measuring 39 mm in diameter and weighing 25.8 g. It is the first coin in history to feature a car.
The obverse face features a central block of four characters: “貴州銀幣” (Guizhou silver coin), with the inscription above: “年七十國民華中”, which when read right to left translates as Republic of China Year 17. Below is denomination: “圓壹” (right to left: One Yuan). In the very centre of the coin is a floral design, also often seen on coins struck in the neighbouring province of Sichuan.
648,000 pieces of the 1928 Auto Dollar were struck, although where exactly is somewhat of a mystery as there was no mint in Guizhou until 1939. Due to the inclusion of the central floral design on the obverse face, it is likely that the coins were minted either in the adjacent province of Sichuan, in Chengdu, or using stolen equipment from nearby Chongqing – also then part of Sichuan. This would account for the appearance of the same flower on the 1928 Auto Dollar, as well as on many coins struck in Sichuan.
Struck around the edge of the reverse face is the inscriptions: “造府政省州贵 ” (right to left: struck by the Guizhou provincial government), and “分二錢七” (right to left: 7 mace and 2 candereens). The centre of the reverse features Zhou Xicheng’s car above a grassy motif. Curiously, if the coin is rotated through 90 degrees clockwise, so that that front of the car is facing up, the so-called ‘mark of Xicheng’ can be seen in the blades of grass beneath the car. This mark is the name of Zhou Xicheng in characters and was his way of personalising the coin, while avoiding having his image directly on it – which according to his advisors would have resulted in his early death. It does, however, require quite a bit of wilful imagination and squinting to see the rather stylised characters.
Value and Rarity
This is a rather rare coin variety – mainly due to its short production run – and pieces of this type in good condition are particularly hard to come by. The 1928 Auto Dollar is a very collectible coin today – indeed, it became a collector’s item almost as soon as it had been struck. The intrigue and mystery of the legend surrounding both the coin and its creator no doubt contribute to the enduring popularity of this piece.
A grade of AU58 is considered very good for this coin type, and one such piece graded by the PCGS is a featured lot in the Stack’s Bowers April 2015 Hong Kong auction. It has an estimate of $45,000 – $60,000 USD. Similarly, a coin with an identical grade sold at a Heritage auction in April 2011 for $74,750 USD, including the buyer’s premium of 15%. So it can be seen that these pieces have great potential at auction, especially in good condition.
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1923 Dragon and Phoenix Dollar
Creating a National Emblem
With the collapse and ousting of the Qing dynasty in 1912, China was in a state of political upheaval. Dynastic China had come to an end, and the newly founded Republic of China was looking to establish itself as the new governing body. In this restructuring and establishment of the new state, as is very common, new coinage was to be struck. However, the dragon – a common sight on imperial currency – was now no longer acceptable as a symbol on Chinese currency due to its imperial connotations, and with dynastic China out of favour in the eyes of the majority of Chinese people at the time, a new emblem was deemed necessary.
The famous writer and political activist Lu Xun, along with Qian Daosun and Xu Shoushang – all three of them holding positions in the Ministry of Education – were assigned the duty of creating a new national emblem. They presented their new emblem, the Twelve Symbols, to the government in August 1912. The proposal was accepted and adopted by the Republic of China in February 1913, although the new emblem was not widely publicised. The Twelve Symbols served as the national emblem of China from 1913 – 1928, when a single-party state was adopted following the takeover by the Guomindang, or KMT, who adopted the Blue Sky with a White Sun flag as the national emblem.
Some coins that were struck in the 1913 – 1928 period feature the Twelve Symbols national emblem on their obverse, notably in 1923, 1926, and 1927. The symbols, based on the auspicious and ancient Twelve Ornaments, were first mentioned several thousand years ago around 2200 BCE. The Twelve Symbols combines these twelve totems of ancient China with western heraldic tradition. The symbols are as follows: the sun, moon, stars, mountain, dragon, phoenix, grail, seaweed, fire, rice, axe, and the fu symbol.
1923 Dragon and Phoenix Dollar
One such pattern was struck in both gold and silver: the 1923 (year 12) Dragon and Phoenix Dollar. Actually a trial strike pattern that was subsequently abandoned, it was initially thought that these coins were struck as presentation pieces to commemorate the wedding of Pu Yi (also known as the Xuantong Emperor, the last emperor of China), which took place on 30th November 1922, 10 years after his abdication. However, evidence has suggested this to be incorrect, and these coins were in fact trial strikes for a new currency system.
The need for a new currency came about at the end of Yuan Shikai’s rule, who had attempted to reestablish himself as Emperor of China – a position which he held for a mere 83 days. It was now necessary to replace the Yuan Shikai Dollar (the “Fat Man Dollar”), which had been in common circulation but had now fallen out of favour due to its connection with Yuan Shikai and his attempt at recreating imperial China. In 1923 the government ordered the striking of dollars at the Tianjin Mint featuring the Twelve Symbols emblem on their obverse. However, as the original mintage plan required the coins to be struck at one central mint, the potential profit loss for provincial mints was too great, and they resisted intensely. It was also pointed out at the time that the Twelve Symbols still had imperial connotations, and the pattern was abandoned as it was deemed too impractical and inappropriate to implement.
Another national emblem created at this tumultuous time in Chinese political history was the Wreath of Grain, introduced by President Sun Yat-Sen in 1912 and was symbolic of a good harvest. This wreath is seen on many coins of the Chinese Republic, including the 1923 Dragon and Phoenix Dollar, up until 1933 when the Junk Dollar was introduced. Incidentally, a similar wreath, inspired by this initial Wreath of Grain, is featured on many coins of the PRC today.
The obverse of the 1923 Dragon and Phoenix Dollar, as stated above, features the national emblem of the Twelve Symbols, as well as the inscription in Chinese characters, reading right to left: “中華民國十二年造” (Created in the 12th Year of the Republic of China). The reverse face features the Wreath of Grain, inside which are the denomination in Chinese characters: “壹圓” (One Dollar).
These coins, being trial strikes and not entering common circulation, are extremely rare and very valuable pieces. Very few were struck, and consequently prices seen at auction for pieces in good condition are incredibly high. For example, a gold pattern strike of the 1923 Dragon and Phoenix Dollar graded NGC MS63 sold at auction in August 2014 for $111,625. A silver pattern version in similar condition, graded at PCGS MS62, sold in January 2013 for $18,800 (both prices include the buyer’s premium of 17.5%). The value potential of these Dragon and Phoenix Dollars as a long-term investment is also very great: in 2007 an NGC MS62 silver piece sold for $4,025 at auction; the same pattern in the same condition sold in 2010 for $8,050, representing a doubling of value every three years – not an insignificant return on a numismatic investment!
About Modern Chinese Coins
Modern Chinese Coins refer to the precious metal Chinese coins of the China Mint that have been issued since 1979. Chinese Panda Coins are the flagship series and continue to make an excellent choice for gold and silver buyers.
This is attributable to the charm of the panda and how the China Mint artisans don’t sit still, the coins change their depictions annually (unlike alternative coins such as the American Eagles and Canadian Maple Leafs.)
The result is an ever-growing group of collectors and investors in precious metals drawn to pandas who in time wish to collect coins from specific years and sometimes build sets too.
There are dozens of other coin series that superbly portray and celebrate Chinese history and culture. Modern Chinese Coins are diverse in all respects which is fitting given the growing number of Chinese coin owners in Asia, Europe and North America.
Diverse subject matters include famous artists and paintings, the twelve animals of the lunar cycle, leaders and politicians, sports as well as animals – including the popular panda coin series.
ChineseCoins.com has the greatest selection of rare, collectible Chinese coins covering the full spectrum. Buy the highest quality coins at affordable market prices. Tangible investments of historical significance are hard to come by and when we sell some of these rare coins, often we won’t see another for months or even years.