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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...March 26, 2015
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
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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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Xu Beihong (1895 – 1953) was born in Jiangsu Province at the end of the 19th Century – a time when revolutionary western social and political ideas were starting to take hold in China. It is perhaps not surprising that, having grown up in such an ever-changing political climate, that Xu Beihong’s artistic work was equally as revolutionary in both its scale and content, adopting western artistic practices while at the same time not abandoning his Chinese roots.
He learned the art of calligraphy from a young age, and by the age of 9 was already immersed in the study of traditional Chinese painting. Following a period of study in Shanghai, in 1917 he visited Tokyo, once again to study art. Following this trip abroad and a brief spell teaching art in Beijing, he further broadened his artistic horizons in 1919 with a study trip to Paris, where he studied the western principles of drawing and oil painting. He developed a unique and ground-breaking style, blending western techniques acquired abroad with the traditional Chinese arts he had learnt from a young age. He returned to China in 1927, teaching at a variety of institutions around the country until 1929.
This year the People’s Bank of China has issued its latest coin set featuring the works of this renowned master painter. To commemorate the 120th anniversary of his birth, a four-coin set was issued on March 12th 2015, comprising two gold and two silver coins. All legal tender in the PRC, the four coins feature some of Xu Beihong’s finest works on their reverse faces, along with a rendering of his calligraphic signature, and the coin’s face value. The 5 oz rectangular gold coin has a mintage of just 1000, and features Six Horses, a maple leaf border motif, and 2000 yuan.
Six Horses 六骏
With a mintage of 10,000, the ¼ oz round gold coin displays a vivid colourised rendering of Red Autumn Leaves and Magpies and the face value, 100 yuan.
Red Autumn Leaves and Magpies 红叶喜鹊
The 5 oz rectangular colourised silver coin features The Old Man Moves Mountains and the denomination, 50 yuan. It has a mintage of 3000.
The Old Man Moves Mountains 愚公移山
And finally, the 1 oz silver coin displays a rendering of Harmony of Two Immortals, and the face value, 10 yuan. Its mintage is 20,000.
Harmony of Two Immortals和合二仙
There has been a lot of hype in the run-up to the release of this series, not only in the numismatic community, but with many art enthusiasts also showing an interest. With such a high level of interest and with the set being dubbed “pocket-sized” because of its relatively small mintage, initial prices were rather high.
For example, the 5 oz rectangular piece has a mintage of just 1000 – the smallest mintage for a coin of this specification in recent years; and the 1 oz silver piece has a mintage of 20,000 – again one of the smallest mintages seen for a silver coin of this specification.
During the period when many of the physical coins themselves had yet to hit the market, the trade in futures on the secondary market was hot, with the two-coin gold and silver sets selling for around 9000 yuan; the 5 oz silver coin seeing prices around 9500 yuan; the silver sets selling at approximately 2000 yuan; and the 5 oz gold coin seeing deals in the region of 140,000 yuan. Some of these opening prices are almost double those seen for coins of similar specifications and themes in past years.
However, with the secondary market recently flooded with sellers attracted by these high prices, and buyers sitting on their hands waiting for the price to fall, the market values have fallen somewhat since the set’s first release. The two-coin gold and silver sets are now valued at between 7500 and 7800 yuan; the silver sets at 1700 to 1900 yuan; and the 5 oz gold coin at 110,000 to 115,000 yuan. Interestingly, the 5 oz silver coin has bucked the trend and seen a slight rise to 11,300 yuan. This trend has also been observed with other series and sets issued in the past, with the large-scale silver coins tending to perform rather well.
Xu Beihong’s MCC Portfolio
Xu Beihong’s work has been widely featured on many sets and series issued by the People’s Bank of China. The earliest case is the 1981 Year of the Rooster gold and silver coins. Since then the Lunar series has played host to many of his works: of the 9 coins of the 1990 Year of the Horse series, apart from the three which feature works by Zhang Daqian (1899 – 1983), the remaining 6 all exhibit Xu Beihong’s works. Similarly, the 9-coin 1993 Year of the Rooster series contains two coins featuring Xu Beihong’s paintings. Before this latest 2015 release, 1995 was the last time we saw his works on modern Chinese coins. The 1995 Modern Chinese Famous Paintings series featured one of his artworks, while the four-coin 1995 Centenary of the Birth of Xu Beihong series exclusively featured his paintings. He remains to this day one of the most prolifically featured personalities in the history of modern Chinese coins. This extensive numismatic portfolio is perhaps synonymous with his impact as an artist, as he was highly influential not only in China, but also had a profound effect on many artists abroad.
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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 are 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.
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.