Elusive Unicorn Expected in Macau

Between the 5th and 7th December 2014, the Venetian Macau Resort Hotel will play host to the 1st Macau International Coin and Precious Metals Expo. Among the many exhibitors and auctioneers attending the event are Stack’s Bowers, who will also be holding a showcase auction in the run up to the event, between the 3rd and 4th December.

Sure to steal most, if not all of the limelight at this auction – as far as modern Chinese coin enthusiasts are concerned – is the 1996 1 kg Gold 2000 yuan (150 yuan) Unicorn Proof coin. This piece of incredible rarity features the Chinese Unicorn, or Qilin, on the obverse, and the Western Unicorn on the reverse. What makes this piece particularly rare, and gives it phenomenal numismatic value, is its face value. This coin type comes from an official mintage of 18 (although 16 is thought to be more accurate), but for a very small handful of these coins a major mistake was made during the striking of the reverse face, and the die intended for the reverse face of the 1 kg silver coin was accidentally used instead. So while this coin was meant to have a face value of 2000 yuan, it does in fact bear a denomination of 150 yuan and a different unicorn design from its other 1 kg gold cousins. This coin type is elusive enough already, but this curious variation of the denomination makes it even rarer.

1996 1 kg gold unicorn (150 yuan)   1996 1 kg gold unicorn (150 yuan) obverse

This magnificent coin, graded by the PCGS as Poof-66 Deep Cameo, is estimated to attract a bid of between $280,000 and $340,000. It also just happens to have the much coveted #1 serial number of the series, and both its size and price tag will eclipse the several other Unicorn coins appearing alongside it in the catalogue. To give an idea of the great price potential for this coin, in April 2011 Champion auctioneers presided over the auction of #5 of the series (also struck in error, like #1), fetching a final bid of $540,000 (3.6 million RMB, at the time). Back then in 2011, only four examples of the error strike coins of this type were known about in China: #5, #7, #8, and #9. So the appearance of #1 in Macau is sure to cause a feverish level of excitement. It would make a satisfactory Christmas present.