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Rare Money Blog

a tael of emergency chinese money

A Tael of Emergency Chinese Money

Author: Nicholas Fritz / Wednesday, November 17, 2021 / Categories: World Coin of the Week

In our December Hong Kong Collectors Choice Auction​ there are several 1943-44 Yunnan Taels minted in French Indochina for circulation in the Chinese province of Yunnan. Chief among these is lot 41618, an example graded AU-58 by PCGS.

 In 1943 French Indochina was in a very unsettled political situation. In 1940 France fell to the invading German army, leaving the French colonial situation very much in doubt. The end of the Third Republic led to the creation of a divided France. In the north of France along the Atlantic coast, the German army occupied a large swath of territory as a militarized zone against any attempted allied landings. The south of France, though still with a German presence, established a provisional government at the spa town of Vichy that gave essentially dictatorial powers to Marshall Philippe Petain, hero of Verdun in the First World War. This Vichy government, though decried as a puppet of the Germans, continued to administer many functions without direct supervision, including running France’s colonies. In the South Pacific, the colony of French Indochina was targeted by the ever-aggressive Japanese. The Vichy regime, in no position to negotiate, was forced to accept Japanese naval access in the Gulf of Tonkin. 

It was against this backdrop that these Silver Taels were struck in French Indochina at the Hanoi Mint from dies engraved by Rene Mercier. The obverse features the head of a stag, and the reverse is inscribed, reading: One Liang Guaranteed Silver One Ounce, a very plain design on what is essentially an ingot of silver. In addition to these stag Taels, another type offered in lot 41612 features the Chinese character for wealth; this design was also produced in a half-Tael denomination. According to Kann, these types were likely used to pay Chinese soldiers on the Burma front. China itself was at war with Japan, and though Yunnan was not directly occupied, it became flooded with refugees and soldiers fleeing or fighting Japanese expansion. In China, and Asian generally, any form of silver was widely accepted in commerce. It has also been rumored that these were produced to facilitate the opium trade, which was probably supported by many soldiers. The transitory nature of the population increased when Japan occupied the whole of French Indochina in 1945 after the defeat of Nazi Germany. The brutality of the Japanese occupation sparked an independence movement in French Indochina that led ultimately to the creation of Vietnam. These issues were among the last products of the Hanoi Mint under French, or perhaps quasi-French, rule. The Taels and half-Taels offered in the December Hong Kong Auction should spark strong crossover interest for those interested in Chinese, French Indochina, and World War Two issues. 

The over 2,000 items making up the Stack’s Bowers Galleries December Hong Kong Auction are now available for viewing and bidding at StacksBowers.com. We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our future auctions, and are currently accepting submissions for our Spring 2022 Hong Kong auction. Additionally, we are accepting submissions for our Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auctions, the next of which will be in February. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors or [email protected] today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.
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