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Attractive Chekiang Sino-French Pattern Cash

By Kyle Ponterio, Senior Numismatist and Cataloger

Author: Kyle Ponterio / Wednesday, March 13, 2019 / Categories: World Coin of the Week

This week's highlight from our March 25-28, 2019, Hong Kong auction, held at the Mira Hotel in conjunction with the 6th Hong Kong Coin Show (HKCS), is a rare occurrence of Chinese and French cooperation in numismatics

Lot # 60104 – CHINA. Chekiang. Brass Cash Pattern, ND (1862-75). PCGS SP-64+ Gold Shield.

In an attempt to become more familiar with Western culture and industry, Chinese envoys were sent abroad to study and report their findings.  The first semi-official visit of a Mandarin, a Chinese official, to Europe wasn’t until 1866 when prompted by the Inspector General of the Chinese Customs, Sir Robert Hart, who was returning to Ireland on leave.  Expressing his concerns about the Chinese government’s lackadaisical approach to modernization, Sir Hart proposed to have a Chinese envoy accompany him on his voyage.  The envoy was headed by the elderly, bigoted and low-ranking Chinese Secretary of the Imperial Maritime Customs (third grade), Pin Ch’un, who was accompanied by his son and three language students, but was not given an official status.  After arriving in Marseilles they embarked on an intensive tour of factories and institutions.  When they arrived in Paris, Pin Ch’un had grown weary of the formalities, declared himself indisposed on 12 May 1866, and left his duties, which included a visit to the Paris mint, to his companions.  According to Richard Wright, author of The Modern Coinage of China 1866-1949, it is believed that on this occasion, these special Chekiang patterns were prepared and handed out as samples to the visiting Chinese envoy. At the time of publishing it was believed that only three examples were known, possibly making the present example a discovery piece. Unfortunately due to lack of official documentation from Paris mint records, the actual date of manufacture is unclear and remains shrouded in mystery.


These specially prepared pieces resemble later machine struck cash with the exception of having a round central hole versus a square central hole. The obverse and reverse inscriptions were clearly done by an engraver unfamiliar with Chinese or Manchu characters. In fact the stylization resulted in blundered legends having missing strokes and bad form. The obverse inscription reads from top to bottom and right to left as “同治通寳” (Tóngzhì tōng bǎo [Tongzhi universal currency]).  The reverse displays a remedial rendition of the Manchu characters for the Chekiang Mint. Despite the noted blunders in the inscriptions, their manufacture was of the highest quality that the Paris Mint could offer.  The crisp devices are clearly defined (highlighting the errors in the calligraphy) surrounded by smooth surfaces with the tops of the devices lightly toned giving a slight two-tone effect. This is a highly interesting and exceedingly rare piece of Chinese numismatics, destined for an advance collection.


We are currently taking consignments of world and ancient coins and world paper money for our June Collectors Choice Online (CCO) Auction and the August ANA World's Fair of Money Auction in Rosemont, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. We are also accepting consignments of Chinese and other Asian coins and currency for our August 19-22, 2019, Hong Kong Showcase Auction. If you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) contact one of our consignment directors.