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Looking Through The Hong Kong Catalogs

Written by Q. David Bowers, Chairman Emeritus

Author: Q. David Bowers / Tuesday, March 20, 2012 / Categories: From the Desk of Q. David Bowers
As I write these words I am contemplating not one, not two, but three catalogs for our April 2012 Hong Kong auction. These are divided into as many categories. One catalog is for modern coins—generally pieces minted in our own generation or not too much earlier, with many interesting designs. Some of these are very familiar, the Chinese panda coins being an example, and others are less so. A great panorama of interesting issues in silver and gold awaits you, all very nicely delineated in the catalog and on the Internet.

The second catalog showcases the Neil Nelson Collection of Chinese paper money, a museum quality offering with many scarcities and rarities. It is often the case that while coins have been collected avidly over the years, currency of China has not received as much attention. Accordingly, similar to certain series with other countries, there are many great rarities that are available for reasonable prices. The general thought in the International market is that activity will head onward and upward. As an example of rarity, I point out lot 24392, a Chinese American Bank of Commerce $1, a previously unknown variety, certified as Extremely Fine but estimated at just $1,250 to $2,500. One can imagine that the decimal point will be moved over one or two places were it a United States note.

The largest of the three catalogs features a treasure trove of coins of the world, those of China being emphasized as might be expected, but a wide variety of other issues as well. In reviewing the catalog I could not help but think if someone wanted to start a museum, this auction would be a wonderful place to begin. Rarity after rarity, interesting coin after interesting coin, all are offered here.

Several important collections are showcased, That of Dr. John Abner Snell was formed generations ago by a physician born in Minnesota in 1880, but who practiced in China in the early 20th century. His cabinet has been off the market for multiple generations and contains many important scarcities and rarities. An important consignment from the American Numismatic Society, the longest established such group in America, is at once interesting and important. A page in the catalog is devoted to the Society and its history and ambitions; it is well worth joining. I joined the Society in 1958 as a teenager and have enjoyed being a fellow in recent times. It is a truly marvelous organization.

Frank S. Robinson, an accomplished numismatist, writer, and indeed a Renaissance Man, has favored Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio with a very nice consignment of Chinese coins gathered over a long period of years, including pieces bought long ago from the cabinet of Dr. Kenneth Sartoris, a prominent figure in the Empire State Numismatic Association.

Kenneth E. Bressett needs no introduction. A gentleman of many talents, Ken is one of America’s leading experts on Chinese numismatics, although most people know him as long-time editor of The Guide Book of United States Coins, past president of the American Numismatic Association, and author of many books. A magnificent collection of Chinese silver dollars from his cabinet and also those he acquired years ago from the collection of General M.S. Newton will long be remembered. The Wa She Wong Collection was gathered by a connoisseur born in Hong Kong who later lived in America. For many years he was prominent in numismatics in America and in China, including operating three galleries in China offering coins for sale.

I am the first to admit that Chinese coins are a challenge for me, as I do not have the technical expertise to catalog or probably even fully appreciate them, but with a nod to Rick Ponterio and his fine staff, the job was done wonderfully. I admire the items offered, contemplate their beauty and rarity, and have developed an interest which I am sure will expand. You’d better watch out.

The preceding said, our three Hong Kong auction catalogs are truly wonderful. There is something for everyone from modern Proofs to classic rarities, certainly an event to be remembered. I invite you to attend in person in Hong Kong or, more likely, in real time on the Internet. A thrilling experience awaits you. Best wishes to you for success.

Sincerely,

Dave Bowers