Our previews for the December Hong Kong Showcase Auction continue with an exceptional silver crown that is an iconic vintage Chinese rarity, with this example all the more desirable due to its exalted grade. According to Kann, the famous “Bamboo Dollar” from Kweichow province resulted from rampant inflation in the 1940s that devalued paper currency in China leading some provinces to begin minting their own metallic money. Minted in the “38th year of the Republic” (1949) this beautifully designed coin shows an incredible level of artistry and very little circulation. Part of the reasoning behind the scarcity of this piece is the historical events unfolding around the time period. In late 1945 the Chinese Civil War resumed, with the communist forces controlling Beijing and other major Kuomintang cities passing to Communist control. As these were minted during this tumultuous period (under the Republican government) these coins were often buried (leading to often seen corrosion on this issue), hidden away in stashes (providing excellent collectible examples) or simply destroyed by the communist government and repurposed. As such, this coinage type from the twilight of the mainland Republic of China is exceedingly scarce and stands among classic Chinese numismatic treasures.
The obverse design features a stunning image of an iconic three story Chinese pavilion known by the name Jiaxiu Tower (First Scholar’s Tower). The name Jiaxiu hails from the Ming dynasty era when the tower was built and means “getting the very best in Imperial examinations.” The building was provided as a place to live study for these “number one scholars,” and records indicate that three such officials have honored the city by residing there. Standing at 66 feet high the tower is adorned with green tiles, red pillars, artistically engraved windows and stunning white stone parapets. This architectural marvel sits atop the Fuyu Bridge over the Nanming River, and casts a wonderful reflection in the water (especially at night when hundreds of lanterns are lit). A single Chinese character (Kuo) is found on the door to the pavilion, referring to the then-governor of the province, Kuo Tseng Kuang. The initials “TLK” appear just below the door of the pavilion and are speculated to refer to the engraver of the coin. Two varieties exist for this “Bamboo Dollar,” identified by the window in the top story, with this being the “round window” variety. A wonderfully ornate border surrounds the Jiaxiu Tower on bridge design, with descriptive legends around. The upper legend states: “38th Year of the Republic of China” which means the year 1949. Beautiful rosettes separate the upper legend from the lower legend: “Made in Kweichow Province.”
The reverse design offers this coin its informal title of “Bamboo Dollar”; three stems of bamboo with leaves are encompassed by a saw-tooth border, followed by a beaded border and finally a crenulated outer border. The Chinese characters for “One Dollar” appear at either side of the Bamboo image. This example is tied with two other examples at this grade level with only three pieces certified finer by either PCGS or NGC. It is worth mentioning that this type has not been certified in a Mint State holder, with the finest known graded AU-55. The coin featured here exhibits full and exquisite details with the pavilion especially well rendered.
Look for this and other world numismatic rarities in our upcoming December Hong Kong Showcase Auction. For details please refer to the Events Calendar link at www.StacksBowers.com. Though our Stack’s Bowers December Hong Kong Showcase Auction is no longer open for consignments, we are now accepting consignments of world and ancient coins for our August 2016 ANA Auction as well as Chinese and other Asian coins and currency for our April 2016 Hong Kong Showcase Auction. Time is running short, so if you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.