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Historic Four, Five, and Six Character Knives

By Kyle Ponterio, Senior Numismatist & Cataloger

Author: Kyle Ponterio / Thursday, March 01, 2018 / Categories: World Coin of the Week

This week we feature a trio of highlights from the Q. David Bowers Collection of Chinese Copper Coins, to be offered as part of our April 2-4, 2018 Hong Kong auction.  Ancient Chinese coinage includes many different types such as the familiar Cash coins, hoes, spades, and of course knives. 

During the Zhou Dynasty in the Waring States period (475-221 B.C.) the State of Qi issued a variety of knives, and these have become a staple for those collecting Ancient Chinese.  These knives are pretty substantial and weigh between 40-50 grams. Minor to heavy earthen deposits and thick patina usually obscure the major design features. Typically when collections of this type of material come to market they contain one of the more common three-character knives and maybe one of the extremely rare four, five or six character knives.  It is an exceptional case for a collection to contain not just one of these extreme rarities, but to include one of each. 

These early knives display an archaic form of Chinese characters known as seal script, which eventually evolved into modern day Chinese. In this instance the obverse of these examples bear the inscriptions “Ji Mo Fa Hua” (Jimo legal money) (four characters), “Ji Mo Zhi Fa Hua” (Jimo legal money) (five characters) and "Qi Jian/Zao Bang Chang Fa Hua" (Qi establish make state long legal money) (six characters) with the last being more of literal translation.  A plethora of markings can be observed on the reverses of these types, sometimes containing more than one character and sometimes found without any characters or identifying markings. The present examples bear the inscriptions “Tu” (four characters), “Fa Chang” (Execution ground) (five characters) and “Qi” or “Bi” (six characters).

There is much speculation as to who actually issued these, but based on archeological evidence their time and place of manufacture can be narrowed down to specific region and time period.

We are no longer accepting consignments for our April Hong Kong auction. We are taking consignments of world and ancient coins and world paper money for our May Collectors Choice Online (CCO), our August 2018 Hong Kong, August 2018 American Numismatic Association (ANA), October 2018 Collectors Choice Online (CCO) and our 2019 New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC) auctions. 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.​​​