Chinese Coins: Your Good Luck Has Arrived!
Posted by Peter Anthony on 2/14/2017
The hall is buzzing. Words echo off polished floors and walls as Shenyang Mint workers bustle about. Toward the rear lies a long table, strips of crimson paper scattered across its surface. Behind it half a dozen calligraphers stand and busily dip brushes into inkpots as they daub Chinese characters onto one red sheet after another. Assistants carry away the completed work to dry. New red banners, their black paint glistening, hang side by side on the walls.
Several of the Mint’s leaders are there. Everyone smiles; the Spring Festival is right around the corner. When the painting activity is finished there will be enough placards and posters to decorate the whole of the Mint with New Year’s greetings. Some wish people safe travels, others have sayings on them like “May your hard work reap rewards.”
By far the most commonly used word is “Fu”, or good luck. The next day it will be visible everywhere on the Mint grounds. Fu also has a starring role on a small 3 Yuan silver coin. 2017 is the third year in a series of New Year’s keepsakes that has grown by leaps and bounds. 2015 was the first year and 600,000 ¼ oz. coins were minted. Supplies quickly ran out, so in 2016 the mintage was upped to 1.9 million. The weight was also changed to 8 grams. This year 2.7 million, 8 gram pieces have been released. The coin has the Fu character in the center. Nearby, a charming little snowman keeps it company and holds up a pinwheel.
One excellent way to buy the Fu coins is as part of a two-piece set inside a red cardboard jacket. This folder is an official product of the People’s Bank of China and China Gold Coin Inc. The colorful little folio contains both the 3 Yuan Fu coin and a souvenir note made with 5 grams of silver.
The note has a dramatic design, emblazoned on one side with a holographic Fu character. This hologram is decorated with bats, another good luck sign. The shimmering Fu stands in bold contrast to the pale silver field around it.
How popular are these? One day I stood in a coin shop and watched buyers fill shopping bags full of the folders for their companies to hand out as presents.
It is traditional to place a double Fu sign at weddings. In the old days, wedding guests might receive a gift of a silver dollar with a carefully crafted paper cut of a double Fu pasted on it. Today, friends still post double Fu signs on the hotel room doors of newlyweds.
During New Year you will see this character everywhere, but sometimes people hang it upside down. This is because the Chinese pronunciation of the word for upside down is virtually the same as the word for arrived. Some clever person figured out that an upside down Fu means your good luck has arrived!
Zhao Qiang, the outstanding artist for the 2014-2016 Panda coins, sent this message to me to pass on to coin collectors everywhere: “Good health, good fortune and good luck in the Year of the Rooster.” May your good luck arrive!
Peter Anthony is an expert on Chinese modern coins with a particular focus on Panda coins. He is an analyst for the NGC Chinese Modern Coin Price Guide as well as a consultant on Chinese modern coins.