Chinese Coins: An Actual Gift

Posted on 12/12/2017

The Gold & Silver Coins of China Standard Catalog introduced at the BICE is a one-of-a-kind reference book for collectors of modern Chinese coins.

The old man paused, searching for his next words. “Are you going to Scarborough Fair, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.” With each tick of the clock the Temple of the Moon in Beijing darkened with the nightfall. “Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine.”

He grinned triumphantly and asked, “Where are you from?”

“Meigua, the USA,” I answered.

“Do you speak any Russian? I was a Russian-Chinese interpreter.”

I thought for a moment and then blurted, “Dosvedanya.” The man laughed gleefully.

“What is your name?” I asked him.

“Wang Xin Fa,” he answered and laughed again. Besides Russian, he clearly spoke some English, too. “Why are you here? Business?”

“Yes. I study coins.”

“Old coins?”

“No. New ones. From the People's Republic.”

The light was dim and getting dimmer. “How old are you?” he asked me. I told him.

“Guess how old I am?”

“75,” I replied.

“85! I am 85!” Mr. Wang declared, “What is important is health. To your health!” I patted him on the shoulder and discovered that there were still strong arms under his jacket.

“To our health,” I called to him as he walked away. “To our health,” he called back and laughed again.

I instantly regretted not asking Mr. Wang if he is interested in coins. After all, Beijing was host to the biggest coin show of the year that same week. He must be familiar with circulating coins. The China Numismatic Museum exhibit at the Beijing International Coin Exposition (BICE) displayed an outstanding group of circulating coins from the collection of Mr. Sun Keqin. He would probably also be familiar with Panda coins. They are displayed in the lobbies of many banks in China. Lunar coins are popular gifts for the New Year, so maybe he knows about those, too?

For anyone seriously interested in Chinese coins, the BICE is a special kind of coin show. There are major displays from world mints like Australia, France, Canada, Austria and Singapore. There are displays from banks. Maybe best of all, there are displays from the branches of the Chinese minting system. The mints bring out their finest products from the past year and display new ones. Often the artists and engravers and executives are there to answer questions. This year, visitors could hand-strike two different medals: one from the Shanghai Mint with a Panda design and another from CBPM, China Banknote Printing & Minting.

This year, though, my vote for the most significant item introduced at the show was not any kind of coin, but a book. The sprawling field of Modern Chinese Coins has long needed an authoritative catalog that covers all the coins issued by the China Mint, later called China Gold Coin Inc. There are some existing efforts that are nice, but none of them are universally accepted. That void is now filled. At a booth toward the back of the show author, Chan Jing Lin (known as King to English speakers) and chief editor Wang Yang offered the public a first look at a proofreading edition of the Gold & Silver Coins of China Standard Catalog.

Left to right: Main Author Chan Jing Lin and Chief Editor Wang Yang of the Gold & Silver Coins of China Standard Catalog.

It’s a hefty work, weighing 45 ounces, or nearly a kilogram and a half. It needs to be heavy given all the information it contains, much of which appears in Chinese and English. To begin with, the book is organized into chapters by year of release. Each coin has a title in English and Chinese. Many have comments, but this information is not translated. There are photos of each coin that do a good job of showing the design. Next come photos of varieties, if any are known. At the bottom of the page is a table that gives the specifications, mintages and prices in English and Chinese.

The mintage figures are divided into two columns and are highly relevant: planned mintage and actual mintage. After years of research, this book may be the first ever published with accurate actual mintages. This is an extraordinary addition to the knowledge that collectors base their decisions on.

The softcover proofreading edition with a print run of 1,000 sold out quickly, but can still be found. The hardcover first edition of the Gold & Silver Coins of China Standard Catalog is due out in February of 2018. I consider it a milestone in the development of this field and a top holiday gift for any collector of modern Chinese coins (disclosure: I am a contributor of some information and photos, but have no financial interest in it).

Another interesting recent release, especially for those interested in numismatic design, is International Coin and Medal Art. It was issued for an exhibition in Beijing presented by the People’s Bank of China (the central bank) and the China Numismatic Museum. 2017 is the 30th anniversary of the creation of China Gold Coin Inc. and it is also the 80th anniversary of the International Art Medal Federation (FIDEM).

The hardcover catalog has chapters for Chinese Award-Winning Coins and Medals along with others for member countries from Armenia to Spain. There is also a section for private collections. The book shows both familiar and less-known Chinese designs, and places them in an international context. The text and descriptions are in English and Chinese. It is published by the Coins & Medal Art Committee of China Numismatic Society.

As Mr. Wang disappeared into the gloom, I realized that I was still not alone. A young girl, maybe six years old was playing in the pavilion. Her father stood nearby. She was instantly curious about the stranger. Her eyes sparkled as I crouched and said, “Ni hao.” “Hello,” she answered and then buried her head in her father’s coat. I asked her name, but got no response. I shook hands with her and her father. Then, smiling, I walked away into the night.

“Tell her to find me an acre of land
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Between the salt water and the sea strands
Then she'll be a true love of mine.”

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.

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