Collectors Compete for Rare NGC-Certified Chinese Pattern Set from the NC Collection

Posted on 5/24/2021

The three-coin set graded by NGC includes the only known examples of an early-1900 tael currency experiment.

Excitement is mounting in the numismatic community as coins from the Nelson Chang (NC) Collection — an outstanding group of vintage Chinese rarities certified by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®) — will soon cross the auction block. The sale is being presented by Champion Macau Auctions and will conclude on May 30, 2021.

The NGC-certified NC Collection boasts many of the most desirable Chinese coins in existence, carefully collected by one of China’s most famous families. It is a culmination of Chinese numismatics, history and culture that represents an incredible opportunity for the world's most astute collectors.

Click here to learn more about the NC Collection and view additional rarities in the sale. To see large, high-resolution images of all of the coins in the sale, explore the NC Collection Gallery.

Pattern set highlights historic Chinese currency debate

As the culmination of the sale approaches, the attention of collectors is turning to a fascinating set of coins being offered. The China 1904 Hupeh Tael Pattern Set (lot 0019) consists of three coins:

  • a China 1904 Hupeh Brass Tael graded NGC MS 64
  • a China 1904 Hupeh Copper Large Characters Tael graded NGC MS 62 BN
  • a China 1904 Hupeh Copper Tael graded NGC AU 50 BN

The set’s estimated price is $200,000 to $400,000 (USD).

China 1904 Hupeh Brass Tael graded NGC MS 64
Click images to enlarge.

All three of the coins in the set are the only examples known. Speculation is that they are likely from the family of an important Qing official and passed through Hong Kong's Chang Huang to Nelson Chang.

“This pattern set is one of the most important and greatest Chinese numismatic rarities from the NC Collection,” said Dr. Che-Lu Tseng in his article for the Journal of East Asian Numismatics. “All three 1904 Hupeh Pattern Tael Coins are the only examples seen. They are perhaps a unique opportunity to obtain one of the greatest Chinese numismatic rarities.”

China 1904 Hupeh Copper Large Characters Tael graded NGC MS 62 BN
Click images to enlarge.

The coins are believed to have been patterns for what silver 1 Tael coins would look like in circulation. Such coins had been proposed by Chang Chi Tung of Hupeh province as he sought to make the tael the primary unit of weight for China’s currency. (Most of the Provincial Chinese silver coins before 1904 had a weight of 7 mace and 2 candareens).

The “unreasonable” tael

The goal of minting the silver taels was to observe the response of Chinese citizens and merchants around the world to Chang’s proposition, which was hotly debated at the time. Chang and his supporters felt that the tael had been used as a traditional unit of currency in China for a long time and that using it would be abandoning traditional ways. Others argued that the dollar would be a better currency unit for sheer simplicity and for trade.

China 1904 Hupeh Copper Tael graded NGC AU 50 BN
Click images to enlarge.

Even Chambers of Commerce disagreed with Chang that the tael was a superior measurement to the dollar. The Shanghai Chamber of Commerce, for example, submitted a written statement to the Ministry of Finance that the tael was used as a unit of weight, while the dollar was used in the system of currency. The Chamber stated it was unreasonable to mix these two measurements together and that, by doing so, it would lead to many problems in people's daily lives.

It turned out that the citizens were indeed confused by the new tael coins and the Ministry of Finance in 1909 declared China’s unit of currency to be the dollar.

This unique set is only one of the treasures being offered during the May 30 sale. Other highlights from the NC Collection sale include:

  • a China (1907) Chihli Silver Pattern Tael graded NGC MS 63 (lot 0018), with an estimate of $200,000 to $400,000 (USD)
  • a China 1906 Gold Large Clouds, Plain Edge Tael graded NGC MS 64 (lot 0016), with an estimate of $100,000 to $200,000 (USD)
  • a China 1903 Silver Pattern 5 Mace graded NGC MS 65 (lot 0014), with an estimate of $60,000 to $120,000 (USD)
  • a China (1885) Kirin 5 Mace Silver graded NGC AU 50 (lot 0020), with an estimate of $60,000 to $120,000 (USD)
  • a China (1898-1899) Chekiang Silver Dollar graded NGC XF Details (lot 0073), with an estimate of $60,000 to $120,000 (USD)
  • a China (1856) Shanghai Silver Tael graded NGC AU 58 (lot 0021), with an estimate of $30,000 to $60,000 (USD).
  • a China (1838-1850) Taiwan Old Man Silver Dollar graded NGC AU Details (lot 0066), with an estimate of $30,000 to $60,000 (USD).
  • a China (1928) Kansu Sun Yat Sen Silver Dollar graded NGC VF Details (lot 01014), with an estimate of $10,000 to $20,000 (USD)

All estimates are provided by the auction house.

To follow the sale and for more information, visit the Champion Auctions website. To bid on the 1904 Tael Pattern set and other coins offered in the sale, visit the Champion Macau Spring Auction website, where online bidding is currently underway.

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