Kiangnan dollars were minted at the Nanking mint from 1897 to 1905. Early coins have a unique design and are quite scarce, but from 1899 on, the Nanking mint was one of the most prolific mint in China and the subsequent issues are common chinese coins. Some later years emissions have scarce variations or interesting varieties, though it may not be easy to immediately identify them for the casual collector, since the coins are all dated using the sexagenary cycle of the traditional chinese calendar.

A picture is worth a thousand words: the table below should make it very easy for anyone to identify the year of production of the various Kiangnan dollars.

Identifying the date of Kiangnan chinese coins

Amongst them, the 1903 Gui Mao (癸卯) and the 1905 Yi Si (乙巳) coins are the scarcest and most valuable. In this article, I would like however to focus on the 1904 Jia Chen (甲辰) coin, which is more common but has an interesting history.

Starting from 1901, all the Kiangnan coins had some marks added next to the characters indicating the year. In the year of Xin Chou (辛丑), the initials of the British assayer H. A. Holmes, working for the Nanking mint, were apposed on the coins as a guarantee of their purity. Indeed, sloppy minting in the previous years raised concerns that people would start to distrust the coins and return to using the foreign currency circulating at the time. On the Gui Mao (癸卯) coins, a distinctive five pointed rosette was added as well.

In 1904 (Jia Chen (甲辰) year), two different marks were used in addition to the usual HAH initials: TH and CH.

1904 Kiangnan Chinese silver dollar, TH mark (reverse)

1904 Kiangnan Chinese silver dollar, TH mark (reverse)

1904 Kiangnan Chinese silver dollar, TH mark (obverse)

1904 Kiangnan Chinese silver dollar, TH mark (obverse)



According to the mint records, only one million coins with the TH mark were minted. It is generally supposed that “TH” are the initials of the die engraver, but his name has unfortunately been lost. Some have said that “TH” stood for the first two letters of the name of the auxiliary mint director (副厂长),  Deng Ju (邓矩), but this seems unlikely. The Wade-Giles romanisation (in use at the time) of his name would be Teng Chü, not Theng.

While the meaning of the TH initials remains obscure, it is probable that CH does actually stand for the name of the new director of the mint, who took up his functions the same year. At the time, the direction of the mint changed frequently due to the fact it was a very lucrative – and thus, coveted – position. In April 1903, Shen Bang Xian (沈邦宪) was appointed director, then replaced in September of the same year by Pan Ru Jie (潘汝杰), himself succeeded in April 1904 by Zhang Qian Jie (张迁杰)… Zhang Qian Jie was in charge during the time the Jia Chen coin were minted, and the initials of his surname (romanised Chang at the time) match the CH mark.

If this is indeed the meaning of the CH mark, it becomes easier to put a timeline on the production of the different versions of this coin. The coins marked TH use the same design than the previous year, likely because the engraver didn’t had the time yet to complete the new dies. Some CH coins use the old dragon design too, but with a new reverse, as seen below.

Kiangnan Chinese silver dollar (CH mark), dragon design not updated

Kiangnan Chinese silver dollar (CH mark), dragon design not updated

Kiangnan chinese silver dollar (CH mark) reverse

Kiangnan chinese silver dollar (CH mark) reverse


Why the haste to engrave a new reverse and put it in production when the obverse wasn’t even completed? Well, it must have been tempting for the newly appointed director to seize the opportunity to immortalise his name on the new dies, knowing full well that his successor in six months would not be able to replace them before the next year… This scheme worked even better than he could have expected when the Jia Chen dies bearing his initials were reused from November 1911 to February 1912, after the fall of the last Emperor.

From this timeline, it is easier to determine which coins were minted during the Qing era and which coins are republican restrikes: coins bearing the TH marks, and early CH coins featuring the old dragon design, were both obviously made in 1904. For subsequent coins, things are somewhat less clear. Coins with the new dragon design and the CH initials have die differences too; and the most common of them is the addition of dots on the reverse.

Kiangnan Chinese silver dollar (dots on the reverse)

Kiangnan Chinese silver dollar (dots on the reverse)

Kiangnan chinese silver dollar, new dragon design

Kiangnan chinese silver dollar, new dragon design


As seen above, the new dragon design only differs subtly from its predecessor. The face of the dragon and the design of the flame to the left of the central fireball are the most distinctive differences; one can see that the weaker strike on the tail of the dragon (next to its right hindleg) has also been fixed.

The coin pictured above features another interesting difference: a dot has been added next to the denomination. This alteration was probably made on republican restrikes, like the variant of the 1911 imperial silver dollar (with a dot after “DOLLAR”) which was actually minted after the fall of the Manchu regime. Coins with dots on the reverse but without the dot after the denomination were thus quite possibly minted during the Qing era.

A scarcer variation exists, with rosettes instead of dots on the reverse. It is likely that this coin was minted in 1904 as well.

Kiangnan chinese silver dollar (rosettes on the reverse)

Kiangnan chinese silver dollar (rosettes on the reverse)

Of all these variations, the coins bearing the TH mark are the scarcest and the most expensive. The CH coins are all much less valuable, due to their relative abundance. This lead less than scrupulous coins dealers to scrub the C out of their common coin, and replace it with a T in an attempt to “upgrade” their coin and sell it for an higher price. Unfortunately for them, these initials is not the only difference between these coins. As we discussed before, some CH coins have the same dragon design than the TH coins, but not all. Even if the counterfeiter is careful and pick the right dragon pattern, the reverse of these coins has obvious differences for the connoisseur.

  • The “legs” (3rd and 4th stroke) of the Yuan character, 元, are connected on a genuine TH
  • The 甲 character points between the top and middle horizontal bars (1st and 2nd stroke) of the 元 character on a genuine TH coin
  • The 甲 character points to the 2nd stroke of the 元 character on a CH coin
  • the 辰 character is slightly “higher” (closer to HAH) on a genuine TH coin

As usual, always be careful and exerce your judgement when you buy an old chinese coin !

31 Responses to “The forgotten history of the 1904 Kiangnan chinese silver dollar”

  1. Andy Juniewicz says:

    I have a friend who has what she believes to be an 1897 Kiangnan silver dollars. We live in Northeast Ohio and are having difficulty finding anyone in this region with the expertise to examine the coin to determine its authenticity. I have photos which I could send for a preliminary review. Any suggestions or advice?

    thank you

  2. Dragon Dollar says:

    Hello, sure you can send me pictures of your coin and I’ll tell you if it appears genuine to me.

    As for advices… If you think it is likely to be fake, you can very easily do some preliminary checks: anything under 26 grams for dollar sized coins is very suspect and likely a forgery. If the coin is magnetic, it’s also an obvious giveaway.

  3. Cathy says:

    I have 4 coins that I picked up somewhere, and I also am at a bit of a loss for dating them and trying to verify authenticity. Would it be possible to send you a picture of them? I would greatly appreciate the help. 2 are from the Kiang Nin Province with the “A” looking like a “V” on both, another is from the Szechuan Province, and the last one just has a picture of a dragon and says “One Dollar”. Thanks in advance.

  4. Dragon Dollar says:

    Hello, no problem, if you send me pictures I can tell you if I think the coins are genuine or fake.

  5. R Lee says:

    I like to email you pictures of two coins. What is the email address I should send the pictures to?

  6. Dragon Dollar says:

    Hello, I sent you an e-mail.

  7. daniel says:

    i have 2 kiang nan coins and i don know it was real or fake. can u help me?

  8. Dragon Dollar says:

    Please e-mail me some pictures of your coins, I’ll tell you what I think about it.

  9. fadil says:

    saya three coin dragon

  10. teralldeshaun says:

    I have one of these coins and would like to know where to send pics for authenticity?

  11. Dragon Dollar says:

    Hello, you can post pictures of your coins on the Dragon Dollar facebook page, or by e-mail.

  12. Hi! Could you send me your email where I can send you scan copies of my Chinese dollar/dragon coins to confirm whether these are genuine or fake?

    Many thanks.

    Kind regards.

    Mitresh

  13. Kristina Rios says:

    Hi I found one of these coins on the beach in San Francisco help to see if genuine?

  14. Roxy Hannafious says:

    I have about 25 coins I need help in determining if they are fake and value if not. Can you send me an email so I can send pics. I believe tackling the authenticity of China coins must be left to experts like yourself! Very interesting coinage I must say and your website is very interesting.

    Best Regards,
    Rox

  15. Dragon Dollar says:

    I sent you an e-mail, feel free to send me pictures of your coins.

  16. herve says:

    POUVEZ VOUS DONNER LA VALEUR SUR LE MARCHER A CE JOUR MERCI

  17. Dragon Dollar says:

    Bonjour, la valeur d’une monnaie de collection depend fortement de son etat de conservation. Si la piece est endommagee (details effaces par la circulation, rayures, nettoyage…), sa valeur sera moindre comparee a une piece ayant peu ou pas circule. N’hesitez pas a envoyer des photos de votre piece de monnaie soit en utilisant le formulaire http://www.dragondollar.com/coins/coin-appraisal-what-is-your-chinese-coin-worth/ ou bien directement en repondant a l’e-mail que je vous ai envoye.

  18. Fred says:

    Hello, I recently came across what I believe to be a Kiangnan coin. I am unable to locate an exact picture after viewing countless images on the web. I brought it to a Chinese restaurant and they said it was over 100 years old although they were unable to give any detail, dates etc. It is not magnetic and I was wondering of you still are taking requests to view these type coins? (via e-mail) Thank you in advance.

  19. shafiq says:

    hello .. I also have that kind of kiang nan coin and some other coins which I’m not sure from which country and whether it is a fake or genuine.. besides,what is the value of each coin?

  20. Dragon Dollar says:

    Hello Shafiq, please use the Appraisal Form to confirm if your coin is genuine:
    http://www.dragondollar.com/coins/coin-appraisal-what-is-your-chinese-coin-worth/

  21. Lee says:

    hello I have a 1901 dragon coin #4, interested on someone to take a look at it.

  22. Dragon Dollar says:

    Hello, you can use the appraisal form here to submit pictures of your coin: http://www.dragondollar.com/coins/coin-appraisal-what-is-your-chinese-coin-worth/

  23. tara says:

    I have 5 different chinese coins and was wanting to kno if I could send pics of them to find out if there real or worth anything please

  24. Dragon Dollar says:

    Hi Tara, you can use the appraisal form here:
    http://www.dragondollar.com/coins/coin-appraisal-what-is-your-chinese-coin-worth/
    to send me pictures of your coins. I’ll be glad to help!

  25. jacob says:

    i have 5 different coins, did they ever make fake coins? Because if i use a magnet to pick them up and they stick does that mean they’re fake?

  26. kenyap says:

    How much to this….

  27. Angus says:

    hi, i studied your findings and it is so wonderful a good sharing of your knowledge. i have a few old rare coins, im not sure if it is real. Would you like to give me some comments about these coins… i appreciate very much if you could reply with your email as i can send you the picture of it. thanks… Angus

  28. Not sure how to E-mail you directly. I am a novice on collecting Dragon Dollars. I get most of them off of Ebay. I see the term Tibet Silver on some of the ads. What does that mean? Thanks, John Callaghan

  29. Joe au says:

    Hello have a Chinese coin has a dragon in the back as some Chinese letter in the front there’s no year no name if I send you a picture can you help me identify it please

  30. Mark says:

    Can I send you a photo of my coin to confirm it is original. What email should I use.

  31. Dragon Dollar says:

    Hello, you can send me pictures of your coin through the free appraisal form:
    http://www.dragondollar.com/coins/coin-appraisal-what-is-your-chinese-coin-worth/
    You are also welcome to contact me on Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/DragonDollar/

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