Lucky Coins

On February 9, 2015, in Chinese Coins, byDragon Dollar

Sometimes it feels as if it is the coins that find the collector, rather than the way around. Last month, a reader contacted me intrigued by a dragon coin he had unearthed in the woods around Riga (Latvia). He was used to find Russian coins, but this time it was a superb Large-Mouthed Dragon from the Fung-tien province that made ring his metal detector.

Fengtien Large-Mouthed Dragon (obverse)

Fengtien Large-Mouthed Dragon (obverse)

Fengtien Large Mouth Dragon (reverse)

Fengtien Large Mouth Dragon (reverse)



When I saw the pictures he sent me, I knew immediately that this beautiful coin with hints of verdigris and earthy surfaces was a genuine Chinese silver dollar, buried alive over a century ago. The Large Mouth dragon is a very rare variety of the 1898 Fengtien dollar, hard to find even in China. How did such a rarity end up in Latvia?

At the turn of the century, both the Liaotung peninsula (which encompassed most of the Fengtien province) and Latvia were under Russian rule. So it is very likely that the coin somehow traveled in the pockets of Russian soldiers or the coffers of merchants, from Port Arthur in Russian Manchuria to the Imperial Port of Riga in Latvia. It was lost or hidden there for a hundred years before being found by our fellow reader.

After more than a hundred years and against all odds, that rare Fengtien coin found its way back home to Northern China after I forwarded the pictures to a fellow Chinese coin collector in Shenyang who was looking for this variety to complete his set of 1898 Fengtien coins.

In these lucky encounters lies one of the most joyful thrill of collecting. Yesterday, I serendipitously found two charming bracelets made of genuine 3.6 candareens silver coins from the Szechuen province – in Bourges, France, out of all place. I did not expect to find Szechuan dragons while travelling abroad! While these holed coins have already lost all numismatic value, these bracelets are still fascinating artifacts:

Silver coins bracelet from the Szechuan province

Silver coins bracelet from the Szechuan province

They were brought to France by an Admiral serving in French Indochine before the First World War. This kind of jewelry was common in China at the time: smaller silver coins were fashionned in buttons to fasten the coat of wealthy merchants, sequins on bridal headdresses, or bracelets adorning the wrists of beautiful women. Along with the two bracelets came a moving black and white photograph of their former owner, framed in carved fragrant wood. According to the handwritten note behind the picture, it was taken in Chongqing in 1906:

Chungking, 1906

Chungking, 1906

It is rare to have such a precise idea of the provenance of the coins we collect. These lucky bracelets which were brought to France in a military corvette will soon return home to China, in my pocket as I fly back to Beijing.

6 Responses to “Lucky Coins”

  1. Anne Nowak says:

    Fact is I am unfamiliar with the old Chinese coins. I have some on Ebay now and priced due to that very fact. I would hate to sell a fake ! Most were purchased about 12 years ago at a dealer near an Air Force base in Alamagordo, NM. I was fascinated to see so many old Chinese coins !

    I do collect Modern Chinese Pandas, lunar, cultural, etc. Very recently I purchased a silver 2000 fan shape coin @ $ 199. box & all. It was sad to see such an inferior silver coin. Returned. Where in the world did it come from ? Now I see same coin in the $ 65 range ( box, COA, etc )
    Rather weird. No control over fakes on Ebay ???

    Most important, your website is amazing as well as informative. A learning experience at the very least. Thank you.

    Anne Nowak
    Rio Rancho, NM
    .

  2. Dragon Dollar says:

    Hi Anne, thank you very much for your heartwarming comment, I’m very glad this blog was helpful to you!

  3. Jim Lett says:

    Good morning ,My name is Jim ,I have 21 coins
    Very similar /identical to the pictures on your site
    I had a elderly Chinese man who need money offer them
    To me on a job site.trying to find out value of them?
    Can You help if I send you a couple photos to get your
    Opinion?thanks

  4. Po Ku says:

    I was trying to send two images of a dragon coin that is in my possession for 50 years.
    But the message and images did not go through.
    Can I try it a different way?

  5. Ferdinand A.Nginhayan says:

    Gud pm.i have a 1pc of 34th year kuang hsu coin.where will i sell this.thank you

  6. ralph says:

    I have a number of coins . some you talk about , some you don’t show . may I share these coins and maybe find out more about them ? thank you for this site . IT’S GREAT!

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