Rarest Known Chinese Coin
The Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar is one of the two rarest Chinese coins known to exist with 1903 Fentien One Tael silver pattern. For decades, leading numismatists, collectors and famous museums around the world have dreamed of acquiring the legendary Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar. Well known numismatists including King Farouk, A. M. Tracey Woodward, Edouard Kann, Qin Ziwei and Irving Goodman, as well as the Liu Collection and the Chang Foundation, have all attempted to add this rare beauty to their collections.
More than just rare, the Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar also features a bit of intrigue as it is the only Chinese coin that includes a season as part of its date. Those passionate for Chinese coins have been fascinated by this fact, seeking to view the coin for clues that would explain why the name is so unique.
In the numismatic community, it is believed that only one or two pieces are known to exist. However, evidence of a second Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar remains elusive since a true Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar did not appear at public auction until April 2002. When one of the rarest and most legendary Chinese coins finally arrives after decades of research from a host of numismatic scholars and collectors, it is no surprise that a new auction record would follow. The Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar is the first Chinese coin to sell for more than one million RMB! In 2009, the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) certified the piece that appeared at the 2002 auction as genuine. Further, NGC listed this Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar as the most valuable Asian coin the company has ever graded. That is high praise from a company that has been grading coins for 23 years. (Please view the NGC web site http://www.ngccoin.com/news/viewarticle.aspx?IDArticle=1594 ; for the Chinese, http://www.gbngc.com/Html/zuixinxiaoxi/qianbixinwen/957360.html).
After close to eight years out of the public eye, Hong Kong Champion Auction is proud to welcome back the rarest Chinese coin on its 100th anniversary. The Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar is sure to be one of the main attractions at Champion's Ultima Collection Auction, scheduled for August 22nd at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Ballroom I, 18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. The Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar is lot 12, NGC AU55, with an estimated price range of US $800,000 - 1,200,000.
Michael Chou, CEO of Hong Kong Champion Auction, noted the many questions he has received regarding this prized coin. While Mr. Chou's enthusiasm is equally high, he is quick to point out that the Ultima Collection Auction will feature far more than one piece. In fact, the Ultima Collection Auction includes 68 rare coins and banknotes, most acquired from leading Chinese coin collections that have set record prices.
The Ultima Collection was researched and built by Mr. George Lim, who has seen great success in Singapore real estate as well as Asian numismatics. When crafting his numerous and memorable collections of coins and banknotes, Mr. Lim has held fast to two principals: rarity and condition. Each item in this collection has been sealed with an Ultima Pedigree Holder.
Hong Kong Champion Auction is the only NGC authorized dealer in greater China. As the preferred numismatic certification and grading company, NGC recently announced it has reached an unprecedented industry milestone ¡ª 20 million coins graded on May 19, 2010. NGC is the first coin grading company to reach this historic number.
The Mystery of the Chinese character ¡°Spring 1910¡±
While numismatic experts agree that the Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar is extremely rare, its mystique lies in the four Chinese characters ¡°Geng Xu Chun Ji¡± that grace its face. The characters translate to English as "Spring 1910". As was the style, all coins made in Yunnan were stamped with the name of the reigning emperor. While infrequent, Chinese coins were sometimes dated in 60 year cycles (¡°Ganzhi¡±), so it is not unusual in 1910. However, it is a first to see the season listed with the text of the date.
This begs a set of questions: Why add a season next to the date on a coin? Why this coin? And, why choose the spring? After all, it is the marking of the season that makes this coin extremely rare. Attempts have been made to solve the mystery of the Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar, many centering upon a specific milestone. Since major events have been engraved on coins for centuries, this particular hypothesis seems reasonable. The next obvious question centers upon Yunnan circa 1910. What was happening at that time to generate enthusiasm for a spring coin?
On April 1st 1910, the French-built Tonkin-Yunnan railroad had laid down its last bit of tracks after 40 years of planning and construction. Completing the Tonkin-Yunnan line could have been a momentous occasion to celebrate since it was the first railway in Yunnan Province. Running 465 kilometers, it was given the name "Dian" (Yunnan) in Yunnan and "Tonkin" in Vietnam. The names seem appropriate to each region since the railway started at Haiphong, Vietnam.
The rail line was first proposed in 1871 but meetings with the Qing Government were stalled until 1885. After many further delays, the Tonkin-Yunnan line finally started construction in 1903 and finished in 1910. The Tonkin-Yunnan railroad was notorious for being very difficult to complete. However, once it was done, the rail line became the country's second transnational line and the Southwest's first railway. Tonkin-Yunnan opened the doors to commerce with Yunnan¡¯s neighbors, promoting economic development and modernization.
The official opening for the railway occurred soon after the Spring Equinox (March 21st) of 1910, which matches the season on the coin. This could mean that the Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar was planned to commemorate a transcontinental rail line that broke trade barriers close to the turn of the century.
For reasons unknown today, the Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar had a limited minting, making it extremely rare today. While the long mystery of the Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar pattern may be never be completely understood, there is little doubt that it is one of most important artifacts of Chinese Numismatic history.
The first Chinese coin to sell for more than one million RMB
The Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar was most likely known to collectors as early as 1920. A rubbing made in 1921 comes from an example owned by Giuseppe Ros, an avid collector of Chinese coins from Italy. The rubbing may be found in the files of the American Numismatic Society in New York. Unfortunately, forgeries of the coin were already on the market by the 1930¡¯s. Between 1961 and 1991, the coin appeared at auction at least nine times in England, America and Hong Kong, but all of those coins were forgeries. Among these auctions, the Kreisburg-Schulman (NY) sale in February 1961 offered a coin with an impressive pedigree: A. M. Tracey Woodward to King Farouk to Lee to Lindner. Similar to most others, it turned out to be a fake. The specimen in the Von Halle Collection, sold by Glendining (London) in November 1966 was also a forgery as was the coin in the Goodman Collection sold by Superior in June 1991. The Superior sale turned out to be a different type of forgery.
Only one or two genuine Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar specimens are known to exist. The only true example appeared at the Hua Chen (Beijing) auction in April 2002. That coin sold for 1,089,000 RMB Yuan (about US $150,000), making it the first coin to sell for more than one million RMB in China. The same piece was offered five years later in a Cheng Xuan (Beijing) sale in April 2007, where it sold for 3,192,000 RMB Yuan (US $468,000). This piece is said to have been held by a family in Yunnan, and was the example from which the famous collector, Ma Dingxiang, made a rubbing many years ago (illustrated in the Cheng Xuan catalog). There are small scratches on both sides and reddish-gold toning among the letters and design elements. It is the sole Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar graded as genuine and promises to be an exciting lot for the Ultima Collection Auction sponsored by Hong Kong Champion Auction.
Ultima Collection Auction
August 22 13:30
Hyatt Regency Hotel Ballroom I, 18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
For further information on the Yunnan Spring 1910 Silver Dragon Dollar, including full, high resolution photographs, please see the book Top Chinese Coins presented by iAsure Group, parent company of Hong Kong Champion Auction.