The largest coin in China’s 1990 Phoenix and Dragon set is the 20-ounce gold 1,500 yuan piece seen here. With only 50 minted, the set is among the rarities in the modern (1979 to the present) series. One set realized a hammer price of €80,000 (about $111,300 U.S.) in a German auction in March, 2014.
In 1990, China issued a program of commemorative coins known to collectors today as the “Phoenix and Dragon” coins.
The reverse shows the aforementioned phoenix and dragon, and the obverse shows the Great Wall of China.
“What appears to be of decorative value to us has clear implications in the Chinese culture,” according to Künker.
The dragon and phoenix not only represent emperor and empress but are among the traditional symbols of good luck. “Feng shui advisors recommend giving an art work with a depiction of this kind to ensure a happy wedding day and a long, harmonious marriage,” according to Künker.
The seven different denominations range from a small 2-gram silver 2-jiao piece to a massive 20-ounce gold 1,500-yuan coin. Others are 1-ounce silver 10-yuan, 2-ounce silver 20-yuan, 20-ounce silver 150-yuan, 1-gram gold 10-yuan and 2-ounce gold 200-yuan coins. Mintage limits were as high as 80,000 (for the silver 10-yuan coin) and as low as 250 pieces (for the 20-ounce gold coin), but only 50 sets were issued together.
The fact that collectors of modern (1979 to the present) Chinese coins seek quality and rarity is well known.
This set is among the rarest of all modern Chinese coins. The coins’ precious metal value alone was nearly €22,000 (about $30,533 U.S.), the auction firm calculated, and the set had an estimate of €30,000 (about $41,636 U.S.)
The resulting hammer price of €80,000 (about $111,300 in U.S. funds) is “evidence that the Chinese people cherish their present coins just like their ancient ones,” the auction house reported after the sale.
The set in the auction bears serial No. 10 of 50.
The buyer’s fee varies depending on lot and location of the winning bidder, and may range from 15 to 23 percent, so it is not reflected in the totals here.