The coin collection formed over many decades by Asian numismatic expert Dr. Norman Jacobs is noted for its rarities from Korea and Japan, but it is a Chinese coin that leads the upcoming auction of the collection.
The 1910 Dragon or Yunnan Spring dollar of China, the finest of two known genuine examples, leads the Sept. 8 auction of Jacobs’ collection, which is being sold as part of Heritage Auctions’ Long Beach Signature World & Ancient Coins auction Sept. 7 to 9 and 12. The colorful “Yunnan Spring” name comes from the four Chinese characters across the top of the reverse that roughly translate to “made in the Spring 1910 in Yunnan Province.”
Warren Tucker, vice president of world coins at Heritage, said the “enigmatic issue” is one of China’s rarest coins, with only two genuine pieces known. “It’s been a coin of mystery and legend since its discovery around 1920. Despite near constant research in Chinese numismatics, time has yielded no definite reason or meaning for the term ‘Spring 1910,’” Tucker said.
The first genuine example of this issue to appear at public auction was sold in Beijing in April 2002 at the Hua Chen auction. That same piece later sold in a Cheng Xuan sale, also in Beijing, in 2007 where it brought 3,192,000 renminbi ($468,000 in U.S. funds).
Michael Chou, of Champion Hong Kong Auction, then sold it — now certified About Uncirculated 55 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. — for $1,035,000, in August 2010 in Hong Kong.
Researchers cannot agree on what the Yunnan Spring dollar inscription references, though in 2010 Chou’s firm suggested the coin marked the opening of a railroad line.
The piece that Heritage is offering is the second known example of the Yunnan Spring dollar and the finest of the two known, having been graded and certified AU-58 by NGC. NGC and Chou have determined that it is from the exact same dies as the other coin, according to Heritage.
Cristiano Bierrenbach, vice president of international numismatics at Heritage, said that, if anything, “the grading by NGC is a bit conservative on this piece as Heritage graders noticed no circulation on the coin.”
According to Heritage, Jacobs acquired the example from the Tracey Woodward Collection, through Robert Friedberg in 1952.
The Yunnan Spring dollar is expected to bring in excess of $700,000, with Heritage officials suggesting it could even top $1 million, given the condition and state of the Chinese coin market.