Silver yuan coin from China

Edge, composition affect value
Published : 04/10/11
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I found this coin in an old purse and I am wondering what country it is from. It is about the same size and weight as a U.S. silver dollar. I believe that it, too, is silver. What year was it minted and how would a person find its approximate value?

A.O. Wimberley

Austin, Texas

If genuine (and this is a typical concern, with the many Chinese counterfeit coins entering the U.S. market), it appears to be a Republic of China dollar coin, or yuan.

Composed of .8900 silver with an actual silver weight of 0.7554 ounce, that coin weighs a little less, and contains a little less silver, than a U.S. Morgan or Peace silver dollar. It does not bear a Western-style date, but according to the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000, all yuan of this type were struck in 1914.

The six Chinese characters above the portrait on the obverse denote it is from that year. Yuan coins of this type but featuring seven Chinese characters were struck from 1918 to 1921.

Collectors who encounter a coin of this type should check its edge. The Standard Catalog lists five different varieties of edge decoration:

➤ vertical reeding

➤ circles

➤ alternating T’s

➤ plain

➤ tiny circle in ribbon bow

The values vary depending upon the edge variety, with the circle and alternating T edge varieties commanding a premium over the others. As with U.S. coins, condition is an important factor in determining the value of a coin.

The reader’s coin has seen some significant circulation wear, and it has discoloration and a decent-sized gouge in the obverse field, impairing its worth and likely keeping it in Very Good condition, and likely no better than Fine.

In VG condition, the Standard Catalog gives values ranging from $13.50 to $18 across all edge varieties. In Fine condition, the price ranges begin to separate, with values of $15 to $60.

These prices, however, were published before the recent jump in the spot price of silver.

The coin’s silver content, about three-quarters of an ounce, has now caused its value to exceed all of the Very Good prices, and some of the Fine prices, listed in the Standard Catalog. At a silver spot price of $35, this coin’s silver content should be worth about $26.

What the reader could get for the coin in the market is difficult to predict. A traditional coin shop in the United States will likely only consider its silver content when making an offer. Selling the coin on eBay could possibly bring a better price.

Coin World’s Readers Ask department does not accept coins or other items for examination without prior permission from staff member Erik Martin. Readers Ask also does not examine error or variety coins. Materials sent to Readers Ask without prior permission will be returned unexamined. Please address all Readers Ask inquiries to or call (800) 673-8311, Ext. 274.

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