World Coins

Chinese silver ‘cake’ coin highlights Baldwin’s April 2 auction

A very rare 1888 silver “cake” coin from Kweichow Province in China imitates contemporaneous Japanese coinage.

Images courtesy of A.H. Baldwin & Sons Ltd.

The most famous Chinese coin from Kweichow Province is the 1928 Auto dollar, but an issue 40 years earlier is even rarer.

An example of the 1888 Chien Pao silver “cake” coins highlights A.H. Baldwin & Sons Ltd.’s Hong Kong auction April 2.

The coin was made during a period when Kweichow lacked a mint. The province instead operated a government furnace where sycee, silver or gold ingots, were refined and molded.

In 1888 and 1890, during the reign of Kuang Hsu, the province issued a small number of coins called “cakes,” apparently for their shape. These coins feature designs similar to then current Japanese silver dollars, according to Illustrated Catalogue of Chinese Gold & Silver Coins, by Lin Gwo Ming and edited by Ma Tak Wo. According to the Lin and Ma book, the refinery produced the “cake” coins.

The example in the auction is shown in the Lin and Ma book. The silver cakes reportedly circulated in areas inhabited by the Miao tribe, according to the Lin and Ma book. 

These coins are not cataloged by Eduard Kann is his famous 1954 opus, Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Coins, Gold, Silver, Nickel & Aluminum.

The example in the Hong Kong auction displays several rim nicks, several small planchet defects on the obverse, scratches at the center and a filed rim on the reverse.

Catalogers identify it as “otherwise crude Very Fine, exceedingly rare, eluding even Kann.”

The coin has an estimate of $45,000 to $55,000 in U.S. funds. 

The auction offers 1,101 lots. To learn more, visit the auction house website

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