Paper Money

Chinese provincial note with silver dollars realizes about $24,000

Among the most popular icons of United States currency is the Series of 1886 $5 silver certificate, colloquially known as the “Silver Dollar Back” because of the five Morgan silver dollars adorning its back. Close to a thousand of these notes have been recorded, yet it is not unusual to see high-grade examples selling for tens of thousands of dollars. 

Less well-known to American collectors may be “Silver Dollar Fronts” selling for a similar amount, such as the one sold by Stack’s, Bowers and Ponterio for $23,900 including the buyer’s fee at the firm’s August 2015 auction in Hong Kong. The note is a large format 1899 Chinese provincial issue from the Hupeh Government Mint denominated 7 mace and 2 candareens and graded Very Fine 30 by Paper Money Guaranty.

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The note is listed as a “remainder,” meaning not issued.

The catalog description calls it one of the most well-recognized and beautiful designs of all Chinese paper money. The light green face features large facing dragons on the left and right with a pearl of wisdom between them. The dragons are holding the obverse and reverse of the legendary and widely circulated Chinese “Dragon dollar” coins, this one, of course, from Hupeh Province. The coin’s DOLLAR legend also serves as a designation of the denomination, although 7 mace and 2 candareens is more properly the coin’s weight under the Chinese system. 

Below the dollar coins is a large orange ornamental engraving. The reverse design has printing in orange at the borders and black text at center. The serial number at upper center is not filled in, which is said to be commonplace for the design. 

Several other “Silver Dollar Front” notes were in the sale, a few more-reasonably priced for the budget-conscious collector. Three from Anhwei Province sold for between $448 and $2,270.50. A very rare Nanking issue with the coins on the back sold for $13,145 in PMG VF-35 with discoloration.

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