World Coins

Countermarked coins can depict political messages

That coins can serve as political propaganda is surely no surprise to collectors who’ve paid attention. 

Coins reflect a nation and its leaders, and the values that shape it and them. They can also be co-opted by individuals and organizations that place their own messages on them. 

That’s the case with two different types offered during Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ Jan. 17 to 21 auction in New York City, where four coins tell the story of two different political events of the 1900s.

Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution in 1917 spawned the first type under consideration.

A countermark in Cyrillic lettering on a Czar Nicholas II silver ruble of 1899 proclaims the “End of the House of Romanov” and the date, March 1917. These counterstruck issues celebrate the deposing of the czar and his family, ending the 300-year rule of the Romanovs. 

The 1899 host coin is toned with an edge cut and the countermark is Very Fine. The coin realized $1,790 (including the 20 percent buyer’s fee), against an estimate of $2,000 to $2,500.

A 1912 silver 50-kopek coin in the sale features the same countermark (in Extremely Fine condition, the firm said).  The 1912 coin realized $1,200 (with the fee) against an estimate of $1,000 to $1,500.

Tiananmen Square incident

Fast forward more than 70 years to 1989, when unrest in China sparked demonstrations, ending with 1 million people assembled in Tiananmen Square before government forces cracked down June 4.


The Berkeley Chinese Students & Scholars Association had several older coins countermarked and sold to help raise funds for Chinese exchange students stranded in the United States. 

An anti-Communist symbol and Chinese legend countermark appears on the obverse of each coin, with the reverse bearing the same central symbol, and the peripheral in English: CHINA FREEDOM DOLLAR  SUPPORT THE FEDERATION  SAVE THE STUDENTS.

One of the coins was an undated (1927) Memento silver dollar in EF condition, with an Uncirculated countermark. It realized $840, including the fee.

The other host coin was an EF 1902 French Indo-Chinese Piastre de Commerce silver coin, with the same Uncirculated countermark, which realized $720.

Both of these 1989-countermarked pieces had estimates of $350 to $500.

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