World Coins

Inscribed Pavilion dollar of 1921 tops Album May auction

A rare inscribed Pavilion dollar highlights the Stephen Album Rare Coins May 19 to 21 auction.

Images courtesy of Stephen Album Rare Coins.

Marks on a coin created after the coin is struck are often a negative factor in pricing and collector interest, but the hand-engraving on this Chinese coin (whose engraving is de facto damage) makes the coin more desirable for some.

Stephen Album Rare Coins offers the 10th example offered at public auction, since their 1982 discovery, of a Chinese 1921 Pavilion dollar with the name of an honoree hand engraved. It highlights the firm’s May 18 to 21 auction No. 46.

The coin, also called the Xu Shichang dollar, is one of the most sought-after coins in Chinese numismatics, the firm said.

Chinese figures in the upper part of the border around the reverse date the coin to October 1921.

The obverse depicts China’s President Xu (Hsu Shih-chang) in a Western-style suit jacket decorated with a presidential sash.

On the reverse, four people in traditional Chinese robes greet one another on the steps of a pavilion nearby a phrase inscribed in Chinese figures that transliterates to “ren shou tong deng” (“Virtue and longevity ascend together”).

Why was it made?

The purpose behind the Pavilion dollar is not entirely clear.

Eduard Kann, writing in Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Coins (Gold, Silver, Nickel and Aluminum), said that the nondenominated piece was “undoubtedly minted as [a] commemorative medallion; but just as certainly admitted for circulation as a 1-dollar piece.”

Some writers suggest it celebrates both President Xu’s 66th birthday and his third anniversary in office (both occurring in October, the ninth month in the Chinese calendar).

Others argue it was struck to mark the opening of the Peking Union Medical College.

The variety in the Album auction has a plain edge without bottom legend. The name of DR R.M. PEARCE is engraved on the reverse, in the lower section of the border. Pearce was a member of a delegation attending the opening of the medical college, where he received this medal.

This coin is graded Specimen Genuine (Uncirculated Details for the engraving) by Professional Coin Grading Service. It has an estimate of $75,000 to $100,000, and bidding at press time May 8 had reached $80,000.

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