Paper Money

Rare Chinese note highlights April 5 Hong Kong auction

This “Black Dragon” or “Ooi-Long” 1-yuan note, issued by the Kwangsi Bank in 1909, is making its first auction appearance since it sold for $125,000 more than a decade ago.

Images courtesy of Stack's Bowers Galleries.

Stack’s Bowers Galleries calls one of the paper money lots offered in its April 5 sale in Hong Kong, the “holy grail” of early provincial Chinese currency.

It is the “Black Dragon” or “Ooi-Long” 1-yuan note that is making its first auction appearance since it sold for $125,000 more than a decade ago. It was issued by the Kwangsi Bank in 1909.

It is called the “Black Dragon” in reference to the pair of facing black dragons on the face flanking a silver dollar from the same province, a design that may remind U.S. paper money collectors of the “Silver Dollar Back” Series 1886 $5 silver certificates. The back of the Chinese note shows a Kwangsi Bank hand stamp at left, along with a 15-line inscription within an orange border that loosely translates “no discount given” and “redeemable for silver at any branch.”

The catalog description traces the history of the note to when the ruling Qing Dynasty changed the structure of both imperial banks and made Kwangsi the first province to establish its own bank. From the start, among the residents of the city of Nanning, the notes from this series were commonly referred to as Ooi-Long notes. They were printed in Japan, with double the amount of $5 notes as $1 notes produced, partially explaining why the $1 example is so rare. The notes were only in circulation for two years before being recalled, so few survive.

The note is graded Choice Fine 15, and is the only one ever handled by Paper Money Guaranty. Bidding will open at $60,000, with a final price estimated in the $100,000 to $200,000 range.

Stack’s Bowers includes a broader array of notes from around the world in this sale than it has in the past, because, it says, of the increasingly varied interests of its audience.

Among the array is a full set of issues from Panama, including the second finest 20-balboa note and a near-Gem 10-balboa note. From Pakistan, there is a “Haj Pilgrim” 100-rupee specimen note, graded PMG About Uncirculated 55. The Canadian section includes a scarce serial number 1 Merchants Bank of Canada $5 note and a group of fancy solid serial-numbered Bank of Canada issues.

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