When China built its first modern style mint, it had to rely on
outside help before the facility could become fully operational. But
once it opened, the mint was the world’s largest.
China’s first coining facility to use modern technology was the mint
in Kwangtung Province, authorized in 1887. Machinery, dies and other
equipment were ordered from the Heaton Mint in Birmingham, England,
arriving in China in 1888.
An undated (struck from 1890 to 1908) silver dollar (7 mace, 2
candareens) coin from one of the earliest series of modern,
machine-struck coins made in China highlights Champion Hong Kong
Auctions’ Nov. 30 sale in Macau.
World’s largest mint
When it opened, the Kwangtung (Canton or Guangdong) Mint was the
largest mint in the world, measuring 200 meters long and 130 meters
wide. It operated 90 minting machines at a time the U.S. Mint in
Philadelphia was operating six machines or fewer, according to Michael
Chou, president of Champion Hong Kong Auctions.
Before providing the Kwangtung Mint with equipment and dies, the
Heaton Mint struck a limited number of Proof or Specimen examples of
the first series of Chinese coins. Once the Kwangtung Mint was
properly outfitted, it took over production of the circulating issues.
At Kwangtung’s Mint, four Japanese-made presses each struck as many
as 100,000 silver dollars daily, and 86 smaller presses produced up to
30,000 copper coins per machine daily, according to a May 19, 1888,
article in The Graphic, a London weekly, provided by Chou.
Changing metal standards
The first silver dollar series minted was dubbed the “Seven Three
Reversed Patterns,” the “seven three” referencing the silver standard
of 7 mace and 3 candareens used for the dollar coin. The “Reversed” in
the title reflects the order of the English and Chinese legends, which
are reversed from what later became standard.
Officials changed the legends in 1889 to include an English
inscription surrounding the dragon design, and at the same time
changed the weight standard; these silver coins are based on a weight
equivalent of 7 mace, 2 candareens.
The dollar coin in the auction is graded Mint State 65 by Numismatic
Guaranty Corp. One of the finest known examples, the coin has an
estimate of $20,000 to $40,000 U.S.