Editor's note: this is the fourth part of a feature story by Jeff
Starck about coins that are important, iconic or interesting. The
story originally appears in the September monthly issue of Coin World.
Nearly a century after the steam technology altered the course of
British coinage, modernization came to Chinese coins.
In 1887, the Kwangtung Mint was authorized. Machinery, dies and
other equipment were ordered from the Heaton Mint in Birmingham,
England, arriving in China in 1888. When it opened in 1889, the
Kwangtung facility became the first Chinese mint to use modern technology.
The first coinage series included a silver dollar that was also
denominated as 7 mace and 3 candareens. The coin introduced a new
design for circulation, featuring a dragon in its design, giving name
to the Dragon design type. The design was inspired by Dragon dollars
then in use in Japan, and the design was also used in Korea.
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The weight of 27.22 grams in .900 fine silver was meant to mirror
the popular silver 8-real coin that served as a de facto worldwide
currency for several centuries.
Those early silver Dragon dollar coins contained one candareen
(0.01202 troy ounce) of metal more than the coins they were intended
to replace, the Mexican 8-real coin, so when circulation production
began, many of the new coins were removed from circulation and melted.
The design became iconic.
Dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and Chinese
folklore, with appearances found in an archaeological context as far
back as the fifth millennium B.C., so it’s only natural that the
machine-struck coinage of China show the beast.
The Dragon dollar design became standard across all provinces of
China, not just Kwangtung. The dragon remained on the coins of China
until the early decade of the new millennium.
reading Coin World's series on what makes a world coin cool:
There may be no more iconic ancient Greek coinage
than the Owls from Athens
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Britain’s ‘Cartwheel’ coins reflect Industrial
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