Tiananmen Square protests lead to rarity of China’s 1989 Dragon and Phoenix coins

Intended for U.S. sales, Proof 1989 coins withdrawn, melted amid international political disapproval
By , Coin World
Published : 12/01/16
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The outbreak of protests in Tiananmen Square in China in 1989 was felt in the coin hobby when some Chinese coins struck for U.S. sale suddenly became politically undesirable in the United States because of the crackdown.

Proof 1989 Dragon and Phoenix coins that had been prepared for release were instead withdrawn and melted, according to Swiss International Coin Auctions, Sincona Ag. Of the 2,538 gold and 7,328 silver coins originally minted, both in 2-ounce size, all but a few examples were melted.

A pair of these 1989 coins highlighted Sincona’s auction No. 33 on Oct. 25, during a week when it offered thousands of lots.

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The Proof 1989 Dragon and Phoenix 2-ounce gold 200-yuan coin realized a hammer price of 105,000 Swiss francs (about $106,627 U.S.), against an opening bid of 6,500 Swiss francs. The buyer’s fee ranges from 18 to 20 percent, depending on bidding method, and an 8 percent value-added tax applies to nongold lots. 

The companion piece, offered in the next lot, was the 1989 Dragon and Phoenix 2-ounce silver 20-yuan coin from the release. The silver version was hammered for 55,000 Swiss francs ($55,329 U.S.), against an opening bid of 800 Swiss francs. 

Very few examples exist of the 1989 coins, which were “minted privately on behalf of the Shenyang Mint,” according to the auction house, but were virtually untouchable once the crackdown on protestors escalated. 

The dies were remade with the date 1990, and the originally agreed upon mintage — now with the year 1990 — was then produced.

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