World Coins

Rare pattern for a Chinese silver dollar in auction

A rare silver dollar pattern from China realized a hammer price of $72,000 U.S. during an April 4 auction in Hong Kong.

Images courtesy of Champion Hong Kong Auctions.

A rare pattern for a Chinese silver dollar of the early 20th century has sold at auction.

The 1916 Hat Touching Rim Flying Dragon dollar, issued for Yuan Shi Kai, realized a hammer price of $72,000 U.S. during Champion Hong Kong Auctions’ April 4 sale. The buyer’s fee ranges from zero to five percent, depending on bidding method. 

According to Bruce Smith, who authored the catalog for the auction house, “There are two different explanations for the Yuan Shih Kai Flying Dragon Silver Dollar, supposedly struck in 1916 to mark Yuan Shih Kai’s enthronement as Emperor Hung Hsien.” 

Researchers over the years have suggested differently, that the dollar’s design was created after the Italian engraver, L. Giorgi, left China in 1917.

Before leaving, Giorgi engraved dies for a gold $10 coin with the same Flying Dragon design, but not one for a dollar denomination. 

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Giorgi left work in the hands of six Chinese engravers that he had trained. In 1919 (three years after Yuan Shih Kai died), Tientsin Mint Director Li Pai-ch’I (Li Baiqi) reportedly asked the Chinese engravers at the mint to produce a dollar die with the flying dragon design. 

An engraver named T’ang Shang-chin produced the best die, and it was used opposite an obverse die Giorgi  had engraved in 1914, with the end result being the Yuan Shih Kai Flying Dragon dollars. 

These coins were not intended for circulation, but were commemorative coins made for collectors. 

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The example in the Champion auction is graded Mint State 63 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., one of two graded in Uncirculated grades by NGC.

“Both examples probably comes from the Goodman collection and may have been owned by [Edouard] Kann at one time,” according to Smith.

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