Rare 19th century Chinese Dragon dollar soars high in Heritage auction

Circa 1899 Chinese Dragon dollar realized almost $440,000
By , Coin World
Published : 07/13/18
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Dragons as a design element on Chinese coins are nothing rare, but a very rare example of an early Dragon dollar from China is an exception.

The pattern coin, issued circa 1898 or 1899 during the reign of Kuang-hsü, was struck for Chekiang province. 

An example graded Mint State 66 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. starred in Heritage Auctions’ June 28 and 29 auction in Hong Kong, realizing just shy of $440,000 in U.S. funds, with the 20 percent buyer’s fee included. 

The coin is cataloged as Kann 119 by Eduard Kann, in Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Coins (Gold, Silver, Nickel & Aluminum)

Kann suggests that the mint in Chekiang, at the capital Hangchow, began operating as early as 1896 before being dismantled and moved to Peking (Beijing). 


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“Then we hear that two more mints were inaugurated at Hangchow; one in 1903, the other one in 1905, but both were closed in 1906, remaining idle for a considerable time,” Kann wrote. 

Two subsidiary silver coins (with denominations less than one dollar) were struck in 1896, but this undated pattern was not struck until a few years later, according to Kann. 

It is “Among the rarest of all the ‘Dragon Dollar’ issues, and seldom available to collectors of the series, with archived auction records reflecting the offering of only three coins since 2008,” according to Heritage catalogers.

“All three of these previously offered coins were [in Very Fine] Details condition, with two pieces having chopmarks, and the third showing graffiti damage,” the auction house said. “The last of these to be sold at auction was a VF Details (Chopmark) example sold by Heritage in December 2017 at the hammer price of $55,000.” 

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The coin just sold is from the W&B Capital Collection and is one of only three examples to be certified. The only other Mint State example known is an MS-64 example graded by Professional Coin Grading Service. 

Heritage’s cataloger considered the coin a “spectacular example,” “truly amazing and a once in a lifetime opportunity for the collector who wants to acquire the finest known example of a supremely rare dragon dollar.”

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