World Coins

Birds over Junk pattern in Hong Kong auction

An Italian-made 1929 pattern that inspired China’s famous 1932 Birds over Junk silver dollar lacks the birds that gave the design its name, and later the sailing vessel was modified to reflect the two-masted version in use in Asia.

Images courtesy of Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio.

The following post is pulled from Coin World’s International page in the Aug. 18 issue.

Two coin shows held in Hong Kong each year bring thousands of collectors together, and related auctions consistently feature rare and historic Chinese and other Asian coins.

Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio’s Aug. 18 and 19 auction in Hong Kong precedes the Aug. 22 to 24 Hong Kong International Coin Convention.

Several lots showcased here reflect just some of the diversity and scope of items in the auction.

A digital catalog may be viewed at the firm's website and a print version may be ordered from the firm at 800-458-4646.

Birds over Junk pattern

Though it was struck for circulation for only one year, no 20th century Chinese coin may be more iconic than the “Birds over Junk” silver dollar (yuan). The design’s origin, however, can be found in a rejected pattern for a Chinese coin struck three years earlier. An example of both the 1929 pattern and 1932 silver dollar appear in the auction.

In 1929, the Chinese Ministry of Finance ordered a new silver dollar honoring Sun Yat-Sen on the obverse. Five mints were commissioned to create designs. Attilo Motti, chief engraver at the Italian Mint, submitted two slightly different versions of the pattern, which features a Chinese sailing vessel, or “junk,” on the reverse.

Motti’s pattern was modified for the 1932 silver dollar, with some fairly significant changes. The junk on the 1932 coin features two sails, in accordance with custom in China, rather than the three masts of the 1929 pattern. Three birds were placed aloft in the sky above the junk, giving the coin its name.

Yet another version, without the birds, was issued for circulation in 1933 and 1934.

The example of the 1929 pattern in the auction, graded Specimen 58 by Professional Coin Grading Service, is estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 in U.S. funds. An About Uncirculated 58 example graded by PCGS of a 1932 Birds over Junk issue is also offered, estimated at $1,500 to $2,000 U.S.

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