World Coins

Carved Junk dollar in Stack’s Oct. 6 Hong Kong auction

A Chinese Birds over Junk silver dollar was carved with the name of a U.S. sailor aboard a ship visiting China. The coin is part of Stack’s Bowers’ Oct. 6 auction in Hong Kong.

Images courtesy of Stack’s Bowers.

An example of the famous Chinese “Birds over Junk” silver dollar, engraved with the name of a sailor in the United States Pacific Fleet, is being offered in Stack’s Bowers’ Hong Kong auction, Oct. 6.

The piece of numismatic “trench art” was made contemporaneous with the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, according to the auction house.

A 1932 Birds over Junk silver dollar (showing three birds above a ship known as a junk) is the undertype or host for the artistic memento, which marks a U.S. sailor’s visit on the USS Black Hawk (AD-9) to Chefoo, China (modern-day Yantai).

Text engraved on what is typically the portrait side of the coin reads CHIFU [sic] CHINA U.S.S. B.H. P.E. ATKINSON MAY 8 1937, with Chinese characters below, all framed by a carving of two dragons with a flaming pearl.

The Black Hawk was a destroyer in the United States Navy first commissioned for service in 1918.

After World War I, the ship was refitted and assigned to the Asiatic Fleet in 1922. Black Hawk moored in Chefoo on May 8, 1937, to perform refitting duties, according to the auction house.

“The engraving by a sailor named ‘Atkinson’ ties the piece to this exact location and time, and is an incredible historical testament to movements of the ship in the immediate runup to the Second Sino-Japanese War,” the firm said. 

Black Hawk remained in Chefoo until July 2, when it set course for Chinwangtao. During its time in Chinwangtao, the Marco Polo Incident of July 7 occurred, sparking the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, a conflict that would be subsumed into World War II.

Black Hawk returned to Chefoo, and later served during World War II before being decommissioned in 1946.

According to the auction house, “The engraving is still strong, and the surfaces otherwise appear to be free of problems like cleaning.”

The coin is graded Genuine, Graffiti, Good Details, by Professional Coin Grading Service, and has a pre-sale estimate of $1,000 to $5,000.

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