to Get Started in Chinese Cash Coins
Chinese cash coins, or cast and carved money made in Chinese from 4000 BC to 1911 AD, can be interesting history pieces as well as numismatic objects. It seems that with over 4,000 years of money to collect, this area would be the most popular area in all of numismatics. There's just one problem--it's hard to know how and where to start. There have been many reference books published on Chinese coins, but often they are in Chinese. I can barely count to ten in Chinese, yet I have found ways to learn the most about my coins, detect counterfeits, and learn about Chinese history through experience. And I got that experience by learning where to start.
access to good reference books is a fundamental part of collecting Chinese
a collection can be one of the hardest parts of collecting these coins.
While there is no right or wrong way to build a collection, I have some
suggestions that will hopefully make it easier. When starting, it is
important to stay with cheap coins. That means coins priced 50¢ to
$20.00. If you have a large quantity of coins and study them often, you
will begin to recognize the ruler’s name, as well as the mintmark on the
reverse. After you are familiar with coins from different dynasties, it is
time to start looking into counterfeits. Ask coin dealers if they can send
you pictures of counterfeit coins for study. Learning to detect
counterfeits will be a challenging but rewarding process. So while you are
learning about fakes, try buying coins from different dynasties from coin
dealers. You can get cowries, which were
are tons of counterfeit cash coins. Almost all Chinese coins were
counterfeited, although most were made during the Qing Dynasty.
Counterfeits are generally have many defects, such as broken rims, weak
castings, obliteration of calligraphy, and won’t have “Shen,” (a
genuine feeling). Also, coins were sometimes altered from five, ten, or
twenty cash to fifty or more cash. Altered coins are sometimes rare, or at
least less common that counterfeits. I would recommend consulting a few
coin dealers for information on counterfeits. Try looking through your
collection to see if all your coins are genuine. Remember – a
counterfeit coin is not necessarily worth less than a genuine.
Chinese coins is much harder than grading machine-struck coins. The grades
that I have listed here are only really terms, as there is no grading
standard at all.
Poor/About good: Although the coin will be extremely worn or damaged, but
the coin can be identified by someone who is familiar with Chinese cash.
Good: The coin will be heavily worn, with only the slightest detail
showing inside the characters.
Very Good: Details around the rims and around the characters will be
sharp, with at least a quarter of the detail inside the characters
Fine: The coin can be easily identified, as three quarters or more of the
details inside the characters will be evident.
Very Fine: There will be light overall wear, but the casting must be bold
and the patina should be green, blue or brown.
Extremely Fine: This grade can mean uncirculated in some cases. The coin
will have very little or no wear and should have an attractive casting and
cases, you will find shiny, yellow, uncirculated coins. These coins, no
matter the time period, were probably kept in a hoard of mint-fresh coins.
Pricing of coins is generally focused on eye appeal and not completely on
the grade. Practice grading your coins, but do not judge them by their
It is often hard to tell the difference between Chinese coins and other
Oriental coins. Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese cash coins have many of
the same qualities as Chinese coins. That’s why it is useful to have the
Standard Catalog of World Coins to consult with if you are having trouble
identifying a coin. If you find a coin that looks zinc and has little or
no patination it is probably a Vietnamese coin from the 1600-1800s.
Japanese coins have only a few different obverses, so they are easily
identified as Japanese. All Korean cash (except privately minted cash) has
the same obverse, so they are very easy to distinguish from Chinese cash.
After a while, you should be a professional at telling coins apart.
I hope you find this article a contribution to numismatics. Please
remember that when I refer to cash coins, I mean coins that were cast and
not struck. Have fun with your collection
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