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Champion Hong Kong Auction Sets Records
By Champion Galleries

The hot coin market in China is producing record prices for rare Chinese coins and paper money. Champion Galleries Hong Kong Auction sale of 22 June 2008 offered a modest 352 lots of Asian coins and paper money, of which 317 lots sold for a total of US $1,894,539. Over 100 bidders filled the packed room at the Holiday Inn Golden Mile that Sunday, generating nearly a dozen world record prices. The strongest bidders in this sale were actually from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Chia.

The star of the sale was Lot 216, the 1867 Hong Kong and Shanghai Tael pattern (K911a), certified PCGS Proof-64, and the finest known example, which sold for US $195,500 – a world record price for a Hong Kong coin (all prices in this review include the buyer’s fee). This coin went to a phone buyer in Singapore. Lot 198, a Peiyang Tael of 1907 (K938a), estimated at $70,000, went for $120,750 (to buyer in Taiwan), topping the $97,500 price obtained for another example in Champion’s April 2008 sale. This too is a world record price for this coin. Lot 201, an undated (1897-1898) Hunan Dragon Half Dollar, which was unknown until 1975 and is not recorded in the Kann catalog, one of about 6 known pieces, brought $92,000. Lot 184 was a 1903 Hupoo Tael (K927), NGC certified Specimen-64, which sold to a Taiwan buyer for $80,500. Lot 205 was a stunning Kiangnan 50 cent dragon coin struck in 1897 (K67), certified NGC Proof-67 Cameo, undoubtedly the finest known example, which went to a buyer in Singapore for a world record price of $78,200. A set of 1936 Small Size Dollar and Half Dollar patterns, with sailing junk on the reverse (K634 & 635), went to a collector in China for $36,800 (a world record price) and $18,400 respectively. Lot 217, a regular issue Sun Yat Sen Dollar of 1912 (Y318; K600), NGC certified MS65 and estimated at $3,000, realized $14,950 – another world record price.

Among the gold coins in the sale, a 1906 Gold Tael Pattern (K1540), Lot 181, sold to a buyer in Hong Kong for $80,500. A pair of 1926 Shantung Gold $20 and $10 coins (K1535 & 1536) were obtained by a Singapore collector for $69,000 and $51,750, respectively, both world record prices. A Peoples Republic of China 1995-dated 5 ounce gold piece, honoring Hsu Pei-hung (Xu Beihong), said to be a 500 yuan coin, but unlisted in the Krause Standard Catalog of World Coins, with mintage of only 100 pieces, sold to a buyer in China for $43,700 on an $18,000 estimate; another world record .

Chinese ancient coins also performed well in the Champion sale. Lot 18 was a 5 character knife coin from the State of Ch’I, inscribed: Chieh Mo Chih Fa Hua (Jiemo Zhifa Hua), similar to Fisher’s Ding 354, but with a different reverse (Hartill 4.2k), brought $6,900 from a buyer in China. Lot 10 was a pre-dynastic Ch’ing Dynasty 10 cash coin, inscribed entirely in Manchu, issued by Abahai Khan during 1627-1636 (Hartill 22.8; Fisher’s Ding 2175), estimated at $200 but finally sold for $1,265 to a Taiwan buyer.

The highlight among the many fine Hong Kong coins in this sale, was the very rare 1941 one cent coin (Lot 58), estimated at $4,000. The coin was purchased by an American collector for $5,520, after spirited bidding over Ebay by a collector in Russia. A series of one cent patterns also brought high prices: Lot 24, KM Pn25 ($6,325); Lot 26, KM Pn285 ($4,600); Lot 28, KM Pn288 ($4,000); and Lot 52, undated, young head Victoria pattern, Pr.254 ($6,325). The regular issue 1905 ten cent coin (Lot 43), PCGS certified MS62, went for $3,680.

There was also spirited bidding on the Chinese paper money, especially for Ch’ing Dynasty notes, between two buyers in China, a business tycoon, and a museum. The highest price realized was Lot 139, a very rare Ta Ch’ing Bank $5 note on the Shanghai branch (Pick A71h), estimated at $300, but sold for $12,650. The Third highest price realized for a bank note in the sale was for an 1898 Imperial Bank of China $1 note on the Canton branch (Pick A36a). This Barclay & Fry specimen note (Lot 110) sold for $10,350 to a buyer in China. The next lot, an 1898 $50 note from the same bank, but on the Shanghai branch (Pick A54a), went to a collector in China for $8,625. Lot 100, a beautiful $50 color trial specimen note on the Chartered Bank of India, Australia & China, from the Hong Kong branch, realized $9,775. Surprisingly, the second highest price paid for a note in this sale was for Lot 180, a Peoples Republic of China 10 Yuan note from 1953 (Pick 870), which sold for $11,500. All of the notes in the 1953 series are scarce to rare, the 10 Yuan highest value, being the rarest of all. These notes were printed in Russia, and after the Sino-Soviet split about 1960, the Chinese were afraid the Russians might attempt to damage the Chinese economy by flooding the country with 1953 notes. The notes were withdrawn from circulation and destroyed.

Chinese medals also sold well in the Champion sale. Lots 276 and 277, the Imperial Order of the Double Dragon, 2nd Class 3rd Grade, and 3rd Class 1st Grade, both decorations sold to the same European buyer for $7,475 and $5,520 respectively. A Ts’ao K’un (Cao Kun) medal with attached ribbon (Lot 280), went to a buyer in China for $2,990. This military decoration is proof that the medal, listed in Unusual World Coins as XM1230, is not a coin. The most interesting medal in the sale, and probably the rarest, was Lot 275, a dollar-sized white metal medal commemorating the visit of “Sir Chihchen Lo Feng Luh” to the Heaton Mint in Birmingham, England in January 1900. This beautiful medal, bearing a portrait of Lo Feng-lu, Chinese Minister to England, sold to a collector in Taiwan for $3,220. This medal, enclosed in what is probably the original red box of issue, is believed to be only the second example to come on the numismatic market. Another extremely rare Chinese medal appeared in Lot 246, estimated at $300. This dollar-sized medal, stuck in copper-nickel, depicting Sun Yat Sen on the obverse and a junk at sunrise on the reverse, was issued to commemorate the completion of the Central Mint in Shanghai in 1930. It was designed by American mint expert, Clifford Hewitt, and has his monogram initials beside Sun Yat Sen‘s neck. Listed in Unusual World Coins as XM505, this medal was also struck in silver, aluminum, copper and gilt copper. One of perhaps a handful produced, this medal sold for $4,830; an astute purchase by PCGS President, Ron Guth.

Well known specialists in East Asian Numismatics, this was Champion Galleries’ sixth auction. Auction Number 4, held on 2 December 2007, contained 328 lots and grossed US $600,000. Auction Number 5, held on 1 April 2008, offered 281 lots and grossed $1,380,000. All of these sales were held at the Holiday Inn Golden Mile in Hong Kong. Champion’s next sale will be held on July 26th, in Taipei, Taiwan in conjunction with the Taipei Numismatic Society’s 30th Anniversary celebration. For more information or a full list of prices realized to this or earlier sales, visit the website at: www.cghka.com. To discuss consigning Asian coins, medals or notes to future Champion Galleries auctions, email Champion Galleries President, Michael Chou at: championghka@gmail.com, or visit the Champion Galleries’ table at the ANA (American Numismatic Association) Convention, July 30 through August 3, 2008, at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Information will also be available at Champion’s ANA table on the soon to be launched Journal of East Asian Numismatics (JEAN) website. Though still under construction, some features are available at the JEAN website: www.dongya.info.

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