‘Weird and Curious’ Silver Collection Auctioned in Hong Kong

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An unusual and extensive supply of silver used throughout Southeast Asia from the collection of researcher Charles J. Opitz was offered in Hong Kong at the Global Coin Auction December 5-6 .

Opitz is well known for his investigation An ethnographic study of traditional money, a comprehensive guide for the weird and curious silver collector with over 1,200 photographs that provides explanations on the use and identification of ethnographic silver.

The author’s collection was particularly rich in currency from Thailand and China. Opitz’s research has highlighted the historical relationship between culture and money in its traditional forms, including monetary forms considered “primitive” or “strange and curious,” summing up decades of research.

The first lot was an ax-head type piece from the Song Dynasty from southern China with a pedigree dating back to 1929 when it was offered in a Thomas L. Elder auction. It would have been unearthed on the island of Poulou Campe in Sumatra in 1902.

The 50 tael coin, more specifically described as a “Fujian 50 Tael Tax Sycee”, dates from 1127 to 1278 and was certified About Uncirculated 55 by Gong Bo Grading. Although not fully readable, the first five characters in the right column would read as “Sha Xian Jing Zhi Yin” (which translates to “Sha County Silver Bar”). It measures 138 by 78 millimeters.

This type of ax-headed ingot was used throughout the Jing, Yuan, and Sung dynasties to pay taxes.

Heritage describes the appearance of the coin: “This particular coin has a rich silver patina and is very original, with white ink or chalk applied to the figures to increase their visibility. ”

It sold for $ 50,400.

Exceptional passport

Among the most recognizable forms of the Opitz offering was a gold-encrusted “Key Money” knife from the Western Han Dynasty in China measuring 74 by 29 millimeters.

Heritage wrote: “A very rare and fascinating piece of Chinese monetary history, these gold encrusted knives worth 5,000 Wu Shu, or about 1/2 cattie (one cattie being equal to 120 grams) of gold. , placing their face value (via fiat) at 2 ounces of pure gold.

The example provided is particularly well preserved and shows a thin layer of intact gold over the characters “Yi Dao” (meaning “a knife”) as well as a deep apple green patina and crisp edges. It has also been authenticated by Gong Bo Grading and has an old certificate from the Authentication Office of the American Numismatic Association.

Dating from the reign of the rebel Want Mang, AD 7-23, “Key Money” sold for $ 12,000.

Blocks of tea like money?

The Opitz collection was particularly rich in so-called “tea money,” which provides physical evidence of the robust trade between Russia and China that began in 1862 when Russian merchants were allowed to trade in it. inside China.

Russian production of tea bricks took place largely in Russian factories in China for the Russian market. Heritage explained that the brick tea trade flourished, especially with the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1907, but the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 ended the trade. Heritage adds: “Due to its contemporary popularity, consumption and use as currency, very few tea bricks have survived to this day, let alone in superb condition.”

The tea bricks enjoyed status as a kind of currency and often had charming designs, like the one published by Tokmakoff, Molotkoff & Co. measuring 242 by 186 by 20 millimeters.

A sturdy horse is pictured on the front, alongside the company’s trademark. The back is perforated in eight panels and although a definitive reading of the text on the brick has proved elusive to modern scholars, it was likely produced for consumption or circulation in Sinkiang or Mongolia, as suggested by the use of Uyghur script.

The late 19th / early 20th century “Tea Money” brick weighing 37 ounces and rated “About Uncirculated” by Heritage sold for $ 5,760 on December 5th.

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