The Other Coin: Chinese Coins
Finally got a couple of knife and a hoe coins to go in the primitive coin exhibit for the
display at the Nevada State Museum August 16 and 17. Chances are, since they are
coming from China that they are fake, but “authentic” Chinese fakes anyway.
China probably did event coinage before Lydia . Definitely, if you are not counting the
round coin with the square hole as the only Chinese coins. Cowrie shell money, first real
ones, then made of bone and finally bronze (some times called ant nose) began at least
as early as 1500 BC. Sumeria was using shell money, carved or otherwise as early as
3000 BC. The cast bronze cowrie shell was definitely circulating as money by 600BC
along with cast bronze knives and hoes found as early as 1200 BC.
The familiar cast bronze coin began circulating around 350BC, but may date back to
600BC, the same time as gold and silver coins were being minted in Lydia . The “cash”
coin continued into the 20th century and is abundant and cheaply collected.
Although many people are put off by the Chinese characters, there are many easy to get
reference works that identify coins and characters with ease. The much reprinted F.
Schjoth. Chinese Currency. London , 1929 is easily found and there is now Chinese
Cash: Identification and Price Guide by David Jen (2000). There is also a nice website
at: http://chinesecoins.lyq.dk/ and http://www.sportstune.com/chinese/index.html .
With the coming Olympics, collecting ancient Chinese coins can be both easy and fun.
Modern coins and currency are also easy to get. China was the first to make paper
currency as well as Marco Polo noted in the 13th century. Individual banks and
provinces minted bronze, silver and gold currency beginning in the 15th century,
although there are ancient gold coins known as well. Gold and silver coins all but
disappeared in the 1930’s in the Depression and modern currency is mostly aluminum
and heralds the ideals of Communist society. Gold and silver pandas—bullion coins are
popular as well.