China, Tai Ping Small Sword Society cash 1854

Started by bgriff99, October 01, 2015, 05:04:18 AM

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The Small Sword Society was a subgroup of the Heaven and Earth Society, in rebellion against the Ching amidst the broader Taiping Rebellion.   They wanted to establish a new Chinese (versus Manchu) dynasty, thus the use of "Ming" on their pieces.   In 1853 they captured Shanghai.   In 1854 they began casting cash, of which there was a shortage, from scrap metal.   The Ching authorities declared anyone found with such coins was liable to trial and execution as a rebel.   The casting, after creating several varieties of Tai Ping coins, was reportedly switched to copies of the current government cash.   The Ching retook Shanghai in 1855.

The seed coin of this type was made from Northern Sung cash of Tai Ping tung pao, by adding features to the originally blank reverse.    The character below is 'Ming'.   There were also made pieces copying this cash with nothing added to the reverse, which can only be detected by being brass instead of bronze.   They are considered rare, but may not really be, simply for not having been noticed.


A highly interesting piece of highly interesting history. Apparently, there is a Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times". It would apply to this coin. Recently, I argued about the futility of distinguishing between official and non-official coins. This coin is another example: official to the Ming-supporters, non-official to the Qing court at the same time.

Quote from: bgriff99 on October 01, 2015, 05:04:18 AM
There were also made pieces copying this cash with nothing added to the reverse, which can only be detected by being brass instead of bronze.

Does that mean: if it's bronze, it's Qing, if it's brass, it's issued in Shanghai? I have never seen a bronze cast Qing coin. All were brassy. There is an interesting parallel in French coinage. The (anti-clerical) revolutionary government requisitioned all church bells and had them turned into coins. Some bells were bronze, others brass and the colour of the coins varies. You mention that the Shanghai coins were made from scrap. I presume much of that was worn pots and pans that would have been brass...

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.


Without further information, "scrap" can mean metal found in treasuries, confiscated from merchants, loot, or culled coins.   The metal content would probably be found to be mixed.    Kai Yuan direct recasts in copper alloy are not seen much, on the retail end, even as Nanyang trade cash.   It would be difficult to pass off a recast as brass versus bronze just by a surface scratch.    The "white copper" of originals is similar in color.   Presumably newly cast coins would have white metal, whether zinc, lead or tin, added if necessary, and cost-appropriate.