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Hsiang Fu (1008-16 AD) with characters gouged off the mother cash

Started by bgriff99, October 10, 2015, 03:47:19 AM

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Just in from Singapore.   Found in a Sung shipwreck in the South China Sea, with the latest dated coin present a Shao-hsing (1131-62).   Weight is 4.01g, a little above the 1.0 mace standard (3.73g).   Metal is the normal "white copper", light yellow, lustrous as bright metal and hard.   There are many kinds of later copies of this inscription, but this looks in all respects to be an original Sung issue, if unintentional.   There were 5 provincial mints recorded, plus the capital, at Nanking.   There are both yuan-pao and tung-pao issues, the majority using yuan.

The effacement was done to the mother or master cash, probably of lead.   Above the top character, in the rim, are 4 gouges from the cutting tool, not very clear on the scan, but showing the elliptical shape of its tip.   The vigorousness of the gouging made the obverse slightly concave.    To destroy the piece for remelt it could have simply been folded.   Did the engraver make a mistake as it was virtually finished, and in a rage deface it?    Why was it then used?   Overweight mother cash were simply filed to a smaller diameter to adjust.   The coin itself has edge finish work, but possibly not its surface polishing.

I've never seen this from any era, or in literature.   The weight of the matching coin pictured is 3.62g.   Diameter the same, 25.0 mm.


What makes you think it was done on the mother cash? The only scenario I can think of for using a defaced mother is an emergency, where coins could make the difference between victory and defeat. Even so, wouldn't producing pre-defaced coins be an insult to the emperor? Some zealous officer would have stopped that.

I thought of a rebel issue, but surely, rebels would have defaced the emperor's name only, leaving the left and right character intact.

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


Peter, this kind of cutting cannot be done to a finish coin by burin even if it is high carbon steel.  I assumed that before, but just now tried it to be certain.   Neither would the whole coin be made concave!   The seller assumed it was done to the finish coin.  He needs, in my opinion, to look at things more carefully.

The type of tool used is clear from the markings.   It would be the same as used to cut the lead mother or master cash.   Specifically to work detail of the characters, as against smoothing the fields, or cutting the rim edges.    I have not been able to determine if the type generally used cast mother cash, or ones cut directly.   This "incident" leads me to think they were cut directly.

The defacing was done hastily, in bursts of two or three jabs.   It makes no sense, nor that cash should have been cast from it.   But it is an outlier, so an outlier explanation is in order.

I would guess the engraver ruined it as it was nearly finished.   Then did this to it in a fit of pique, with the same tool used to cut the characters.   To methodically remove them, a different tool would work better.   There would have been some pretty good cursing.   Then he pushed it aside on his work bench face down and started the next one.   Eventually a few finished ones were left on the bench, then moved to a basket, box, or something and taken to the foundry area.   By somebody else.   The defaced one got picked up with the good ones.  If they were directly cut, not cast, then there would need be no further inspection and weighing stage to catch the defaced one.

Mother cash with characters on only one side are placed in the trays for sand casting face down.   This coin, as it appears, made it as far as casting, being broken off, center punched out and edges filed, but possibly not given the final surface polish.   It should have been caught at least at the final stringing phase.  As such an oddity, it then was retained instead of going back for remelt.   If that still sounds implausible, the coin exists, whether there is an explanation or not.