Author Topic: Japanese copy of a Chinese coin?  (Read 2952 times)

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Offline Globetrotter

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Japanese copy of a Chinese coin?
« on: February 02, 2016, 05:55:40 PM »
Hi,

I have been putting a batch of kilo coins aside and I found this one....

According to my findings it's a Japanese copy of a rather old Chinese coin from the end of the 11th century! The copies were only made from the 17th century and unwards! I suppose the copy was used in Japan, but for which purpose?

In numista it is called a tradecoinage, but with such a small value?
1 mon Yuanfeng 1659-1685 : http://en.numista.com/catalogue/pieces43225.html

The only other coin I'm aware of having been struck at foreign mints and used locally is the maria Theresa Thaler. Do any of you know other coins like that?

Ole
« Last Edit: February 02, 2016, 06:26:52 PM by Globetrotter »
Ole

If you're interested in coin variants please find some English documentation here:
https://sites.google.com/site/coinvarietiescollection/home
and in French on Michel's site (the presentations are not the same):
http://monnaiesetvarietes.esy.es/

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Japanese copy of a Chinese coin?
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2016, 05:48:50 PM »
This wasn't posted on the right board, so it escaped the attention of the experts. It is posted correctly now, but I would still suggest a PM to Bruce.

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

Offline bgriff99

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Re: Japanese copy of a Chinese coin?
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2016, 10:09:16 AM »
This is another Nagasaki trade cash.   Made 1659-84 for export only.   Rather severe measures were taken to make sure none entered circulation in Japan.   Around 8 varieties copy other Northern Sung cash, but the vast majority copy Yuan Feng in this regular script version.   Of that type there are about 100 varieties.   One reason this design was chosen was that virtually all the original Sung Yuan Feng were either in seal or cursive scripts.   The single original variety in ordinary script is rare, and can still be quickly differentiated.

There is a vast assortment of such imitative trade cash coinage.   There were so many being made, crisscrossing the China and Java Seas, that one can find copies of copies of copies.   Nagasaki trade cash would be one of the largest and best documented of such mints.   They were of course themselves copied, and recopied, down to the 19th century.   
« Last Edit: March 09, 2016, 10:20:53 AM by bgriff99 »

Offline bgriff99

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Re: Japanese copy of a Chinese coin?
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2016, 10:07:49 AM »
Here is a Vietnamese copy of this Nagasaki trade cash.   Made at a mint in the north, active between 1685-1725.   It copied various trade coins, southern Vietnamese cash and older coins, but never dynastic Le cash.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Japanese copy of a Chinese coin?
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2016, 11:36:27 AM »
Can you teach us how, in practical and general terms, a non-specialised coin collector can distinguish original Chinese cash and Japanese copies of this kind?

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

Offline bgriff99

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Re: Japanese copy of a Chinese coin?
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2016, 04:35:39 AM »
I'm afraid there is no way to distinguish them except by experience, detailed catalogs, and a reference collection.   Japanese catalogs tend to become unavailable soon after being printed.    This particular Vietnamese coin could not be identified except by comparison to others from the same mint.   And barely so even then.   I have already posted a piece about that mint, including a Yuan-Feng, but this one follows the Nagasaki pattern exactly.

Some coins using Song reign titles cannot be attributed to country.   If found primarily or only locally in Vietnam, and undersized, they are presumed made there.   But many are not otherwise different from domestic Chinese forgeries, or even official provincial issues.   We can recognize numerous Vietnamese or other trade mints from their styles, but far from all.   

For me this is an interesting area to work on.   My main frustration is not being able to read Japanese except the Chinese characters.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Japanese copy of a Chinese coin?
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2016, 07:43:40 AM »
My main frustration is not being able to read Japanese except the Chinese characters.

Team up with my daughter. She can read Japanese characters (Hiragana), but not the Chinese ones (Kanji.)

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

Offline bgriff99

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Re: Japanese copy of a Chinese coin?
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2016, 10:20:40 AM »
Here are a couple Japanese copies of the Yuan Feng Chinese cash made before the Nagasaki trade cash, but for the same purpose.   Bita-sen were demonetized in Japan in 1608 or so, and began to be either melted down, or more profitably exported to Vietnam and Indonesia for use as money.   Japanese Red Seal ships carried them at first.   Later the VOC got themselves a monopoly.   In the 1630's the Nguyen state in central Vietnam contracted for whole shiploads of cash to be brought specifically to melt and cast cannons, and other weapons.   It was a mix of old pieces still being removed from circulation, and newly cast ones which could not be used in Japan.   

Japan exported copper to Europe also.   They had already been through being forced to learn how to purify it to 99% for the European market, which was sent in the form of rod-like bars.   Poor quality metal could be cast into coins and it didn't matter.

These pieces and many others like them came from the region of Vietnam such cash were sent.   They are magnetic, often quite rusty, and the bright metal is the color of iron.   That still has not been explained, as it is seen on coins ranging from barely or not magnetic at all, to very strongly so.    It may be they contain along with up to 18% iron, as much as 15% arsenic.   Together they can form a non-magnetic compound, and make the metal white.   I don't know if the coins looked like iron when new, or if that was intentional.   Maybe iron was wanted, or something that looked and performed like it but melted at a much lower temperature.   Or maybe these coins were discarded for being not proper bronze.   Normal Japanese private cash including Nagasaki trade cash look like copper or bronze, but contain up to a few percent iron as impurity.

The first piece below is a cataloged common type.   The second is so far as I've found, not cataloged.   We are having a jolly time at Zeno with them, all the previously unknown kinds adamantly being denied their Japanese pedigree.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Japanese copy of a Chinese coin?
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2016, 10:51:52 AM »
I have doubts on the story of the Nguyen melting coins for cannons. Cannon barrels get really hot when fired repeatedly. If they contain several metals, those metals will expand at an un-equal rate, causing fissures that will eventually lead to the cannon exploding and killing all those around it. If I have understood you correctly, the coins contained significant quantities of at least three metals. Of course, the Nguyen could have refined the metal, but why go through the expense and effort at a time when Japan was a prime source of good copper bars?

As for the resistance to new discoveries, I remember the outcry when Anton Geesink won an Olympic gold medal in judo, beating all the Japanese contenders in his way (once it was digested, he was deified in Japan). Multiply that with normal human resistance to change and the sort of resistance to facts now brilliantly displayed by a US presidential candidate and his coterie and no wonder you find yourself walking in hip-high used chewing gum ;)

Glad you posted those pieces here for all to admire.

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

Offline bgriff99

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Re: Japanese copy of a Chinese coin?
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2016, 11:40:58 PM »
The import by the Nguyen kings of coins to make cannons is fully documented, as is the wars they fought.   They had a formidable galley navy armed with small bore cannon too.   What you say about dissimilar metals in cannon casting simply is not correct.   In regular bronze, tin dissolves into copper, molecule by molecule.   There is no dissimilar mass of metal above that level.   Above 10% a copper-tin compound forms, even stronger than the dissolved metals.   As late as the early 1890's bronze could still be made into a stronger gun barrel than steel.

The problem with using coins comes from the lead, usually at double the amount of tin.   It does not dissolve into copper whatsoever, forming droplets in the matrix.   Tin bridges it with copper, so even Northern Song cash coins at 10% tin and 20% lead made quite decent gun barrels.   Southern Song cash, not so much, at 35% lead and 2 or 3% tin.   Cash coins when heated bleed out excess unbound lead.   What's left is serviceable.   It does not have to be premium metal.   Beginning in 1500 in Java cash coins were all gathered up to make cannons, which had numismatic consequences.

Also you have to consider the much weaker gunpowder in use.   Saltpeter in the tropics has to be made from animal and sometimes human urine.   Vietnamese military technology was an early user of gunpowder weapons since the time of bamboo barrels.   The Nguyens when they first moved and settled southward in Champa maintained a Sparta-like civil organization.   All life was military.   All urine was collected.    If you look at the good records kept by the Royal Navy of guns and their loads, it is found fully 5 times the weight of powder was needed for the same bore, from the 1500's to the mid-1800's.   I made and used numerous cannons when I was a teenager.   It isn't necessary for them to be Krupps quality to be used.    Especially for very short range use, everything smoothbore, and needing to be parsimonious with one's homemade black powder.

Offline bgriff99

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Re: Japanese copy of a Chinese coin?
« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2016, 10:27:09 AM »
Here is a Vietnamese copy of the Nagasaki trade cash, made about 1780-1830, of brass.   It looks like copper from a chemical process of surface dissolution of zinc, and recrystallization of a solid coating of copper.   

Offline bgriff99

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Re: Japanese copy of a Chinese coin?
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2017, 07:47:27 AM »
Peter, regarding bita-sen being melted for weapons, we now have figured out many of the ones sent to the south-central kingdom of the Nguyens in the 1630's contained high amounts of arsenic and iron.    Like 18% each!!    The color of the metal looks like iron, and they are often magnetic.    Some have non-magnetic compounds of arsenic and iron which cancel out the magnetism.    They also have a lot of sulfur.    The tensile and shock load strengths of that composition would be so poor that they could only be used for expendable cast items like shot, arrowheads, or possibly tools.   

Studies have been made about ancient arsenic-bronze alloys, and also those containing antimony and bismuth.    But nothing about iron + arsenic, nor with so much arsenic.    The melting point of copper + arsenic is lowest at 18%, which may explain what the objective was.    And yes, when melted in open air the arsenic boils out gradually, and would make being around the crucibles dangerous.   They say however that the main driver of bronzes to being made instead with tin was the ability to control exactly the composition.   Arsenic was co-smelted with copper, so the amounts were controlled by what types of ore was used.   Useful arsenical bronze for tools needs only 2 or 3%.    To reach full hardness and optimum strengths, it needs to be worked, but not very much.