A reason to check 'grots'... Extremely rare Wang Mang Daquan Shiwu 大泉十五

Started by SilkroadDilettante, February 20, 2024, 04:52:44 PM

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Warning: quite a long story-style post, so anyone only interested in the coin itself should just skip to the last paragraph.

Despite having lived here for the better part of a decade (see my intro if you want more info), I have less than 20 Chinese coins. These are about 50% gifts, things I got in boxes/joblots of other items, and 50% coins I found myself while out in the field.

Coin collecting is something I'm just returning to since childhood, and I do still feel like there's something very personal about a coin you've found yourself (without a metal detector, they're not allowed in China).

Anyway, as much as I like the coins I found, they have always proved to be something of a disappointment. The most exciting one was probably a Southern Song Jianyuan Tongbao from the Emperor Gaozong's reign, but it's still not exactly anything 'impressive' since I could open my phone and find thousands of them for sale for not a lot of money. There have been times I have found Qing cash coins on the ground near abandoned villages/temples, some of them so worn/dirty they got me excited until I had them cleaned up and was left with disappointment. By far the worst was a bronze coin with no hole I found walking along a riverside which was scattered with Song ceramic shards, having been close to a kiln site. It was so badly encrusted in dirt I must have spent over an hour eagerly rubbing away at it under the sun, expecting to reveal some rare sort of Song token or charm. In the end it was a ROC 'one fen' from 1924!

Anyway, I guess you could say I am lucky to occasionally find coins in the wild, but not so lucky to have ever turned up anything really special. That all changed this morning, however, when I took a look at what I thought was a boring Han Wuzhu I found a few years back. It appeared to be such a boring/degraded coin I really never bothered with it, and threw it in a box of junk shards and things, where it must have been sitting for three or four years. I can't remember which place I found it in but it was probably either Henan or Gansu.

Anyway, now a little more excited about coins than I admittedly was in the recent past, I decided to organise my Chinese coins and take a closer look at the ones I have. I only realised recently that Wuzhu were often identifable by their fonts, size, weight, etc., so after my recent adventures in jitals figured this would be a fun thing to have a shot at with my Han 'Wuzhu' coins.

I gave this grot (there is a pic of it alongside some other coins in my intro post, from a few days ago before I cleaned it) a little rub with my fingers (not sure how you would advise dealing with something like this, I really wasn't expecting it to be anything special), and realised it was not a Wuzhu at all. I could make out 大 and 五 by the time I'd rubbed it up a bit but didn't recognise the other characters, I'm only so-so at reading seal-script. Fortunately, I have a good friend here at an auction house I've worked with before who happens to specialise in coins, so I just popped over a picture to him asking if he knew what it was.

It turns out it's an extremely rare variant of a 大泉五十- where the five and ten have been reversed. It reads as 'fifteen' rather than 'fifty', but AFAIK they were still used the same way as the 大泉五十 coins.  I really had no idea such a boring looking coin I found in a field would turn out to be so interesting (and actually rather valuable, not that I would sell it)- so I guess it just goes to show, never neglect those coins you think are a waste of time! Kicking myself I've had it thrown in with the junk for years...

P.S.- as far as I can see Zeno contains no record of this coin. It is fairly well-recorded in China but I found zero search results on google when I tried looking for it in English- so if anyone has contacts there I'd be happy to contribute it to their archive (I guess they aren't accepting new members?).

31mm diameter. Very light but I do not have scales (sorry).


Thanks for showing this one and the background story which changes a disk of metal to a witness of history !
I restarted coin collecting as an adult with an English Victorian Farthing which i found in the south of France. Including that, i am better at finding things online than in the wild.
Your story also nicely illustrates that one needs some knowledge to really apreciate these artefacts for what they are. Unfortunately, for many people the initial learning curve for ancient chinese coinage is quite steep. But i really do appreciate when the knowledgable people give us a view of these !


As far as I know Zeno does accept new members. I would suggest contacting the owner, Vladimir Belyaev (charm).



Quote from: THCoins on February 21, 2024, 02:57:17 PMUnfortunately, for many people the initial learning curve for ancient chinese coinage is quite steep. But i really do appreciate when the knowledgable people give us a view of these !

Funny coincidence, I think the first coin I ever found (back in the UK) was a William IV farthing in my local park. The South of France is much more exciting, however!

To be honest, I would say the biggest issue with Chinese coins- much the same as Chinese antiquities in general- is just the fakes, especially when you are dealing with something so tiny as a coin. I'm lucky to speak/read decent Chinese, so don't have any major issues with reading coins unless they're Liao, Jin, Western Xia etc- but, speaking again as someone who has handled a lot of both genuine & fake ancient Chinese art bronze, I really don't want the extra chore of having to identify a coin, and THEN having to inspect very closely to decide if it's real or not.

So although I may start picking up a few cash coins, I will probably stay away from buying online- which obviously is much more difficult when you have to judge from pics.


Quote from: Manzikert on February 21, 2024, 03:14:10 PMAs far as I know Zeno does accept new members. I would suggest contacting the owner, Vladimir Belyaev (charm).


Hi Alan,

I am definitely not experienced enough to get on Zeno right now- maybe in a year or so when I'm more experienced I might drop him a message. I think they made a good call by closing the membership so that it isn't flooded with inaccurate content. I more just meant that if someone with membership there thinks it deserves a place there, I'd be happy for them to submit it on my behalf. Izi


Zeno is a partner site of WoC. When you're ready, we can help.

Another advantage of eye-finds is that they are likely to be genuine, even if grotty. You are probably aware that many fakes of Chinese coins exist. Those for the tourists and funerals are relatively easy to recognise, others are easy to pick out because they get just about nothing right but there are fakes that will deceive even advanced experts. Both those and the laughing stocks come out of China. You are bound to encounter them.

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



a very nice find. Congratulations.

A few examples are also available on zeno.: