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Asian Coins

Asian coins originated in ancient China, but they did not resemble coins as we conceive of them today. Ancient Chinese coins were first shaped like tools, usually either spades or knives. This early currency was eventually replaced by ban liang, which, with its round, flat shape, more closely resembled today's notion of a coin. Ban liang coins, however, feature a notable hole in the center of the coin. This hole was used to string multiple coins together to create larger, fixed values. Variations of this coinage continued to be minted until the mid 1800s brought the opium trade to China, and with it an influx of foreign Western-style silver coins.

Japan primarily used Chinese coins that were imported through trade. While Japan had a brief period producing domestic coins between 600-900 A.D., the nation lacked a true Japanese currency until the late 17th century. At that time, the Shogunate was established and Japan was unified. Shogunate coinage was still based on the Chinese system, including the hole in the center and the concept of stringing coins together, but featured Japanese types and legends.

India's coinage was influenced early on by that of the Greeks, favoring a round shape with animalistic types and minimal legends which quickly transitioned to featuring the ruling king on the obverse. In the early common era, the Gupta Empire produced many gold coins featuring crisp Sanskrit legends. These golden coins are regarded very highly by collectors. The rupee was introduced in the middle ages and marked India's move to a silver standard. By the early 1800s, the British Empire was in control of India, and minted rupees featured British monarchs on the obverse. Today, India's coins avoid featuring any person on the coin. Instead, the value of the coin and the emblem of India is presented on the obverse.


Quick Facts

  • Several Chinese coins have sold for sums in excess of $1 million, including an 1898 silver dollar, one of only six known to exist
  • While none of China's currently circulating coins feature the distinctive center hole, two of Japan's coins retain the feature: the 5- and 50-yen pieces
  • In 1911, a new rupee was printed to commemorate George V's coronation. The King’s robe featured an elephant that was poorly sculpted and looked more like a pig. This was highly offensive to the Indian people and forced a redesign in 1912

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Sellers Who Sell Asian Coins


Nomisma S.p.a

Nomisma S.p.a

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Mebane Antique Auction

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McCurley Auction Company

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