The Chinese love money to this day, and invented currency for trade some 770 years before Christ. There are a variety of ancient forms, many of which were considered extremely rare- like three hole spade coins, there were only 6 known in museums- before China apparently dug up everyone’s grave while modernizing the country and put the loot on the market. Ancient Chinese thought you could take your money with you when you die, and thus many emperors were buried with hoards of coins, and even to this day the Chinese are buried with coins which are thought to give them luck in life as well as in death.

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10 tons of ancient Chinese coins found in the grandson of Emperor Wu’s tomb, official excavation photo- 2015. 10 strands of these coins were worth 250 grams of gold or one “Jin”, and 10 Jins equaled the amount of wealth a typical middle class family had at the time.

Yuan Bao (Ingots):

These are raw forms of silver and gold which may or may not be pure.

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Silver ingot called yuanbao or a sycee. This is one of the most common forms- a long rectangle with four characters- that might have been used for transactions, unlike some fancier forms that many have primarily been to show off your wealth instead of using it. Another common form in the shape of a boat below.

yuanbaona

Silver Yuan Bao with "Double Happiness" symbol typical for wedding wishes

The symbol on the silver yuan bao above and below is double happiness– 囍 – is meant to symbolize marital bliss, and may have been given to a couple at their wedding.

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Also a popular design is what appears to be brains in a gravy dish as seen below.

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And this shape with the sides pinched and the ends rounded that almost looks like an axe without being higher at the ends:

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Though the seller states this long rectangular ingot is brass, not gold, it doesn’t appear to have tarnished like brass would for its age. Often Chinese Ebay sellers lie just to get rid of goods regardless of their true value.

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Search for “yuan bao” on Ebay:

  • 2,697 on 10/16/2016 including 209 auctioned in 10 days
  • 2,716 on 11/19/2016 including 285 auctioned in 10 days
  • 2,279 on 01/28/2017 including 51 auctioned in 10 days (week of Chinese New Year)
  • 2,499 on 02/12/2017 including 101 auctioned in 10 days
  • 2,413 on 02/26/2017 including 141 auctioned in 10 days
  • 2,433 on 03/12/2017 including 166 auctioned in 10 days
  • 2,534 on 04/15/2017 including 109 auctioned in 10 days

Search for “yuanbao” on Ebay

  • 9,530 on 10/16/2016 including 313 auctioned in 10 days
  • 9,804 on 11/19/2016 including 282 auctioned in 10 days
  • 9,216 on 01/28/2017 including 104 auctioned in 10 days
  • 9,907 on 02/12/2017 including 210 auctioned in 10 days
  • 10,429 on 02/26/2017 including 284 auctioned in 10 days
  • 10,502 on 03/12/2017 including 308 auctioned in 10 days
  • 10,894 on 04/15/2017 including 259 auctioned in 10 days

Search for “Chinese ingot” on Ebay:

  • 1,015 on 10/16/2016 including 75 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,018 on 11/19/2016 including 54 auctioned in 10 days
  • 857 on 01/28/2017 including 43 auctioned in 10 days
  • 946 on 02/12/2017 including 61 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,082 on 02/26/2017 including 78 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,130 on 03/12/2017 including 79 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,143 on 04/15/2017 including 73 auctioned in 10 days

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Besides producing regular currency at the time, China made lots of silver coins, ingots and plaques that Ebay dealers often call “thangkas”- perhaps because they often portray religious figures. Because it was widely accepted as currency, and the Chinese had very few banks to put their fortunes in, chances are millions of these silver thangkas have been confiscated from both Chinese and Tibetans over the years. Though they probably could have melted it all down, they are instead selling it off piece by piece. Or maybe they already melted down what they wanted to.

Search for “silver thangka” on Ebay:

  • 990 items on 08/02/2016 including 237 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,043 on 08/12/2016 including 261 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,022 on 09/01/2016 including 227 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,129 on 09/16/2016 including 351 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,356 on 10/01/2016 including 556 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,243 on 10/16/2016 including 422 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,156 on 11/19/2016 including 313 auctioned in 10 days
  • 816 on 01/28/2017 including 88 auctioned in 10 days (week of Chinese New Year)
  • 941 on 02/12/2017 including 161 auctioned in 10 days
  • 989 on 02/26/2017 including 209 auctioned in 10 days
  • 952 on 04/15/2017 including 163 auctioned in 10 days

Coins:

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The coin above is of the first formal president of China, Yuan Shikai, whom later declared himself emperor as the world fell apart around him, and was the very last of the emperors prior to revolution and total upheaval.

A few old coins I bought personally to inspect, and yes, they are just as dusty as many a picture on Ebay portrays them to be- straight from someone’s grave apparently. Nothing about them that I saw indicated they were fake in any way, though some for sale are obvious fakes, but old fakes and worth something for the historical value. Coins have long been thought of as lucky by the Chinese, and many of these were purposefully placed in the graves of loved ones to bring them good fortune in the afterlife- though they might have also been robbed during life as well as death- and been sold fakes to begin with. It was also thought that people were able to take their things- and needed them- in the afterlife as well, so many of the wealthy took at least part of their wealth with them.

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The coins above and below are relatively modern, and a new one was issued with each emperor of the Qing Dynasty.

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  • See this auction: sold 04/26/2016 for $2.00 by 1303158
  • Buy It Now page, same photo, same seller ($4.99-2 available, 5 sold 02/2017) by  1303158
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: sold 04/27/2016 for $9.90 by zhufei2088
  • Another auction, different photo, same seller as previous: sold 05/03/2016 for $9.60 by zhufei2088
  • Another auction, different photo, same seller as previous: sold 05/05/2016 for $4.75 by zhufei2088
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: no sale 04/29/2016 at $0.99 by old-paiting
  • Another auction, different photo, same seller as previous: sold 05/08/2016 for $4.25 by old-paiting
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: sold 04/29/2016 for $4.33 by juncheng8952– no longer a registered Ebay user when checked back 02/2017
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: sold 04/27/2016 for $1.28 by chenliangbj2011
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: sold 05/07/2016 for $6.71 by baixue20140709
  • Another auction, different photo, same seller as previous: sold 09/01/2016 for $2.25 by baixue20140709
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: sold 05/08/2016 for $1.01 by xuelinsu1213
  • Another auction, same photo, same seller as previous: sold 05/15/2016 for $1.01 by xuelinsu1213: no longer a registered user when checked back on seller 01/2017
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: sold 05/09/2016 for $1.04 by 0425461
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: no sale 05/09/2016 at $0.99 minimum by 3hk5259
  • Another auction, same photo, same seller as previous: sold 06/03/2016 for $2.25 by 3hk5259
  • Buy It Now page, same photo, same seller as previous ($4.99- 5 available, 2 sold 09/2016): listing ended 02/22/2017 with 8 total sold by 3hk5259
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: sold 05/13/2016 for $3.58 by sunxiaoqing666-5– no longer a registered Ebay user when checked back 02/2017
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: sold 05/15/2016 for $3.00 by tianyabaobaobeibei– no longer a registered Ebay user when checked back 02/2017
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: sold 05/30/2016 for $4.00 by yuyuchen2088
  • Another auction, same photo, same seller as previous: sold 07/11/2016 for $2.25 by yuyuchen2088
  • Another auction, same photo, same seller as previous: sold 08/15/2016 for $4.25 by yuyuchen2088
  • Buy It Now page, different photo, same seller as previous ($6.99- 6 available 09/2016; listing ended 01/04/2017) by yuyuchen2088 who then changed their name to haoming_knives
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: no longer a registered user when checked back on auction 07/2016 by 3_43899
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: sold 07/12/2016 for $3.35 by jiache_6
  • Another auction, different photo, same seller as previous: sold 08/06/2016 for $1.66 by jiache_6
  • Another auction, different photo, same seller as previous: sold 08/15/2016 for $0.99 by jiache_6
  • Another auction, different photo, same seller as previous: sold 09/08/2016 for $2.25 by jiache_6– no longer a registered Ebay user when checked back 02/2017
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: sold 07/10/2016 for $3.85 by fhhjj7uhooi– no longer a registered user when checked back 02/2017
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: sold 07/12/2016 for $3.00 by 2454832
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: no longer a registered user when checked back on auction 08/2016 by sonlian888
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: sold 08/22/2016 for $1.04 by qianxun.2012
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: no sale 08/17/2016 at $0.99 minimum by mingmingzhubao9898
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: sold 09/01/2016 for $1.50 by eassale
  • Another auction, same photo, same seller as previous: sold 09/21/2016 for $2.25 by eassale
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: sold 09/22/2016 for $3.25 by xiaodong595
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: sold 03/01/2017 for $2.00 by xiaofeng102370
  • Another auction, different photo, different seller: sold 03/16/2017 for $1.25 by guohanzhi016
  • Buy It Now page, different photo, different seller ($6.99- 5 available 05/2016) by xiaoping068
  • Another Buy It Now page, different photo, different seller ($6.99- 5 available, 5 sold 02/2017) by guwanshop1024
  • Another Buy It Now page, different photo, different seller ($5.99- 10 available 09/2016; price reduced to $5.69- 7 available, 3 sold 02/2017) by kuailewoju
  • Another Buy It Now page, same photo, different seller ($4.99- 4 available, 8 sold 02/2017) by 3hk5259
  • Another Buy It Now page, same photo, different seller ($5.99- 3 available, 2 sold 02/2017) by lijun201365

Something like the sheet above I thought may have been confiscated from a coin collector, or been in someone’s personal possession because they had received it as a gift, or an educational tool to learn the former emperors and their respective coins, however there is an error on the English side of the print, and perhaps the communists just had a lot of NOS (new old stock) of them piled up someplace and it was a way to package loose coins to make them sell better on Ebay.

These books, full of valuable Chinese coins, possibly were confiscated from coin collectors and are being sold “as is”. The album above is of ancient coins, and the 120 coin book shown below is of more modern (70-150 year old) silver coins.

Some of the coins that are more ancient also may have been dug up because of the widespread construction projects that are occurring throughout China including the western “autonomous” regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, or it may be because of widespread outright looting, or it may be because these were confiscated off of looters themselves and these were once police evidence, or they be from legitimate archaeological digs and museum storehouses, it is just hard to say. What can be said is many coins are conclusively straight from someone’s grave then being sold online, which is just wrong. Particularly for a society that supposedly values its ancestors, to be desecrated as well as devalued, and sold without provenance nor having their individual stories be told- it is truly an incalculable loss.

“Tian Xia Tai Ping Currency” above.

“Men Yuan Tong Bao Currency” above according to the seller. The script is in Manchu, which was one of the 16 official languages during the Qing Dynasty, but is almost extinct today with only 4 speakers.

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Auction for 50 coins

Also during the great famine caused by the policies of Chairman Mao in the Great Leap Forward,  one of the party officials got the great idea of taking the bodies of the dead and boiling them up, then using them for fertilizer on crops. This is similar to the way bloodmeal is made, and assumably they didn’t boil people’s favorite jewelry and jade and lucky coins along with them, but set that aside. Quite possibly they made some bone meal from older remains as well if they went that far.

Official Chinese sources, released after Mao’s death, suggest that 16.5 million people died in the Great Leap Forward, and according to some estimates this number is actually around 30 million. Even if you don’t boil them and use them for fertilizer, that is still a whole lot of people who all had personal possessions- of which may be part of the source of the great unending supply of Chinese antiques on Ebay.

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Coins with the images of Buddha and Guanyin in high relief. These heavy coins would have never been in circulation and been legal tender, but were produced as a good luck charms and for the grave. The seller says they are from the Northern Song Dynasty.

Search for “Chinese coin” on Ebay:

  • 17,446 on 08/02/2016 including 2,667 auctioned in 10 days
  • 17,779 on 08/12/2016 including 2,685 auctioned in 10 days
  • 17,573 on 09/01/2016 including 2,274 auctioned in 10 days
  • 18,079 on 09/16/2016 including 2,763 auctioned in 10 days
  • 17,572 on 10/01/2016 including 2,372 auctioned in 10 days
  • 17,908 on 10/21/2016 including 2,347 auctioned in 10 days
  • 18,941 on 11/19/2016 including 2,594 auctioned in 10 days
  • 15,752 on 01/28/2017 including 1,454 auctioned in 10 days (week of Chinese New Year)
  • 18,273 on 02/26/2017 including 2,705 auctioned in 10 days
  • 18,928 on 03/12/2017 including 3,258 auctioned in 10 days
  • 18,422 on 04/15/2017 including 2,755 auctioned in 10 days

Search for “Chinese silver coin” on Ebay:

  • 3,658 on 08/02/2016 including 1,187 auctioned in 10 days
  • 3,804 on 08/12/2016 including 1,233 auctioned in 10 days
  • 3,647 on 09/01/2016 including 1,028 auctioned in 10 days
  • 3,456 on 09/16/2016 including 985 auctioned in 10 days
  • 3,277 on 10/01/2016 including 832 auctioned in 10 days
  • 3,461 on 10/21/2016 including 916 auctioned in 10 days
  • 3,602 on 11/19/2016 including 1,022 auctioned in 10 days
  • 2,957 on 01/28/2017 including 516 auctioned in 10 days
  • 3,579 on 02/26/2017 including 903 auctioned in 10 days
  • 3,777 on 04/15/2017 including 1,160 auctioned in 10 days

Square footed spade coin, one holed, from the Warring States period (475–221 BC).

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Sale for 10 coins from the Warring States period, more than 3,000 years ago

Three hole spade coins were so rare there were just a few known (6 total) in any museum outside of China prior to this recent wholesale clearance of China on Ebay. There are two sizes of this coin, the larger size is shown above and below. They are found in eastern Shanxi and Hebei Provinces and from the Warring States Period (475–221 BC).

The “fronts” fronts of the three coins above are all the same, but the backs are all different.

Another very rare and ancient coin, possibly predating the three-holed coin above, and would be classified as an arch-footed spade coin. The flaring spoon like top is unusual, most spade coins have squared corners here.

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A knife coin sometimes referred to as a key coin dating from the Han Dynasty above. Even older knife coins shown below.

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Sets of ancient coin knives from thousands of years ago, looted with dirt still on them and wholesaled apparently though a network of government supplied sellers
  • See this auction for 6 coin knives: sold 05/02/2016 for $2.51 by 8hk3541
  • Buy It Now page, same photo, same seller ($9.99- 4 available 5/2016) by 8hk3541
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: no longer a registered user when checked back on auction 5/2016 by zhijiang35
  • Another auction for similar items, different photo, different seller: sold 05/02/2016 for $3.25 by shilei24
  • Another auction, different photo, same seller as previous: sold 05/07/2016 for $4.99 by shilei24
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: sold 05/07/2016 for $5.89 by xietiefeng564
  • Another auction, same photo, same seller as previous: sold 05/14/2016 for $9.00 by xietiefeng564
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: sold 05/06/2016 for $1.93 by 8.57956
  • Another auction, same photo, same seller as previous: sold 05/13/2016 for $6.50 by 8.57956
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: sold 05/16/2016 for $12.62 by luanwuqnian
  • Another auction for similar items, different photo, different seller: no longer a registered user when checked back on auction 05/2016 by puquan61
  • Buy It Now page, same photo, same seller as previous ($9.99- 5 available 5/2016: sold out 04/15/2017) by luanwuqnian
  • Another Buy It Now page, same photo, different seller ($9.99- 3 available 5/2016) by qingqing24: no longer a registered Ebay user when checked back 04/2017
  • Another Buy It Now page for similar items, different photo, different seller ($9.96- 1 available, 2 sold 05/2016) by 6_51197: no longer a registered Ebay user when checked back 04/2017
  • Another auction, same photo, different seller: sold 05/29/2016 for $2.03 by xuelinsu1213: no longer a registered Ebay user
  • Another Buy It Now page, same photo, same seller as previous ($8.99- 10 available 5/2016) by xuelinsu1213: no longer a registered user when checked back 04/2017
  • Another Buy It Now page, different photo, different seller ($9.99- more than 10 available, 6 sold 04/2017) by zqr1981_2013
  • Another Buy It Now page, different photo, different seller ($9.99- 5 available, 1 sold 04/2017) by luoshixian6352

moneytreela

A money tree like above was typically placed in graves for good fortune in the afterlife, the leaves represent coins that were in actual use during that very early time period (1000- 500 BC). These types of metal coins are in the shape of cowrie shells, which were one of the very first forms of money in the world.

References and Links:

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