Yunnan (1910) dollar

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Heritage sale 3015, lot 23943
photo courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries
This specimen was lot 23943 in Heritage sale 3015 (Long Beach, September 2011), where it sold for $546,250. The catalog description[1] noted,

"The Legendary Yunnan Spring Dollar--Yunnan. Spring Dollar CD 1910, Standard dragon design/Seven Chinese characters across top, instead of normal four, AU58 NGC. Sharply struck, and fully lustrous, with mottled gray and russet patina over surfaces free of all but a few minor marks. Little, if any, actual wear is noted, and this example could very easily have been certified Mint State. Probably the rarest of the Chinese regular circulation issue Dragon Dollars, and a coin that most only dream of ever seeing.

The legendary Chinese Dragon Dollar, called the 'Yunnan Spring Dollar,' in reference to the seven Chinese characters across the top that translate roughly to, 'Made in the Spring 1910 in Yunnan Province.' This fantastic issue is also the only coin in Chinese numismatics that features a season of the year as part of the date. This enigmatic issue, one of China's rarest coins (and with only two genuine pieces known), has been a coin of mystery and legend since its discovery, around 1920. Although there has been constant research in Chinese numismatic circles, over time, no definite reason, or meaning for the term, "Spring 1910," has yet been discovered.

The first genuine example of this issue to appear at public auction was sold in Beijing, in April 2002 at the Hua Chen auction. This piece was later re-sold in a Cheng Xuan sale in Beijing in 2007 where it realized 3,192,000 RMB (US $468,000). Michael Chou, of Champion Hong Kong Auction, then sold this same coin (AU55 NGC) for the astounding price of US $1,035,000, in his August 2010 Hong Kong sale.

This piece that we are offering is the second known, genuine example of the Yunnan Spring Dollar and the finest of the two known examples. Graded, and certified by NGC, this piece is from the exact same dies as the other coin, and Michael Chou, who sold the first coin, has also examined this piece and confirms that this coin is a perfect die match as the one he previously sold. We feel, if anything, the grading, by NGC, is a bit conservative on this piece. This piece is Ex: Tracey Woodward Collection, acquired by Dr. Jacobs from the Woodward Collection through the noted New York numismatist Robert Friedberg in 1952.

There is no doubt as to the rarity of this historic coin, and the quality is the finest of the two known examples. The market for rare Chinese coins is exceptional, and there are really none rarer than this remarkable piece. Tremendous interest should be a foregone conclusion."

This type was struck over a period of years and is among the more common of the so-called "dragon dollars" issued by the provincial mints in the last years of the Manchu dynasty. Yunnan is deep in the southern interior, neighboring Burma and Vietnam. It was there that the Nationalists retreated during the Japanese onslaught of World War Two.

Recorded mintage: unknown.

Specification: 26.8 g, .900 fine silver, .775 troy oz ASW.

Catalog reference: Kann 177, L&M 428, KM-Y260.1.


  • Michael, Thomas, and Tracy L. Schmidt, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000, 47th ed., Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2019.
  • Lin Gwo Ming, Illustrated Catalogue of Chinese Gold & Silver Coins: Ching and Republican Issues, Seventh Edition, Hong Kong: Ma Tak Wo Numismatic Co., Ltd., 2012.
  • [1]Cristiano Bierrenbach and Warren Tucker, Heritage World Coin Auction 3015, Dallas, TX: Heritage Auction Galleries, 2011.

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