CHINA. Kiangnan. Trial 1 Cash, ND (ca. 1897). Copper
Size: 24 mm; Weight: 2.7 grams; Material: Copper
Obv: 試造大吉 which means, Good luck in trial minting
A VERY RARE and not completely understood trial coin struck during the dawn of mechanized minting in China. There are two possible facilities where this piece may have been minted, the first being the Kiangnan mint at Nanking which was erected in 1897 and was outfitted for production by the Heaton mint in Birmingham. This is a tempting attribution given the coin's own legend identifying it as a test piece. There is however the second possibility that it was struck at the Kiangnan Arsenal at Shanghai which was producing copper cash coins during the same year. Whichever the case may be the engraving of the dies seems somewhat more crude than is normally seen for either mint and was likely produced locally. An intriguing and seldom encountered piece which is in a good state of preservation, with only a few scattered signs of handling or contact.
Chinese Copper Coin
For the shortage of the old copper cash in the late Qing dynasty, the tradition casting method did not help economically to solve the problem. When Hong Kong one cent copper coins were occasionally in circulation with the value to ten cash coins in the local market of Kwangtung. The existence western style coinage in Hong Kong directly influenced the Chinese mint authority.
The Acting Viceroy of Kwangtung and Kwangsi Province, Te Shou consulted with Li Hung-chang , his predecessor, decided to mint a new model copper coin called "T'ung Yuan". "Tung Yuan" was first minted in Kwangtung in the 26th year of the Kuang Hsu reign (1900AD). The coin was minted by machine without hole in the center. It was equivalent to ten cash at the early beginning. The use of copper to make one "T'ung Yuan" is equal to six old cash coin only.
The "Tung Yuan" was quiet welcomed by the population for its convenience compared with the old cash coins. The Chinese government also encouraged other provinces to follow the good example of Kwangtung in order to solve the fiscal problem. Other provinces found it was profitable to mint "T'ung Yuan", they vied with each other to do the same business of minting the new coins. For the over-supply of the new copper coins, this caused the value of "T'ung Yuan" declined in the rate of exchange with silver dollars. In 1911, Its rate of exchange to the silver dollar was approximately dropped to 180 to 1 from 100 to 1 of the early beginning.