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Hartill 25.54 Japanese Cash coin Ko-Kanei Tsuho Value 4 Mon 11 Nami waves 1768 A

Hartill 25.54 Japanese Cash coin Ko-Kanei Tsuho Value 4 Mon 11 Nami waves 1768 AD

Japanese coin Ko-Kanei Tsuho

Value 4 Mon 11 Nami waves, 1768 AD.~

Authenticity guaranteed for all items!

Reference: Hartill 25.54

Weight: 5 grams; Size: 28.5 mm; Material: Brass


This is the second type of 4 mon coin made. It has 11 waves on the back and was first minted in 1769. Within the broader catagory of 1769 Meiwa coin, this coin is of the "fuei" type, which means that the bottom "ei" character is large and crouching. One way to easily identify this type is the the nub at the top roof of the left "hou" character protrudes a little down through the lid of that character. This is the most common type of Meiwa era coin. This coin was one of a number of 4 mon coins kindly given to me by a good friend in Kochi, Japan.

4 mon Kan'ei Wave coins

The Tokugawa government first commissioned in 1768 a Kan'ei Tsuuhou coin valued at 4 mon. The first version was made at the Fukagawa mint in Edo and had a design of 21 waves on the back of the coin (see image above). In 1769 the design of the reverse changed to have only 11 waves and all subsequent versions used the 11 wave design. It was not much larger than a 1 mon coin (27-28 mm vs 25-26 mm) and so it was cost effective to produce. This was desirable in a time when there was a growing scarcity of copper. Because the economy itself was usually growing in this period the coins were readily accepted by users. The government ordered a new batch of this same coin made in the period 1821-1825. These are largely identical but the quality is much moer varied, which is to say that many of the 4 mon from this era are of poor manufacture. The metal content of these also tend to be more on the reddish side than the earlier coins which have a higher admixture of other metals than copper. Because these coins were manufactured in the Bunsei period (1818-1829) They are called Bunsei coins by collectors, in contrast to the earlier ones which are called Meiwa coins (from the Meiwa era 1764-1771). The Bunsei coins are as common as the Meiwa coins. One more period of minting was in the Ansei era (1854-1859). There is variation but they tend to be on the yellowish brassy side and the file used to smooth the face is very rough, leaving clear file marks on the face. In 1860, under grave financial difficulties the Tokugawa government began minting the coin in iron but this was relatively unsuccessful and the coins are moderately uncommon.

Because the 4 mon coin was relatively profitable to make there are many counterfeits produced by private mints, and/or clandestine daimyo mints.

From around the year 1866 many domains also officially received permission to mint 4 mon coins to help with their own finances. these were all made of iron and many of them have special markings on the back, usually a character identifying the name of the mint.

Although the Tokugawa overlords gave some domains permission to produce iron Kan'ei coins from 1866, The Tokugawa itself started producing a 4 mon coin with a new legend in 1863. This is the Bunkyuu eihou. Bunkyuu refers to the Bunkyuu era which lasted from 1861-1863. Eihou means something like eternal cash or eternally circulating cash. To Tokugawa government however collapsed a mere 5 years after minting the coin and its hopeful name did not come true. It is interesting that the government chose to use a new and current era name for the coin, rather than sticking with the tradition of the Kan'ei moniker. Perhaps the rulers was hoping that a new era meant a reformation and invigoration of Tokugawa rule, but the new era actually meant collapse.

Most of my information for this page comes from Shizuoka Izumika comp., Anasen Nyuumon Kan'ei Tsuuhou: Shin Kan'ei no bu (Shoshinkan:Tokyo, 1997).

In the explanation box on the left of each coin I occasionally use some Japanese characters. If you cannot set your browser to read Japanese then these will appear garbled, but you can safely ignore them.


Japanese Numismatics

Travel back in time to storied feudal Japan - to the land of samurai, daimyo (warlords) and shoguns! This much-mythologized period has been widely celebrated in the popular media and arts. From NBC's Heroes to the novel and miniseries Sh¨­gun to the Tom Cruise big-screen epic The Last Samurai, feudal Japan has captured our collective imagination for decades. The original kanei tsuho coins were made at the Edo mint, which was most likely inside Edo Castle proper, the main stronghold of the shogunate in Tokyo.

The mon was the main unit of currency in Japan until 1870, when it was replaced by the yen. It resembles and was derived from the Chinese wenor cash coin. The coins have a square hole in the middle, which allowed them to be produced using less metal than a solid coin, but which more importantly allowed them to be strung together on a piece of string, for easy transport and payment.

The "bun" mint mark is the kanji character on the reverse of the coin. It indicates that this coin was cast in Edo (modern-day Tokyo). The coins are sometimes called bunsen, because of the "bun" character. The term "bun" is the second syllable of the Japanese word kanbun. The Kanbun era is the name for the Japanese era spanning the years 1661 to 1673, during which the coins were made.

Kanei Tsuho coins are named after the era in which they were introduced. Kanei (often written "Kan'ei" is the name of the Japanese era spanning the years 1624 through 1643. Thus the term kanei tsuho literally means "money of the Kan'ei era". Even though the Kan'ei era ended in 1643, the term for the 1 Mon coins remained in use for over two hundred years!

Despite their high grade and attractive appearance, these coins are not reproductions. Each coin is guaranteed to be an original, solid copper 1668-Bun Square Hole 1 Mon, cast in Edo (Tokyo) and grading a very nice very fine. A little bit of verdigris is typical on these coins, but they are much nicer than usually found (when they can be found at all!).

For a more detailed exploration of the Tokugawa Shogunate, as well as the city of Edo and the culture of the Floating World, please see the article further down in this presentation.




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Hartill 25.54 Japanese Cash coin Ko-Kanei Tsuho Value 4 Mon 11 Nami waves 1768 A

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