While enjoying the rich stories, personalities, and lessons of the Three Kingdoms era, it is all too easy to forget that this is all taking place within a unique culture. A culture full traditions, unique weapons, armor, and clothing, unique pottery—and coins. That’s right, coins! If you are a coin collector, you are already very curious. If not, read on and enjoy this section. You might find it much more interesting than you anticipated. Presenting a detailed coin-by-coin analysis, presented, photographed, and written by Adrian Loder (web site; more coins; discussion; full credits) of Chinese coins ranging from the Early Han dynasty on into the Jin. And let’s not forget the Three Kingdoms!
Additional Reading and Goodies
Da Quan Wu Shi—“Big Coin Fifty (Cash)” Though the largest of the “Six Coins”, this was initially introduced in the first reform of Wang Mang in 7 AD It was discontinued in AD 14 with the other six.
Huo Quan—“Wealth Coin” These were introduced in AD 14 and continued to be cast and used even after Liu Xiu firmly re-established the Han Dynasty after a massive civil war in AD 25 and were only finally discontinued in AD 40 (Note: Emperor Gengshi of Han, Liu Xuan, “reigned” amidst chaos and rebellion for two years before Xiu—as Emperor Guangwu—finally settled things).
Bing Huo Quan—“biscuit” or “cake” variety. Whether these were official issues or not is up for debate but it seems most likely that these are either private castings or outright forgeries. The people did not go for Wang Mang’s coins that were of greater stated value than their weight, so they may have preferred to re-cast them as these heavier coins that had greater intrinsic value (i.e. metal content).
Bing Huo Quan—Another “biscuit” variety, this one is even heavier. Often the heavier examples have barely or not-at-all visible characters so this is a nice example. Despite some casting flaws the rims are mostly good withclear characters. And it is heavy—about 4 times as heavy as a U.S. quarter. Thickness: 5.3 mm, Diameter: 28.7 mm and weight: 19.6 g
Da Quan Wu Shi—This is a Da Quan Wu Shi cast from a stone mold (usually they were cast in clay molds) and it also has a double outer rim. You’ll have to take my word for it that this coin’s patina is purple and green as it only shows under natural sunlight. Diameter: 26.5 mm Weight: 3.3 g
Bu Quan—“Spade Coin”. At one point it is said that a legend arose that women who wore one of these coins on their sashes would give birth to male children. Notice also the two rays or horns extending from the upper right and left-hand corners of the obverse inside rim. Dating on these is c. AD 14
Xiao Quan Zhi Yi—These coins both have errors in the molds used for the casting. The coin on the left has a badly-formed Quan as well as a completely botched reverse inner rim. The coin on the right is less flawed, but the Yi character is crooked instead of being perpendicular to the inner rim to its right.
All coin photographs and instructive text © Copyright 2006 Adrian Loder (Website)
Primary sources: David Hartill’s Cast Chinese Coins (ISBN: 1-4120-5466-4), Robert Kokotailo’s Calgary Coins Website
Extended Credit and Copyright Details
March 7, 2014