15 Valuable Old Chinese Coins: Complete Value Guide

Are you a collector searching for the next big collection to immerse yourself in? Look no further, for the ancient Chinese coin has the longest, richest, and most fascinating lineage of them all; in fact, archeologists recently discovered the world’s oldest coin mint in China.

As an American with Chinese heritage, I have often found myself curious about ancient Chinese currency, and, as such, I have created a list of the top 15 most valuable Chinese coins presented below.

15 Valuable Old Chinese Coins Coins

No.
Name
Year
Grade
Price
15
YR 10 Silver Dollar K-676 L&M-864 Reeded
1921
MS64 PCGS
$28,680
14
Republic of China Silver Dollar K-683 L&M-864
1924
MS64+
$34,800
13
Tsao Kun Silver Dollar K-678 L&M-959
1923
MS63 NGC
$57,600
12
Yuan Shih-kai Silver Specimen Pattern “L.Giorgi” Dollar
1914
MS61 NGC
$132,000
11
Hupeh L&M-181 Tael
1904
NGC MS63
$144,000
10
Kuang-hsu Gold Pattern Kuping Tael CD
1907
MS63 NGC
$150,000
9
Kuang-hsu “Plain Edge” Proof Dollar ND
1897
PR65
$240,000
8
YR 16 Silver Dollar Pattern L&M-962
1927
SP65
$336,000
7
Dragon Phoenix 200 Yuan
1989
NGC PF 69 Ultra Cameo
$408,000
6
Chang Tso-Lin  L&M-1031
1927
SP64 PCGS
$526,229
5
Jin Dynasty Tianjuan Tongbao
Jin Dynasty
unknown
$597,000
4
Yunnan Silver Dollar
1910
NGC AU58
$660,000
3
YR 33 Tael Chihli
1907
MS63 NGC
$996,000
2
YR 3 Silver Long Whiskered Dragon Dollar Pattern L&M-29
1911
MS64 NGC
$1,340,000
1
YR 17 China S$1 L&M-871 Pattern
1928
MS62
$2,160,000

15. 1921 YR 10 Silver Dollar K-676 L&M-864 Reeded

Year: 1921
Grade: MS64 PCGS
Price: Sold on Dec 11, 2015 for: $28,680
1921 YR 10 Silver Dollar K-676 L&M-864 Reeded
1921 YR 10 Silver Dollar K-676 L&M-864 Reeded (Source: coins)

Remember how I declared the 1914 Yuan Shih-kai Silver Specimen Pattern “L. Giorgi” Dollar as my favorite? Well, forget that! The 1921 YR 10 Silver Dollar K-676 L&M-864 Reeded coin is my absolute favorite- just look at the wondrous, beautiful, mind-blowing illustration on the reverse!

Pictured on the reverse of the coin is a quaint pavilion beside a towering tree, housing a group of people who seem to be discussing, say, a poem, or possibly the going-ons in the Qing government. If this coin were mine, I’d frame it and hang it on my wall.

 

14. 1924 Republic of China Silver Dollar K-683 L&M-865

Year: 1924
Grade: MS64+
Price: Sold on Jul 12, 2020 for: $34,800
Republic of China Silver Dollar K-683 L&M-864
Republic of China Silver Dollar K-683 L&M-864 (Source: coins)

Tianjin Mint. Peaceful ruling commemorative, a short and impressive issue. The minting is superb, comparable to that of a medal: deeply struck and impressed with perfection, the outline is clear and leaps off the backing. If you look closely, the details are perfect. The Duan Qirui statue is extremely well-made and lifelike. There are a few scratches on the left side of the head on the front side, which is a pity that the rating stops there.

13. 1923 Tsao Kun Silver Dollar K-678 L&M-959

Year: 1923
Grade: MS63 NGC
Price: Sold on Jun 24, 2021 for: $57,600
1923 Tsao Kun Silver Dollar K-678 L&M-959
1923 Tsao Kun Silver Dollar K-678 L&M-959 (Source: coins)

The 1923 Tsao Kun Silver Dollar K-678 L&M-959 is of tientsin mint and, similarly to the Chang Tso-Lin coin, carries the might of the warlord imaged on its obverse, making it a coveted collectible for you and I. Tsao Kun served as the president of The Republic of China from October 1923 to November 1924, during which he promoted the 1923 Constitution of China, which, although ignored and quickly forgotten, was quite possibly the most democratic and progressive charter then in China. The coin’s relation to this history distinguishes it from its peers.

12. 1914 Yuan Shih-kai Silver Specimen Pattern “L. Giorgi” Dollar

Year: 1914
Grade:MS61 NGC
Price: Sold on Jun 27, 2019 for: $132,000
1914 Yuan Shih-kai Silver Specimen Pattern “L. Giorgi” Dollar
1914 Yuan Shih-kai Silver Specimen Pattern “L. Giorgi” Dollar (Source: coins)

The 1914 Yuan Shih-kai Silver Specimen Pattern “L. Giorgi” Dollar is personally my favorite due to the intrinsic yet soothingly simple illustration of the wreath of flora highlighted by the cool gray tone of the reverse of the coin. Don’t you think it looks refreshing?

More importantly, on the obverse, the coin pictures the famous Yuan Shih-kai, who forced the abdication of the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, the XuanTong Emperor, and became the first President of the Republic of China. The coin with his portrait remembers his strength and tells of a monumental event over a century ago. Differentiating this coin from others similar is a fine but crucial detail- the addition of the signature of the Tientsin Mint’s chief engraver, Luigi Giorgi, on the shoulder of Yuan Shih-kai.

11. 1904 Hupeh L&M-181 Tael

Year: 1904
Grade: NGC MS63
Price: Sold on Jun 24, 2021 for :$144,000
China Hupeh 1904 silver one tael coin obverse and reverse detail L&M-181 K-933b KM-Y-128.1
China Hupeh 1904 silver one tael coin obverse and reverse detail L&M-181 K-933b KM-Y-128.1 (Source: Dragondollar)

The 1904 Hupeh tael, whichever variety, is always a rare coin. It only circulated for one month before being scrapped, and only 648,000 were minted in the first place. It is impossible to know how many survived, but there is only 224 coins graded by PCGS to this day, of which only 25 with the “Large Characters” variety. On June 25, Heritage Auctions sold a perfect one for $360,000 USD in Hong Kong.

China Hupeh 1904 silver one Tael Large Characters reverse details L&M-181 K-933b KM-Y-128.1
China Hupeh 1904 silver one Tael Large Characters reverse details L&M-181 K-933b KM-Y-128.1 (Source: Dragondollar)

Circled in orange is the connection point between the big characters and – do you see – small characters in the center of the coin. Such a clever, curious detail instantly makes this coin a prized possession.

On December 1st of the 30th year of the GuangXu Emperor, the Hubei Silver Coin Bureau became the Silver Coin Bureau and began manufacturing new silver coins called the “Hubei Yiliang,” the first coins to have the words “Qing Dynasty Silver Coin” inscribed. Unfortunately, these coins failed due to their unique shape, different from the commonly used seven-money and two-cent silver dollar shape. The 1904 Hupeh L&M-181 Tael halted production soon after, making this coin highly rare.

10. 1907 Kuang-hsu Gold Pattern Kuping Tael CD

Year: 1907
Grade: MS63 NGC
Price: $150,000
1907 Kuang-hsu Gold Pattern Kuping Tael CD
1907 Kuang-hsu Gold Pattern Kuping Tael CD (Source: coins)

The 1907 Kuang-hsu Gold Pattern Kuping Tael CD has stunningly beautiful detail, with multiple small clouds surrounding a breathtaking dragon on the coin’s obverse and the characters “Great Qing Gold Coin,” “Made During the Kuang Hsu Regime,” and “Kuping 1 Tael” written on its reverse. The coin has bright luster and a gold patina, emphasizing the grandness of the dragon.

In the thirty-first year of Guangxu, the Qing government promulgated the “Discretionary Regulations for the Rectification of the Huanfa”, stipulating that “the three coins made, namely the Qing gold coins, the Qing silver coins, and the Qing copper coins, passed through the world, in order to be uniform. The Qing gold coins were not issued afterwards because the gold standard system was not established, and the amount minted was very small. This coin is probably the most iconic and famous gold proof coin of the late Qing Dynasty, only 10 of them are graded by NGC, and only a few of them may be original embossed.

9. 1897 Kuang-hsu “Plain Edge” Proof Dollar ND

Year: 1897
Grade: PR65
Price: Sold on Dec 18, 2020 for: $240,000
1897 Kuang-hsu “Plain Edge” Proof Dollar ND
1897 Kuang-hsu “Plain Edge” Proof Dollar ND (Source: coins)

The 1897 Kuang-hsu “Plain Edge” Proof Dollar ND has incredible quality, with mirrored fields, fine details, and a razor-sharp strike. The contrast between the blueish-gray and golden patina gives the coin an aesthetic allure.

What makes this coin truly unique is its shocking identity as a Chinese coin not commissioned in China, but, surprisingly, at the Heaton mint in Birmingham, England. It was then shipped to the Nanking mint, which, shockingly, no longer existed.

8. 1927 YR 16 Silver Dollar Pattern L&M-962

Year: 1927
Grade: SP65
Price: Sold on APR 5, 2021 for: $336,000
1927 YR 16 Silver Dollar Pattern L&M-962
1927 YR 16 Silver Dollar Pattern L&M-962 (Source: stacksbowers)

The 1927 YR 16 Silver Dollar Pattern L&M-962 holds special significance because it was specially created to celebrate Chu Yupu’s first anniversary as the governor of Chihli. After gaining control of the Chihli army as well as his province, Chu Yupu attempted to reunite China during his Northern Expedition. Although unsuccessful, Chu Yupu is often considered as one of the greatest figures in Chinese history, and, as such, a coin remembering his anniversary is a treasured symbol indeed.

The coin pictures Chu Yupu in military attire on its obverse with no other detail, emphasizing the solitary figure. On the reverse is the illustration of two crossed flags, symbolizing Chu Yupu’s military forces.

7. 1989 Dragon Phoenix 200 Yuan

Year: 1989
Grade: NGC PF 69 Ultra Cameo
Price: Sold on Dec 7, 2017 for: $408,000
1989 Dragon Phoenix 200 Yuan
1989 Dragon Phoenix 200 Yuan (Source: coins)

During the December Hong Kong sale, Heritage Auctions sold 452 coins for a whopping total of over four million. Leading the sale was the 1989 Dragon Phoenix 200 Yuan coin, selling for $400,000. Do you wonder what is so special about this coin?

In 1989, Chinese coins intended for U.S. sale became highly politically undesirable in the U.S. due to a sudden downward turn in political relations between the two nations. 2,538 gold coins minted at the Shenyang mint for sale to the U.S. were melted, leaving only a few examples. The 1989 Dragon Phoenix 200 Yuan coin is one of the only survivors.

A detailed, well-preserved image of a dragon and a phoenix is on the obverse, while a magnificent illustration of the Great Wall of China is on the reverse of the coin.

6. 1927 Chang Tso-Lin L&M-1031

Year: 1927
Grade: SP64 PCGS
Price: Sold on 24 Nov 2012 for:  $526,229
1927 Chang Tso-Lin L&M-1031
1927 Chang Tso-Lin L&M-1031 (Source: bonhams)

The 1927 Chang Tso-Lin L&M-1031 coin’s enticement stems from how it reflects the stately power of one of the most influential characters in China’s history. Pictured on the obverse of the coin is Chang Tso-Lin, a warlord who unified Manchuria by organizing an army of commoners and exercising brilliant military and political methods to bring Manchuria under the political influence of China, truly an astonishing feat. This gold coin is even more unrivaled because it comes directly from the warlord’s direct descendants and was created as a personal keepsake for Chang Tso-Lin- one of a kind.

This coin sold as the most expensive Chinese coin at the November 24th auction at the Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art held during the 2012 Bonhams Hong Kong Autumn Auctions. The coin’s quality is nearly perfect and one of only two coins picturing the esteemed warlord.

5. Jin Dynasty Tianjuan Tongbao

Year: Jin Dynasty
Grade: unknown
Price: $597,000
Jin Dynasty Tianjuan Tongbao
Jin Dynasty Tianjuan Tongbao

Lastly, we’ll finish the list with a surprising candidate hailing from millenia earlier than its peers. The Jin Dynasty Tianjuan Tongbao, as hinted through its name, was minted during the Jin Dynasty of China, from B.C 226-420. This coin was unearthed in Henan and possesses a pretty rusted green shade, and I’m sure many collectors would be thirsting after a coin from so long ago.

4. 1910 Yunnan Silver Dollar

Year: 1910
Grade: NGC AU58
Price: Sold on Jul 12, 2020 for: $660,000
1910 Yunnan Silver Dollar
1910 Yunnan Silver Dollar (Source: coins)

The 1910 Yunnan Spring Dollar is incredibly rare, with only two specimens in existence. Here, we will focus on the first, auctioned at a Hong Kong auction. It is especially intriguing, as this coin played a key role in history.

After the Qing government placed regulations upon currency to consolidate silver coin mints in Tianjin, a few branch mints around the nation, including the Yunnan mint, continued to mint coins. After being discovered by the Chinese central government, most Yunnan Spring Dollars were confiscated and melted, with only two surviving to tell the tale of a small but notable act of defiance long buried in history. Perhaps, this is the unseen value of the coin, having not only witnessed a crucial historical currency reformation but also a forgotten scuffle.

The obverse of the coin has the characters “宣统元宝,” printed, indicating that it was minted during XuanTong Emperor’s reign from 1908 to 1912. A majestic dragon is displayed on the reverse of the coin, only adding to its appeal.

 

3. 1907 YR 33 Tael Chihli

Year: 1907
Grade: MS63 NGC
Price: Sold on May 30, 2021.  for: $996,000
1907 YR33 China Tael Chihli, graded NGC MS 63
1907 YR33 China Tael Chihli, graded NGC MS 63 (Source:coinnews)

The 1907 YR 33 Tael Chihli is another of my favorites because of the three solitary pearls placed on the outer rims of both the obverse and reverse of the coin. The pearls give the already stately coin a simple elegance.

During Emperor Kuang-hsu’s reign, the Qing government attempted to introduce an unified Tael coinage, of which this coin was part of. Ultimately, this attempt was not well liked and was abandoned after the death of Emperor Kuang-hsu. Most of the coins were melted, with a rare few surviving, including this 1907 YR 33 Tael Chihli coin.

2. 1911 Silver Long Whiskered Dragon Dollar Pattern L&M-29

Year: 1911
Grade: MS64 NGC
Price: Sold on May 30, 2021 for: $1,340,000
1911 YR3 China Silver Dollar Long Whiskered Dragon, graded NGC MS 64
1911 YR3 China Silver Dollar Long Whiskered Dragon, graded NGC MS 64 (Source:coinnews)

The 1911 Silver Long Whiskered Dragon Dollar Pattern L&M-29 coin sold for a whopping 1.34 million at a Champion Macau auction in May 2021. Similar to the 1914 Yuan Shih-kai coin, this coin is also from the works of the Italian engraver Luigi Giorgi. In fact, it is so far the finest discovered specimen of Giorgi’s work.

 

The coin’s identity as a work under the hands of Giorgi reveals the cultural diffusion in Eurasia in the early 20th century. The coin witnessed and tells of the influence Italians and other different peoples of Eurasia played upon one another, whether in the coin industry or elsewhere.

 

1. YR 17 China S$1 L&M-871 Pattern

Year: 1928
Grade: MS62
Price: Sold on Dec 11, 2021 for: $2,160,000
YR 17 China S$1 L&M-871 Pattern
YR 17 China S$1 L&M-871 Pattern (Source: coins)

The YR 17 China S$1 L&M-871 Pattern coin is a coin just as famous as the man it represents, Chang Tso-Lin, a powerful warlord in China in the 1920s, previously mentioned with coin number three. The YR 17 China S$1 L&M-871 Pattern coin is unique in that it was proposed and minted after Chang Tso-Lin’s death as a last pattern to celebrate Chang Tso-Lin’s life. Only ten of these coins are in existence, making them exceedingly rare.

 

Where to Buy the Coins

Now that you know what the most valuable Chinese coins are, you may be wondering where you can purchase these prized collectibles. Lower valued coins under 100,000 can often be bought on sites such as Ebay or Etsy. To buy coins valued higher, like those listed above, you must compete with others for the coin at an auction; Heritage Auctions is a popular auction for these coins.

 

When Did Coins Stop Being Silver

If you look closely at the list of top 15 most valuable Chinese coins, some are gold, some are silver, and one is copper. So, when did coins stop- and start- being silver? Originally, in ancient times in China, copper was the only material used for the minting of coins. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), silver flowed into China from overseas and gradually dominated the Chinese currency system. However, in the Qing Dynasty, copper and gold made an appearance alongside silver. After the Xinhai Revolution and the founding of the Republic of China, the National Currency Ordinance established silver currency as national currency in 1914. It was not until 1935 when the Central Government enacted currency reforms that the circulation of silver dollar coins was prohibited.

 

Which Year’s Coins Are Worth Money

Look again at the list above. Perhaps you noticed that out of the top 15, only two coins hail from before the 20th century, and only one coin is from the latter half of the 20th century. Most of the top 15 most valuable coins are dated to the years 1904 to 1928- these are the coins worth the most money.

 

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve learned all about the top 15 most valuable Chinese coins, where to buy them, which are worth money, and what they’re made of, we’d like to know what you think. Comment any thoughts or questions down below, and we will do our best to respond to your question. If you would like to learn more about auctions, coins, and more, visit the links below.

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