Saturday, November 3, 2012

On "Three Little Dragons" and "Five Golden Flowers"

By Huang Ruiyong

The concept of "Three Little Dragons" is just my idea, referring to the 1982 Soccer gold coin, 1983 Marco Polo gold coin and the 1986 Year of Peace gold coin. They are named "Three Little Dragons" because these coins were the jewelry on the crown among early PRC gold coins. They share several characteristics among them: 1. They were all issued during the days of China Mint, before the China Gold Coins Co. was founded. 2. The actual mintage was very limited: the 82 Soccer had a mintage of 1261, the 83 Marco Polo had a mintage of 1033, and the 86 Year of Peace had a mintage of mere 940. 3. They all had international themes: the 82 Soccer was issued for the 12th World Cup. Many other countries, including the hosting country Spain, were issuing soccer coins at the same time. Marco Polo was an Italian, known internationally for his "The Travels of Marco Polo". As early as in 1982, the 37th UN Plenary Session passed a resolution, naming 1986 the International Year of Peace. More than 100 countries and 300 NGOs took the resolution seriously and reacted positively to it. 4. They are all coins sought after because of their themes: the 82 Soccer has always been the key date among all the sports coins. It was mainly sold in Europe, and European coin dealers would combine 82 soccer coins from various countries into one set for sale. As a result, the Soccer gold coin as a single piece is hard to come by. In addition, the Chinese character "Game" on the coin is a non-standard simplified Chinese character. Strictly speaking, this coin is an error coin, which adds to the fun. The market price of the Soccer gold coin has always been twice the price of the Woman Sword Dancer, the next key date among sports coins. The current price is between RMB 9000-9500. The silver Marco Polo coin, which shares the same design as the gold coin, won the "Most Historically Significant Coin" award, and has been sought after by global coin collectors. But without any doubt, in the set of four 83 Marco Polo coins, the 1/3 gold coin contributes the most value, priced at around RMB9000 at the moment. The Year of Peace gold coin has been fully absorbed due to its international theme, and its market price has been constantly elevated, around RMB 8000-9000 at the moment. These "Three Little Dragons" occasionally show up in the Lugong market (in Shanghai), but have been absent from the Madian Market (in Beijing). They are on their way to the auctions of major auction houses in the future. 5. The workmanship is amazingly exquisite: the figure and muscle texture of the players in the Soccer coin are beyond any critique; Marco Polo's wise eyes reflecting rich experience leave an everlasting impression; the charm of the slim girl in the Year of Peace coin is ever so striking. We feel that the designers and workers put their whole heart into designing, engraving and striking these coins. The designer/engravers of these early coins were selected by the People's Bank from the major art schools, with the special approval from the State Council. They have mostly become masters now, and these early coins were the peak of their artistic creativity. Although we have better coin making machines these days, the current workmanship of gold coins may well be inferior to that of the early years. 6. They were all issued in a set with matching silver coins. The Soccer set was made up of one gold coin and two silver coins; the Marco Polo set had two gold coins and two silver coins; the Year of Peace set had one gold coin and one silver coin. The Marco Polo and Year of Peace gold coins are matched with silver coins of the same design.

By adding the Year of Children gold coin and the 70th Anniversary of Xinhai Revolution gold coin to these three coins, we would then have "Five Golden Flowers". The Year of Children gold coin is from one of the only two gold coin sets issued before 1980. It also has an excellent international theme. Plus the denomination of 450 Yuan is the highest among 1/2oz gold coins. The only disadvantage is that its actual mintage is many more than the "Three Little Dragons", at 12589. On the other hand, the Xinhai Revolution gold coin has a mintage of 1388, similar to that of the "Three Little Dragons". It has the disadvantage of not being an international theme. In terms of workmanship, the Year of Children gold coin and the Xinhai Revolution gold coin are exceptionally exquisite. The engraving of figures on the coins was highly detailed. As far as I know, due to the surge of gold price right after the Year of Children coin was issued in 1980, some dealers had a large quantity of the coin melted, together with the 30th Anniversary of the PRC gold coins and the 4th National Sports Game gold medal. So its surviving mintage is smaller than the actual mintage. In addition, the packaging of this coin was not as solid as with other gold coins, and so high grade Year of Children gold coins are very hard to find, with its price easily breaking through RMB4000 before people even noticed it. However, compared with Longmen, Dunhuang and Tibet gold coins, its price is still undervalued, because the 20 plus years' time should have distanced it from the Longmen and Dunhuang coins. What I would like to add is that the Year of Children piefort gold coin is the favorite of top collectors. There are no more than 5 collectors who own it in Mainland China. Its issuing price was USD4000, very rare. Today the estimated price of a high grade piefort gold coin is at least RMB60000. Xinhai Revolution was the first gold coin from the PRC with Dr. Sun Yat-sen's face on it. It was distributed by the TAISEI STAMPS AND COINS (H.K.) LIMITED, which made quite a stir among overseas Chinese. The motif on the coin, "Revolt in Wuchang", was taken from the Monument to People's Heroes. The engraving was exceptionally life-like, with a surprising effect. The coin's current market price is around RMB9000. All these "Five Golden Flowers" are getting more scare with each passing day, because of their very limited availability on the market, with an ever increasing effective demand. As they are deeply absorbed into the market, the selling price of one coin is always higher than the price of the previous one. The price goes up steadily. In sum, the "Three Little Dragons" or the "Five Golden Flowers" are all pioneers of modern Chinese gold coins, and they have taken their prestigious position in the history of gold and silver coins from PRC. These gems can still be found if you are lucky enough. If you miss the opportunity, probably you will only see them later on at auctions or at collector exhibits.

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