Monday, July 8, 2013

Summary of the Comparative Study on the Terracotta Warrior Coins in the Historical Figures Set

This post is a summary of the comparative study by Quanmo Yishanren on the pattern coins  from the first set of the Historical Figures series. The original post is rather long and deviating. I am picking out the essential points from his post at

In 1984, Shanghai Mint issued a brass medal celebrating the 30th anniversary of the new Shanghai Mint after PRC was founded. (Shanghai Mint itself has a much longer history.) This is the brass medal:

 This medal is interesting because it has the image of the Shanghai Mint building on one side, and the images of several coins on the other. The coin side reveals three pattern coins: a pattern for the Decade of Women gold coin, a pattern for one of the 30th Anniversary of the PRC gold coins, and a pattern for the Soldier Kneeling silver coin. The Decade of Women gold pattern was leaked to the market, sold by a coin store under the China Gold Coins Inc. The 30th Anniversary gold pattern was very close to the one later released, with difference only in denomination (300 Yuan vs. 400 Yuan). What Quanmo Yishanren focuses on is the pattern for the Soldier Kneeling. It is vastly different from the coin actually released: 1. The fonts of the characters are different. The characters "Soldier Kneeling" are arranged in an arc on the upper left side on the pattern, while they are horizontal on the upper right side on the released coin; 2. The characters "Three Hundred Years B. C." on the pattern coin use a similar font as found on the released coin, but they are in different positions. On the pattern, the characters are on the upper right corner, in an arc, while they are horizontally arranged below the characters "Soldier Kneeling" on the released coin; 3. The denominations are different. It is 20 Yuan on the pattern coin, on the right middle section of the coin, while it is 5 Yuan on the released coin, in the lower right corner.

 Quanmo Yishanren has the following questions about the Soldier Kneeling pattern: How come the image of this pattern got onto the medal? Why the differences between the pattern and the released coin? Does the pattern still exist today? Where is it?

Quanmo Yishanren then digresses to the pattern of the gold coin in this set, Qinshihuang. It is the only available pattern from the Historical Figure series, now in the collection of the Hong Kong collector King Chan. The image on the right in the picture below is the released coin. The other images are those of the pattern:

While the silver coins were designed and engraved at Shanghai Mint, the gold coin was designed and engraved by Wang Fude at Shenyang Mint. The design of the Qinshihuang pattern was very different from that of the released coin: 1. The pattern shows the full body of Qinshihuang, with his crown tiling up. The released coin shows only his upper body, with his crown tilting down. 2. The obverse of the pattern shows the year "1983" and the characters "Qinshihuang's Terracotta Warriors from China" in the Qinzhuan font, with the image of the Great Wall in the background, separated into two sections. On the other hand, the obverse of the issued coin has the name of the country, the national emblem and the year "1984", which are standard design elements. 3. On the reverse of the pattern coin are the image of Soldier with a Horse, the 100 Yuan denomination, the characters "Soldier with a Horse" in the Weibei font and the characters "3rd Century B. C.", while the reverse of the released coin has the image of Qinshihuang, the denomination of 100 Yuan, the characters "Qinshihuang" in the Qinzhuan font, and the characters "Years 259-210 B. C." in the Kaishu font.

Quanmo Yishanren then proceeds to compare the pattern of Qinshihuang, the brass medal of the 30th Anniversary of Shanghai Mint and the silver coins of the terracotta warriors. 

He believes that through logical inference, the following questions can be asked: 1. Now that Soldier with a Horse is on the reverse of the Qinshihuang pattern, it is very unlikely that the same design would be used on a silver coin. What would the design on that coin be? 2. The Qinshihuang pattern has the year "1983" on it. Accordingly, the year on the Soldier Kneeling silver pattern should be the same. Where would it be positioned? 3. We only see the design on the reverse of the Soldier Kneeling. Based on the designs on the Qinshihuang pattern, Quanmo Yishanren believes that the design on the obverse of the Soldier Kneeling would be different from that on the officially released coin. These questions need to be investigated.

Quanmo Yishanren then contacted the designers and engravers of the coins and the brass medal. Unfortunately, they had not even noticed the facts, especially the patterns on the brass medal. They had very vague memory of what happened so long ago. What can be concluded are:

1.       The images of the coins on the brass medal were based on original dies from the die room, although reduced in size. The three patterns were minted for the release of the coins. The released coins are different from these patterns for review because of the input from the distributor or China Mint Company. 

2.       The patterns were all actually minted, but in a very small number. They were primarily submitted to China Mint Company and the overseas sponsor of the project. Under the chaotic management system of that time, patterns submitted were rarely recovered. The recipients of patterns would pay for them. That is to say, these patterns actually became commodities. Those patterns retained within the mint were melted under supervision.  

3.       After so many years, any such pattern would be a highly valuable top gem if it shows up. It may be the only specimen available. Even if such patterns happen to turn up in a managed way, they are still extremely rare, well worth collecting and researching. 

4.       Because of the specific historical theme, the Qinshihuang and Soldier Kneeling patterns are outstanding even among pattern coins. 

5.       The fact that images of pattern coins appeared on the brass medal was due to negligence. This will not happen again as patterns are under strict management now.

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