April 10, 2014 – In 1990, the People’s Republic of China issued a new coin series that shows the dragon and the phoenix on its obverse. What appears to be of decorative value to us has clear implications in the Chinese culture. Dragon and phoenix not only represent emperor and empress. As complements, they are one of the traditional symbols of good luck, hence this is a motive one must have in the house in order to experience particularly good luck. Feng shui advisors recommend giving an art work with a depiction of this kind to ensure a happy wedding day and a long, harmonious marriage.
The most famous Meissen china set entitled ‘Red Dragon’ was deliberately imitated in 1730 to remain reserved to the Saxon King as royal porcelain until 1918. Photograph: UK.
Dragon and phoenix play a very significant role in the popular belief in Chinese every-day life. Strictly speaking, the potency with which such a work of art operates can only be enhanced by a series, a complete set, just like the one that was offered at Künker on 11 March in auction sale 246, as lot 3225.
This set – one out of the total 50 issued – comprised all seven coins with ‘Dragon and Phoenix’ on the obverse that were issued in 1990. All reverses depict the Great Wall of China.
1500 Yuan / Gold (622.69 g) / Mintage: 250.
200 Yuan / Gold (62.27 g) / Mintage: 2,500.
10 Yuan / Gold (1 g) / Mintage: 50,000.
150 Yuan / Silver (622.69 g) / Mintage: 1500.
20 Yuan / Silver (62.27 g) / Mintage: 5000.
10 Yuan / Silver (31.13 g) / Mintage: 80,000.
5 Jiao / Silver (2 g) / Mintage: 50,000.
The material value alone makes the set impressive. At present, it obtains more than 20,000 euros, depending on the current gold price. A Chinese bidder being willing to pay more than four times that sum is something truly remarkable. The hammer price was 80,000 euros in the end. Perhaps the lucky winner was a proud (coin collecting) father who wanted to give his offspring a good luck present of stable value for future times. Perhaps it was a bridegroom making himself a present that offered him likewise the prospect of future luck.
One can only make a rough guess about the price this coin set may have yielded if the ones responsible in the mint in 1990 had been guided by yet another popular belief in China: the number seven (qi) very much sounds like the word ‘gone’ and hence is considered an unlucky number locally. It would have suited ‘Dragon and phoenix’ much better had the series consisted of six pieces. The number six (liu) sounds similar to trouble-free and promising – what more can you expect of a marriage?
By the way, in Künker auction sale 246, conducted on 11 March 2014, a collection of Chinese coins tripled its estimate. The best-seller was a perfect dollar from Pei-Yang Province from the year 22 (1896) that came with an estimate of 15,000 euros to change hands for 140,000 euros in the end.
You will find the complete result lists of the Spring Auction sale on the Künker website.
If you are interested in Chinese coins you must not miss our History of Chinese Coinage.