Chinese Coins Celebrating Seismograph and Compass Shake Up Heritage Hong Kong World Coins Auction

Published by CoinWeek

A gold Chinese coin celebrating one of the most significant inventions in the study of natural history could send shockwaves through Heritage’s Hong Kong International Numismatic Fair World and Ancient Coins Platinum Session and Signature Auction June 19-21.

People’s Republic gold Proof “Seismography” 2000 Yuan (1 Kilo) 1992 PR68 Ultra Cameo NGC, from the Shenyang Mint, is from the Scientific Inventions and Discoveries of Ancient China Series. The certificate indicates that it hails from a tiny mintage of just 10 pieces, although Chan suggests the mintage actually included 16; a record has been found of just one other example being offered at public auction, in 2003.

It was issued in recognition of the seismoscope, one of the earliest known instruments for detecting earthquakes.

“Attempts to accurately record seismic events go back centuries,” says Cris Bierrenbach, Executive Vice President of International Numismatics at Heritage Auctions. “One of the earliest seismoscopes was invented in 132 AD by Zhang Heng, a Chinese philosopher, astronomer, mathematician, engineer, and inventor who served in the imperial court of the Han dynasty. His device, the ‘earthquake weathervane,’ was remarkably sophisticated for the time, and was reported to have successfully detected an earthquake in 134 AD that occurred about 400 miles away in what is now the modern province of Gansu. But the original designs and more detailed descriptions of the seismoscope were lost over time, and no replicas have survived. His invention represents one of the earliest endeavors to create a scientific instrument for detecting earthquakes, and is rightfully celebrated on this beautiful and exceedingly rare coin.”

Another low-mintage “Inventions and Discoveries” gold kilo that will find a new home when it is sold in this auction is a People’s Republic gold Proof “Compass” 2000 Yuan (1 Kilo) 1992 PR69 Ultra Cameo NGC that comes from a mintage of just 10. This beauty celebrates the invention of the compass during the Han dynasty around the second century BCE. Of the three examples certified by NGC at this top pop grade, the one offered here exhibits the highest technical quality.

From a mintage of just 20 comes a People’s Republic gold Proof “Completion of Lunar Cycle” 2000 Yuan (Kilo) 1992 PR69 Ultra Cameo NGC that was struck in commemoration of the completion of one full lunar cycle since the start of the Lunar Series, the popular collector’s program that began in 1981 with the “Year of the Rooster” issues. Of the 20 extant, only 11 have been certified, with the offered example tied for the highest grade available.

Another highlight of Heritage’s June Hong Kong auction is a Republic Tsao Kun gold Dollar ND (1923) MS62 NGC, a Dollar-size gold issue requisitioned by the president of the Republic of ChinaTsao Kun, upon the promulgation of the new Constitution by the Peking Senate in 1923. It portrays the warlord and politician in military uniform, and represents the first time Heritage has brought this Chinese rarity to auction in nearly a decade.

Republic Sun Yat-sen Specimen Pattern 1/2 Dollar (50 Cents) Year 25 (1936) SP63 PCGS is one of the rarities from the Sun Yat-sen series, and part of a group of Patterns proposed with a smaller diameter and slightly altered Junk design from previous Sun Yat-sen issues. Whether these issues were struck at the San Francisco Mint or the Central Mint of Shanghai (Kann purporting the latter) has been the subject of some debate. What is beyond question, however, is the fact that the specimen offered in this auction carries the second-highest grade at PCGS, with none graded higher at NGC.

Among the half dozen lots in the Heritage Hong Kong auction from the Coenen Collection is a Qing dynasty. temp. Qianlong gold Boat-Shaped Sycee of 10 Taels ND (c. 1750) Certified MS61 by Gong Bo Grading. It is an iconic gold ingot, seen primarily among those salvaged from the Dutch East Indiaman cargo vessel Geldermalsen by Captain Michael Hatcher in 1985, standing out through its unique shape and design that suggest its use for trade with the Dutch. Wrecked in the South China Sea on January 18, 1752, Geldermalsen carried 147 gold bars and ingots along with a significant cargo of porcelain.

The Ten Kingdoms – Kingdom of Chu. Supreme Commander Ma Yin (907-951) Tiance Prefecture Treasure Cash ND (911) Certified 85 by Gong Bo Grading is one of 46 lots in the auction from the W&L Collection and a stunning example of this rare heavy cash emission minted to commemorate Ma Yin’s rank of Supreme Commander of TianceHunan given by Emperor Ta Zu of the Liang dynasty. Rarely does this type make appearance at public auction and when it does, it never is of such high quality.

Images and information about all lots in the June 2024 Heritage Hong Kong World and Ancient Coins Auction can be found at

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