A short history of Chinese Silver Dollar sets produced by the Washington MintOften seen across the internet and at auction are plastic holders inscribed:
As dealers of vintage Chinese coins, we see these so often and get so many questions about them we thought we'd post a brief article in case anyone is out there searching for information on them.
In late 1983, a coin marketing company named the “Washington Mint” managed to acquire and distribute a large quantity of genuine Chinese silver dollars. At the time, in average circulated condition they were worth essentially bullion value, seen in the US as exotic curiosities alongside more popular US issues. After the rise of Chinese coin collecting in the 1990s, to its peak in 2021, they have shot up in value to several hundred dollars and garnered significant interest. Some sets shipped with letters signed by the company director, J Richard Berglund, and one shows a stamp from October 1983. They were advertised in coin magazines and some of these adverts have been scanned by the Newman Numismatic Portal.
About the coins
The majority of the sets contain a long-spine 1908 Chihli dollar, and a thin-rims 1934 Junk dollar. The former is the most available of the highly sought after Qing Dynasty Chinese dragon dollars, actually re-struck well into the Republic Period (1912-1949). The latter is a famous design, the Junk Boat and Sun Yat-Sen, arguably the most widely available of the Republic silver dollars alongside the Fatman and Memento dollars (though the Memento dollars are usually slightly cheaper). With the 1908 Chihli dollar, sometimes the photos are too blurry to detect any subvarieties other than the Long vs Short tail spine. It is possible that varieties such as “fancy 3” or “crosslet 4” have crept in undetected. There appear to be two backgrounds, one blue and one white, the blue version is scarcer. Unfortunately all coins were harshly scrubbed and will achieve usually only an XF or AU details grade if sent to a third party grading service such as PCGS.
Collectors should exercise caution with sellers and buying on Ebay. As the coins rose in value, and authentication has become more necessary, people have removed the coins from the holders and had them encapsulated, typically by PCGS. The empty holders have been known to pop up on Ebay (e.g. sale of Aug 17, 2021) and who knows which coins may have been swapped in or out. Nevertheless, they are usually a reliable and somewhat affordable way of acquiring 2 genuine Chinese Silver Dollars.
We have compiled a list of frequencies per sold results on worthpoint. 120 sets sold on ebay between May 2009 and August 2021. 31 (1/4 of all) were between March 10, 2020 and Aug 31:
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