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A short history of Chinese Silver Dollar sets produced by the Washington Mint

Often seen across the internet and at auction are plastic holders inscribed:

CHINESE
SILVER DOLLARS
MANCHU DYNASTY
Last Chinese Dynasty
SUN YAT-SEN
First Chinese Republic

(on the reverse) (c) 1983

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.

Background

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.

Authenticity

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.

Sales

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:


Date Left Right Background Note URL
Aug 31, 2022 1908 Chihli Dollar, Short Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thick rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-4559410533
Aug 21, 2022 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-4555996265
Jun 15, 2022 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thick rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-4407946046
Jun 11, 2022 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-4540568683
Aug 17, 2021 Empty Empty White 6x Empty Sets https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/six-1983-washington-mint-chinese-3861094691
Jul 22, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thick rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-set-manchu-3855196137
Jul 12, 2021 1903 Chihli Dollar 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/one-set-chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-3853184925
Jul 09, 2021 Hupeh Puyi Dollar 1934 Junk Dollar, thick rims White With Letter from WM https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-3852557715
May 30, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-3844256983
May 30, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-3844256996
May 14, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-3840231316
Apr 11, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-3831433452
Apr 08, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-3830675525
Mar 24, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thick rims White possible fancy 3 https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-3827007307
Mar 18, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-3825419753
Mar 15, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thick rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-3824329884
Mar 13, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-3823683997
Mar 11, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thick rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/chinese-silver-dollars-manchu-dynasty-3823432676
Feb 22, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims Blue https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/1908-1934-chinese-silver-dollar-coin-3789622156
Feb 11, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/washington-mint-chinese-silver-3786676503
Feb 08, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims Blue https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/1908-1934-chinese-silver-dollar-coin-3786135661
Jan 29, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/t26-china-1908-1934-washington-mint-3783027902
Jan 18, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/washington-mint-chinese-silver-3780644469
Jan 18, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims Blue https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/1908-1934-chinese-silver-dollar-coin-3780723476
Jan 11, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/washington-mint-chinese-silver-3779003067
Jan 11, 2021 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1927 Memento Dollar White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/washington-mint-chinese-silver-3778968772
Nov 13, 2020 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/washington-mint-chinese-silver-3760831094
Oct 30, 2020 1911 Tientsin Dollar 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/washington-mint-chinese-silver-3630204782
Oct 28, 2020 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/washington-mint-chinese-silver-3604113559
Oct 17, 2020 1903 Chihli Dollar 1934 Junk Dollar, thick rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/washington-mint-chinese-silver-3386390542
Mar 10, 2020 1908 Chihli Dollar, Long Spine 1934 Junk Dollar, thin rims White https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/washington-mint-last-chinese-silver-2059692218

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