NGC-certified Chinese Vintage Rarities Highlight September Stephen Album Sale

Posted on 8/31/2020

A pair of spectacular silver dollar Specimens pedigreed to a Swedish diplomat are being offered by Stephen Album Rare Coins.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®) certified a pair of exceptional Chinese Specimen silver coins that will be offered by Stephen Album Rare Coins in its Auction 38, being held September 24-27, 2020. Both coins are Specimen Year 29 (1903) Chihli “Period After Yang” L&M-462 Silver Dollars. One is graded NGC SP 65 and has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000, while the other is graded NGC SP 64+ and has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000.

China 1903 Chihli “Period After Yang” L&M-462 Silver Dollar, graded NGC SP 65 and pedigreed to Richard Bagge
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China 1903 Chihli “Period After Yang” L&M-462 Silver Dollar, graded NGC SP 64+ and pedigreed to Richard Bagge
Click images to enlarge

Specimens are coins struck with special care to accentuate the strike and protect their surfaces. While they don’t quite meet the criteria to be called Proof, Specimens are clearly distinct from circulation strikes. Both of these Specimen coins have exceptional surfaces, strong strikes and amazing original toning.

No Specimens or Proofs of this issue were known prior to the discovery of these pieces. They are pedigreed to Richard Bagge, who was Consul-General for Sweden and worked in Shanghai circa 1906. His son, Ragnvald Richardson Bagge (1903-1991) was a Swedish diplomat as well, and this set was a part of his estate.

The Peiyang mint began striking silver dollars again in 1903 after a three-year hiatus due to the Boxer Rebellion. It is quite possible that these coins were struck for dignitaries to celebrate the reopening of the mint. Regardless of the precise reason for their striking, the coins were clearly specially struck and merit the prestigious Specimen designation.

Both coins were well struck from the same pair of very early die-state dies. The coins indicate a complete lack of die fatigue or erosion, which is frequently seen in the denticles on circulation issues. The rims are also much better formed than those on business strikes, and the dragons are completely struck up, as are the beaded circles on the opposite side of each coin.

Also notable is the complete lack of “ghosting” on the reverse, which shows how early the die state is. Ghosting occurs after many planchets are struck and a faint shadow of the dragon will begin to show on the reverse due to the extreme pressures of minting.

Lastly, the coins also have extensive die polish and circular die lines that surround the devices on both sides. The lines are all crisp and complete — as opposed to later strikes, which have less-sharp lines that fade in certain areas.

The coins are extremely well-preserved. Chinese silver dollars of this era typically have numerous bag marks and wear from handling, neither of which are evident on these coins. This lack of damage shows that they were carefully handled from the time they were struck. The coins’ well-established pedigree goes back to just three to seven years after they were struck.

The toning patterns are indicative of a set meant to display both the obverse and reverse of the coins at the same time. Apparently, one coin was dragon side up and the other was dragon side down in a presentation case. As a result, the obverse toning pattern of one matches the reverse toning pattern of the other. The depth and originality of the toning indicates that the set was likely stored in the same case for decades.

“One particularly exciting aspect of our jobs as expert graders is that important coins like these can suddenly surface,” said Mark Salzberg, NGC Chairman and Grading Finalizer. “These coins represent a fascinating moment in the history of vintage Chinese numismatics.”

Other NGC-certified highlights of the Stephen Album Rare Coins sale include a China 1928 L&M-609 “Auto Dollar” graded NGC AU 50 with an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000; and a China undated (1914) L&M-858 Silver Dollar graded NGC MS 61 with an estimate of $10,000 to $12,000.

All estimates are provided by the auction house and are in US dollars.


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