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Chinese minting tools from Germany

K¨¹nker Auction (GER)

In June of 2012 K¨¹nker Auction House offered minting tools and patterns from the archives of Otto Beh¡¯s company in Esslingen at its auction. Even though all of the objects had been published by Gerhard E. K¨¹mmel in a Festschrift in 2011, it was this auction with its catalogue that would finally make them known internationally and solve the mystery of modern Chinese coin minting. For modern far east numismatics this offer was a sensation.

This collection presents an important document of Chinese numismatics. It contains 42 dies and 36 punches and will be donated to the foundation of domes and castles in Saxony-Anhalt for the state coin cabinet in the art museum of Moritzburg Halle (Saale) in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. The key objectives of the endowment are long time preservation, as well as public and academic access. The museum already owns the extraordinary ¡°Prof Dr Joachim Kr¨¹ger¡± collection of Chinese coins, which is the second biggest of its kind in Germany and it pursuits a remarkable concept to mediate the history of the world of money. Especially through the patronage of Michael Hans Chou, owner of Champion Auction House in Hong Kong, K¨¹nker Auction House was able to arrange the donation of this important convolute. The support of numismatic academia presents an important part of the philosophy of K¨¹nker Auction House.

The photo shows how Otto Beh has stored the dies in a wooden box over the years

The World Money Fair will set the perfect background for the ceremonial hand over of the collection and the first presentation in Germany.

Chinese dies from Germany

For China¡¯s rise to modernity, the establishment of a sophisticated and modern currency system acted as an important catalyst. Many of the big coin producing firms, such as in Philadelphia, Birmingham and also Germany, like L. Schuler from Göttingen, competed for this new market in the last decade of the 19th century. After the installation of mints using English machines in Tientsin (Tianjin) and Kanton (Guangzhou) in 1887, more provincial mints were to be established. Schuler delivered its first friction presses to China in 1895.

In 1884 Otto Friedrich Immanuel Beh (1859-1944) founded an engraving company in the city of Esslingen. He produced 40 Chinese dies for Schuler in 1897. In 1898 and 1899 he earned more commissions, for example, from the Magdeburg merchant Heinrich Knape. This is how the coin designs for the provinces of Cheh-Kiang (Mint of Hangzhou, Zhejiang), An-Hwei (mint of Anqing, Anhui), Feng-Tien (Fungtian, Fengtian, today¡¯s Liaoning, originally Fengtian Machinery Bureau, today¡¯s Shenyang mint) and Sinkiang (Sungarei, today¡¯s Xinjiang) were created. Also, for Knape, Beh produced five sets of 1 dollar, 50, 20, 10 and 5 cents, as well as 30 patterns for the north eastern province of Hei-Lung-Kiang (H¨¥il¨®ngji¨¡ng), where no mint had been established yet. His specialization on Chinese coins brought Otto Beh the biggest commissions in the history of engraving companies in the 19th century. All together, he delivered more than 200 dies.

In Chinese numismatics, the German patterns only reached publicity slowly though articles and auctions since 1944. By now though, the prices for these extreme rarities are mind-staggering. The many assumptions about their origin have become part of scholarship and the mystery of modern Chinese coin history has been solved.

Pattern in silver-plated brass of the Otto Beh dies for the chinese Anhwei Province. K¨¹nker Auction 211 (2012), Lot 2529. Estimate: 5,000 euros, hammer price: 145,000 euros.

Pattern in brass of the Otto Beh dies to 20 Cents for the chinese Heilungkiang Province. K¨¹nker Auction 249 (2014), Lot 460. Estimate: 5,000 euros, hammer price: 75,000 euros.

Chinese minting tools of the engraving company Otto Beh, Esslingen

Extract of K¨¹nker Auction Catalog No. 211, June 2012

This portfolio of coining dies from the Otto Beh company in Esslingen is an important document of Chinese numismatic history and of the close economicties between Germany and China at the end of the 19th century. Even at that time German engineeringproducts had an excellent reputation abroad.

Closely linked with the Otto Beh company  (established in 1884) was the firm of Louis Schuler (established in 1839) from neighbouring Göppingen. Today a worldwide operating full public company (AG) and a leading producer of coining machines, Schuler specialized in the 19th century in manufacturing sheet metal working machines ¨C and presses in particular. Schuler obtained the order to supply coin presses in 1895 - in all probability at the Leipzig Trade Fair. Schuler, in turn, commissioned Otto Beh, who specialised in the production of seals and dies, with manufacturing the coining dies. Cooperation between the two companies from W¨¹rttemberg was highly successful with Beh supplying Schuler with over 200 dies for Chinese coins in 1897 and 1898. At the time this was by far the largest order for Otto Beh - a company principally operating today in manufacturing identification plates signs and in the digital p r i n t i n g f i e l d . T h e company celebrated its 125 year anniversary in 2009. To mark this occasion, numismatist Gerhard E. K¨¹mmel from Esslingen drafted a history of the company with a catalogue of the medals, badges and pins brought out by Beh (Gerhard E. K¨¹mmel; 125 Jahre Gravierun d P r ä g e a n s t a l t Otto Beh, Esslingen, Medail-len-Plaketten-A n s t e c k n a d e l n , Esslingen 2011).

Chekiang Province 3 Maceand 6 Candareens (50 Cents) Year 23 (1897): Matrix of reverse die with name of province in Latin-alphabet letters. L./M. die of 272

Kwang Hsu, 1875-1889-1908 Cash: Matrix of obverse die

Still in Beh's possession was this stock of male moulds, die plates and letter chasing tools as well as the two test rounds of the Anhwei and Sin Kiang provinces (Sungarei). It was the Beh family¡®s wish that the future owners of these items ¨C as documented in the K¨¹nker catalogue No. 211 - are collectors very much interested in numismatic history.

Great rarities of Chinese numismatics given to the state coin cabinet of Saxony- Anhalt of the art museum Moritzburg in the city of Halle (Saale)

The rarities are comprised of 42 Chinese dies and 36 punches, displaying Chinese letters. They derive from the engraving firm of Otto Beh of Esslingn on the river Neckar and were produced for the Chinese provinces of Anhwei, Chekiang, Fengtien (Fungtien), Heilungkiang and Sin Kiang (Sungarai). On the one hand these coin striking tools present an extraordinary document of Chinese numismatics and on the other they illustrate the close business relationship between Germany and China. Even back then, German products already enjoyed an exceptional reputation.

   On June 18th, 2012 the collection was supposed to be auctioned off during K¨¹nker Auction 211. But due to the responsibility towards the dies¡¯ exclusiveness and the fact, that only a few coins had actually been minted with then, K¨¹nker withdrew the dies from auction. It was to be suspected that not only collectors would be interested in the dies, but also clients with possible criminal intentions. Together with Michael Hans Chou, owner of Hong Kong Auction House Champion, K¨¹nker was able to convince the consigner to withdraw the dies from auction. But this had to take place under one condition: the tools were to be marked in order to forego misuse. By microscopic laser engraving the punching was carried out by Foba of L¨¹denscheid.

Die with the punch "OB" for Otto Beh

The tools, because of their historic importance, were to be given to a museum in China or Germany.  Again, in cooperation with Michael Hans Chou, K¨¹nker was looking for such a renowned institution, which would give the dies and punches their deserved attention. After years of considerations, it was the art museum of Moritzburg in the city of Halle (Saale), which could be won to house this incredible gift. The museum already owns an extraordinary collection of Chinese coins, which is the second biggest in Germany today, and it pursuits a remarkable concept to mediate the history of the world of money. Additionally, it also oversees an unique museum of the technology of coins in Stolberg (Harz). The coin cabinet of Saxony-Anhalt, part of the art museum Moritzburg Halle (Saale),receives the dies as a donation with the obligation to present them in a future permanent exhibition. But first, starting on September 17th, 2016, Moritzburg will be hosting a special exhibit on the topic of Chinese coin and currency history.

   In the beginning of December 2015 the numismatic rarities were exhibited at the Macau Numismatic Society Annual International Show in Macau, China. For a few days, the pieces were on view in the presence of Michael Hans Chou, Ulf Dräger and Petr Kovaljov as a representative of K¨¹nker. The enormous public interest assured the initiators of this exhibit that they made the right choice.

In December 2015, the exhibition of the dies was ceremoniously opend in Macau

On Saturday, February 6th, 2016, in a celebratory ceremony, Michael Hans Chou and Ulrich K¨¹nker will hand over the extraordinary pieces to the director of the Foundation of Domes and Castles of Saxony-Anhalt, Dr Christian Philipsen, and the chief curator of the state coin cabinet of Saxony-Anhalt, Ulf Dräger.

In commemoration of this event, the Shanghai Mint produced two Commemorative Pandas. The first commemorates the exhibit of the dies in Macau and was already presented and sold at the show. The second piece, commemorating the ceremony in Berlin, displays the Berlin Dome and the logo of the World Money Fair on the obverse, whereas the reverse displays the Berlin bear, the Chinese panda, a coin showing the Anhalt bear and two dies. This edition documents a historic moment in German numismatics. The ¡°Berlin-Panda¡± coins will be available for 69 euros at the World Money Fair at booth D6.

2016 World Money Fair Berlin Silver Panda Commemorative

The state coin cabinet of Saxony-Anhalt

View into the exhibition "Coinage of Magdeburg" (2011) of the state coin cabinet in the art museum of Moritzburg Halle (Saale) in Saxony-Anhalt

The state coin cabinet of Saxony-Anhalt, part of the art museum of Moritzburg Halle (Saale), was founded in 1950. Its collection contains more than 100,000 coins, medals and paper notes, which makes it to one of the biggest German coin cabinets. The origin of the collection goes back to the 19th century. From the beginning the idea of a universal numismatic collection was stressed, which would facilitate an overview of the world of money from all cultures and continents.

The museums¡¯ collection of Chinese coins is one the largest in Germany. It consists of objects from the first beginnings of currency to the latest emissions. The first important convolute, the estate of the explorer Adolph Riebeck (1859-1889), was given to the museum in 1895. In 2014, the museum received another important donation: the Prof Dr Joachim Kr¨¹ger collection, which contains 2337 objects. These holdings allow the museum to present an outstanding overview of the historical development of Chinese numismatics from the beginning to the present. It includes many specimen of great rarity and international relevance for numismatic scholarship.


Silver bar (yinding/yuanbao), first half of the 10th century. Means of payment during the last phase of the disintegrating Tang-Dynasty from the shipwreck Intan, sunk between 917-942, salvaged 1997. Silver bars were until 1933 a means of payment for example for the payment of taxes or duties from wealthy families. The inscription refers to the amount of silver and details of the mint and warning against counterfeiting. Silver, 897 gramm, MOMK62229, ex collection Prof. Joachim Kr¨¹ger

   With the generous gift of Otto Beh¡¯s dies, Michael Hans Chou will certainly go down in German museum and numismatic history books. And having been given these tools, the museum will be able to act as a catalyst for displaying the modern history of coins. They not only verify the close business relationship between China and Germany in the 19th century, but also display a powerful document of the beginning of China¡¯s way into the modern era.

At the moment a new permanent exhibit is being developed in Halle. It will be on display at the art museum Moritzburg Halle (Saale), in the rooms of the old mint of the archbishopric of Magdeburg. This very special and representative location is also where the donation will find its place. But beforehand, there will be a special exhibit about the history of Chinese coins, which will include the donation. It opens on September 17th, 2016 and we would like to extent our invitation to everybody interested in this topic.

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