|CHINA-CHIHLI 1896 50 Cents Silver, L&M440, Y64, PCGS MS62. Chinese Family Collection
In 1896 a Scotsman, James Stewart, was superintendent of the Peiyang Arsenal. A mint existed there already, making machine struck cash coins. The silver mint began operation sometime in the second half of the year. An unusual and distinctive dragon was used on these early Peiyang coins. The fireball has no flame and is in fact a pearl. It is unknown where the design and the dies for this series originated. The dragon on the Year 22 coins was changed the following year into a less fearsome beast. In addition to a strange dragon, the early Peiyang coins are unusual in that they are denominated in dollars and cents, not in mace and candareens as are most of the dragon coinage. The Year 22 (1896) coins also lack the English inscription: "Ta Tsing" (the name of the dynasty) which appeared on later coins of this mint. The Chinese Maritime Customs Report for 1897 mentions that the silver mint had opened in 1896 and provides a breakdown of the mintage for that year - Dollar 3,000 pieces; 50 Cent 2,500; 20 Cent 12,500; 10 Cent 5,000; and 5 Cent 7,000 pieces - for a total of $7,600. Many of these coins were melted the following year when it was discovered that the fineness was substandard. As a result, these coins are very rare today.With a mintage of only 2,500 pieces, this 50 Cents coin is the rarest in this series.
This same coin sold in June 1996 Champion sale for USD 9,430 which was a record price at that time.
An NGC MS63 sold in Champion Aug-10 sale for US $16,675; An EF example sold in HK Apr-11 sale for US $49,450; A PCGS AU55 sold in Shanghai 2015 Spring sale for RMB 287,500 (US $44,922).
This coin is one of the coins which werer graded by PCGS in 2006 for Chinese Family Collection. The grading standard at that time seems to be more strict than today.