|CHINA-SHENSI ND(1898) 50 Cents Silver Pattern, Heaton Mint, K156, L&M374, KM-Pn4, PCGS SP61. Chinese Family Collection
Researcher Kalgan Shih implied that this set of Shensi dragon coins could not have been minted until the 1920's, because Shensi did not have a mint until then. We know now that these coins are actually trial strikings made in England by the Heaton Mint. Most of the genuine coins on the market are proof strikings. In the mid 1970's, the Heaton Mint was bought by another company, which ordered all the duplicate coins in the Heaton collection to be sold. Among the coins released at that time were a number of Shensi dragon coins. Hundreds of coins from various countries, struck by Heaton's over the previous century, went to the British coin firm Spink's, or perhaps a combination of Spink's and the American firm, Paramount. These two companies began marketing the coins in 1975. One of their associates, James Jelinski, brought 15 Chinese coins from the sale to the Krause Publications office in Wisconsin, where I was working on the Standard Catalog of World Coins, for my examination and some free publicity. I did not yet know about the sale of the Heaton company or its collection.
Counterfeits of this set, made for collectors, have been on the market since before World War II. The forgeries of the dollar have larger English lettering, a different fireball and different clouds. The British coin firm Format in its list #17 (1981) offered a uniface pewter striking of the dragon side of a half dollar, mounted on cardboard. Note that the rosettes on the half dollar are different from the rest of the set. The other coins have the usual Hupeh type rosettes, but the half dollar has a long, three part rosette. This same odd rosette was also used on the half dollars from Anhwei, Chekiang, Hunan, and Hupeh.
The Shensi coins were known since the 1920's, but few were preserved in good condition, unlike the Heaton Hunan, Chekiang and Kiangnan proof coins.
A NGC SP67 sold in HK Aug-08 sale for US $92,000; A set (LM374~377) NGC SP65-66 sold in HK Dec-10 sale for US $258,750