A Chinese sycee from Yunnan Province

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by gxseries, May 12, 2022.

  1. gxseries

    gxseries Coin Collector

    This is just one of the more unusual things that appeared in the market. A nice hunk of silver Chinese sycee from Yunnan Province. Issued around early 1900s. Weighing at 195.9g, this is pretty neat. Slightly over 6 ounce of silver or 5.25 (?) tael - assuming tael is about 37 grams. Price wasn't outrageous so I had to pick it up and do more research. (could have well overpaid but who knows...)


    Chinese coins are still absurdly hot in the market and I can't see the prices falling any time soon. (well the scarcer and nicer ones anyways). I've got some unusual Chinese coins which I'll get around to documenting when I get a chance.

    I'm pretty stumped over this as my Chinese skills aren't the best.


    The second would translate to Remittance bank fine silver and the last line means Inspected by official public assayer Tong

    What does the first line translate to? Source from Ruixiang area?

    A similar one was sold here


    This would be from an era where the Chinese were holding dearly onto the silver standard. These sycees probably ended around the end of Qing Dynasty and machine struck coins appeared for circulation. This isn't my forte. I guess it's a nice add on to the other sycee that I have in my collection.

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  3. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    the pics are broken :(
  4. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Is your sycee this style, from Yunnan?

    D-Camera China Yunnan Province 4-5 sycee Sal Bascom c. 1981 4-4-22.jpg

    Or is it this style, "salt tax" sycee:

    D-Camera China 10 taels sycee, salt tax,  Ponterio 2005, 322.4g  12-24-20.jpg
  5. gxseries

    gxseries Coin Collector

  6. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    You have what is commonly referred to as a saddleback sycee. They're one of the most common forms, issued in Yunnan and they're very cool, with their five panels of Chinese calligraphy. Is that other ingot a one tael sycee?

    Back in the 1980s to the early 1990s they were quite easy to acquire. I remember visiting my local coin shop one day and there was a small box on the counter with two or three of these ingots. I bought one and probably should have purchased them all, but how was I to know back then?

    In addition to the two saddleback sycees, I have the salt tax sycee of 10 taels, from Ponterio and a 50 taels sycee from Scott Semans back in 1993.
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  7. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    In 2015 I purchased a group lot of Southeast Asia ingots at the Sedwick Auction of October 28-30 2015.

    Here's part of that lot, three tiger tongue money ingots (Laos-Thailand), that seem to have a fairly high silver content.
    D-Camera Tiger tongue money Southeast Asia Sedwick auction 2015 5-12-22.jpg
    Last edited: May 12, 2022
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  8. gxseries

    gxseries Coin Collector

    A 50 tael sycee would be a sight to see! Would you happen to have a picture of it? Sycees used to be quite affordable more than 20 - 30 years ago but today a single example would cost a good amount of money!

    Chinese numismatics unfortunately is plagued with counterfeits but there is a lot to learn. Numismatic literature are also hard to get hold of, let alone in English.

    What I'm more intrigued is the crude technology used to refine and determine the fineness of silver. The cut off point is supposedly around 96% which I think is quite remarkable. There is a huge amount of varieties of these - back in those days how confident were the authorities about the purity of these silver ingots when these could have easily been some private companies stamping away?

    Just fascinating!
  9. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    I'll try to take some snaps of the 50 taels sycee over the weekend.

    My understanding is that the sycee, at least in the 19th-20th centuries, and perhaps earlier, were made of melted Latin American 8 reales, primarily Mexican I would imagine. Since the coins have a uniform fineness, 0.9030 for the Mexican 8 reales and later pesos, that would be the fineness of the ingot.

    As you have seen the weights of the ingots can vary, with few if any at a "spot on" even weight using the tael standard of around 40 grams. I need to pull out my scyees and weigh them again, but as I recall my saddleback ingot is around 4.5 taels.

    You're right about fakes abounding. The sycees that I have were purchased a few decades back from reliable sources: Rick Ponterio and Scott Semans. Ponterio has been affiliated with Stacks & Bowers for many years now. Scott still maintains a website, and he is the go-to authority on Asian coinage and sycee, as is Steve Album.

    Here's a link to Scott's fascinating website. He has an amazing array of "primitive" and non-Western money, along with more modern issues.

    Last edited: May 13, 2022
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  10. gxseries

    gxseries Coin Collector

    That's what I find it fascinating. Why is Yunnan the place to melt down large amount of reales? Geographically wise, it's a further inland compared to the coastal cities.

    Considering how corrupt the Chinese societies were (and even today) - what checks were done to ensure that its pure, I.e not alloyed with more base metals or plated silver.
  11. jgenn

    jgenn World Crown Collector

    The schroffs learned to measure specific gravity to combat 8 reales forgeries, so of course they could measure the silver content of sycees.
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  12. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    The Chinese were very good at detecting debased coinage and by extension sycee. The banks and merchants who produced these ingots would have their reputations badly discredited if they attempted to produced ingots of a debased nature. I am sure that there were deceptive practices producing sycee, the same as coinage with contemporary counterfeits, though I have not encountered from my limited collecting of sycee any contemporary fakes, but modern fakes abound.

    The production of sycee was widespread in China, not limited to just Yunnan.

    Here is my Shanxi 50 sycee "boat" (not seaworthy by any stretch of the imagination). This example was purchased in 1993 from Scott Semans.

    The measurements are 100 mm wide, 70 mm high and 67 mm deep.

    Here's the label:

    D-Camera 50 taels sycee Shanxi label Semans 1993 5-15-22.jpg

    Top view:

    D-Camera 50 taels sycee Shanxi top view Semans 1993 5-15-22.jpg

    Side view:

    D-Camera 50 taels sycee Shanxi side view Semans 1993 5-15-22.jpg

    Bottom view:

    D-Camera 50 taels sycee Shanxi bottom view Semans 1993 5-15-22.jpg

    Enlargement of the top:

    D-Camera 50 taels sycee Shanxi panels enlargement Semans 1993 5-15-22.jpg

    The shape of this sycee is quite distinctive, with its folded rim, unlike the more typical pointed rim.

    Here's a map showing Shanxi Province, bordering Inner Mongolia.

    Shanxi Province.jpg
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