My First Ancient Cash Coin: China’s First Unified Currency

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtisimo, Nov 29, 2019.

  1. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Chinese coins are so outside of my knowledge base that I know very little about the numismatic minutia that goes into their study and attribution. However, I do appreciate Chinese history and have long wanted a coin date-able to the fascinating period of Chinese unification under Qin Shi Huangdi and the early Han emperors. I have some medieval Chinese cash coins and some ancient spades but this is my first ancient cash example which I recently picked up at AMCC 2.

    Ancient China
    Qin to Western Han
    AE Ban Liang, cast ca. 220-180 BC
    Wt.: 4.62 g
    Dia.: 27 mm
    Obv.: Ban Liang
    Rev.: Blank as made
    Ref.: Hartill 7.8

    Ex Sallent Collection, Ex AMCC 2, Lot 372 (Nov. 9, 2019)

    Ban Liang coins were the first unified currency in Imperial China. Ban Liang were already in use in the state of Qin before the conquests of Qin Shi Huangdi of the other Chinese states. He later made it illegal for any other coin to circulate within the empire.

    The 40 year window this coin is attributed to spans the period from the consolidation of power by Qin Shi Huangdi to the court intrigues of Empress Lü during the early Han Dynasty. As such, it may have circulated during or even been used to pay for the construction of the Great Wall, the making of the terracotta army, the military expeditions of Meng Tian, or the rise of the Han Dynasty among other fascinating possibilities. Pretty cool!

    Here is a section of the Great Wall built by the Qin. The early wall looked a lot different than the Ming Era wall most popular to visit today. The Qin wall used local materials and connected sections of even older walls. The best preserved sections today are well off the beaten path. This 5 mile section of wall is located in an isolated section of Inner Mongolia today (photo by Ye Liao).

    Here is another view of this section of the Qin era Great Wall. We know that 300,000 soldiers were pressed into service to construct parts of the wall. This would have been an especially difficult area to construct the wall in because it was well within the area that was frequented by steppe nomads. In fact, the caves in the area show examples of art and writing in an early form of Turkic. I wonder if the soldiers who helped build this section were paid with Ban Liang similar to my new example (photo by Ye Liao).

    Please feel free to post;
    • your favorite Chinese coins
    • coins that circulated during a fascinating historical period to you
    • anything else you feel like posting
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. Sallent

    Sallent Live long and prosper

    I first bought the OP coin as a Ban Liang from the Qin period. However, once I received it I became suspicious that it was far too light to be Qin. I was pleasantly surprised to discover these coins were likely minted by the Han around the period of Emperor Gao (202 BCE-195BCE) to the period of the reign of Emperor Houshao (184-180BCE).

    Some people say these could have also been Qin dynasty around the time they were losing control of their kingdom. I guess it could be that too, though most probably it was minted during the Han regime. Impossible to say with 100% certainty due to the chaos of the period.

    Good to see the coin went to a good home. :cool:
    Amos 811 and Curtisimo like this.
  4. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    United China



    Qin Shi Huang
    AE Cash ban liang (ca. BCE 221-206)
    34 mm x 8.56 grams
    (半两) Primitive Line script
    First official round coin with square hole. First issued under Qin Shi Huang. First emperor of China.

    China Qin 220-180 BC AE 12 Zhu Ban Liang Blank H7.7

    Qin Shi Huang unified China k=in 221 BCE and established the Qin Dynasty. (Hence the derivative of the name "China" used in the West, today as Zhongguo in Pudanghua - Chinese). He abolished all prior styles of money used in China Warring States, and made legal coinage to be a round coin with a square hole in the middle. It would weigh a half tael or ban liang (半两). They were cast through the end of the Qin Dynasty and into the Western Han Dynasty
    TIF, Johndakerftw, Curtisimo and 3 others like this.
  5. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    I think it's hard to get into Chinese coins without first learning something about Chinese history... something that typically & sadly gets neglected in most of our education systems.

    I haven't found a good overview book for Chinese history, but can recommend The History of China Podcast.

    I picked up an ex Sallent ban liang too, a later issue. I thought this one was extremely cool because of the fabric incorporated into the patina (12-2 o'clock on the reverse). I advertised the fabric thing, but nobody else seemed to care (!?) and I got it for the opening bid.

    CHINA: Western Han (206 BCE-25 CE) Ban liang, issued 175-119 BCE. 2.43g, 24mm.
    Obv: Ban liang.
    Rev: Blank, as made
    Hartill 7.17 (bottom of Liang like sideways E)
    From the Sallent collection.
  6. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter


    And several compendiums of Chinese History from ancient to modern times by dynasties. I read them so that I could be more conversant doing business in China. Respect and understand their cultures. Surprising, it is not as monolithic as the West believes.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2019
  7. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Love the patina on these 2 coins (reverse is blank)

    P1150305 (2).JPG
  8. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Thanks for the note Sallent. One of these days I intend to acquire the necessary references to dig deeper into the theories for dating these Chinese coins. For now I'm content enough to know this piece was circulating during what I consider a very interesting historical time.

    It's a great coin and I'm happy I acquired it.

    Excellent coins Gandalf :)

    I think familiarizing oneself with Chinese geography and place names at least to a basic level is a big help. Then it is much easier to follow along with podcasts or books.

    I really enjoyed the lecture series "Foundations of Eastern Civilization" I listened to through my audible subscription. Not entirely focused on China but it gives a good overview on East Asian history. From there it has been a bit easier for me to do additional reading.

    Thanks for the suggestion. I will have to give it a shot.

    Nice coins @Andres2 . I also enjoy the colorful patina on many of these.
    Severus Alexander and Alegandron like this.
  9. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random guy on the internet

    At under 5g and 27mm, this was cast ca 180 BC. To be sure you have a Qin coin, I would look for specimens above 6-7g, preferably 8g, and over 30mm.

    Here are two Warring States/Qin “Ban Liangs” that I currently have pics of.

    This one is 34mm and 10.1g


    And this one is 37mm and around 8g.

Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page