Secret societies coins

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by Loong Siew, Oct 15, 2015.

  1. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    Secret society coins were not meant for circulation and functions more like membership tokens or ritualistic functions. From the west to the far East, various societies have adopted this practice with varying degrees of success and acceptance by the powers that be. I'll start off with one from China.

    Golden Coin Society (金钱会) 1858-1862

    Yi Ji Jin Qian 義記金钱 membership coin. Ex CNG

    A branch of the Heaven and Earth Society 天地会,which was active during the Taiping Rebellion in China. Although not a member of the Taiping, theirs was an auxiliary rebel force that shared a common belief in overthrowing the Manchus albeit more for revival of Han rule as opposed to establishing a Pseudo Christian Kingdom like the Taiping. Their struggle gathered initial gains around Zhejiang province but soon faltered and was ultimately wiped out in 1862 by the Qing forces.

    This coin comes with 2 variants. Those with Chinese inscriptions at the back belonged to leaders of the society whilst ordinary members carry those without. Given a lack of proper casting facilities, multiple materials and differences in the quality and calligraphy exists. People bearing these coins were protected by members of the society but unfortunately many were melted down or surrendered to the imperial forces as ownership implies association with the rebels and thus risks execution.

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  3. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    Yep, secret society coins are cool. Interesting niche.
    Loong Siew likes this.
  4. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    Some Chinese secret societies today still issue such coins to their members. One of which I am aware of are members of the Hong Men (洪門) society which are still active in parts of South East Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
    Alegandron likes this.
  5. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    If you regard the Freemasons As a secret society, then probably the following pennies may be a close equivalent.

    Freemasons pennies. Used for initiation ceremonies to masonic lodges.

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    Birdman#33, chrisild, Jwt708 and 5 others like this.
  6. Birdman#33

    Birdman#33 Member

    As a Past Master of my Masonic Lodge I would like to clarify that Freemasonry is not a secret society (often confused as one). But to get back on point, I do have some Masonic challenge coins/tokens that have beautiful artwork.
    Jwt708, Mikey Zee and Loong Siew like this.
  7. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    If you do have some to share please kindly do. I've seen some pretty beautiful artwork and they are pretty varied. I only managed to secure 2.
  8. Mikey Zee

    Mikey Zee Delenda Est Carthago

    Interesting 'niche'....I always find coins with a known historical significance, and therefore, a 'story to tell', as compelling as the coin themselves.

    Mysterious and secret ceremonies tend to lead to the conclusion that the Masons are a 'Secret Society' and probably always will.

    And, I would LOVE to see some of those coins as well!!
    Loong Siew likes this.
  9. Birdman#33

    Birdman#33 Member

    I am at work right now, but when I get home I will try to get some pictures up.
    Loong Siew likes this.
  10. Ardatirion

    Ardatirion Où est mon poisson

    That Heaven & Earth coin looks familiar to me - I'm the cataloger at CNG who does our Chinese! Glad you were able to pick up some interesting pieces.
    Loong Siew likes this.
  11. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    @Ardatirion .. Thanks. Yup, you're right. . It was ex CNG and not too long ago as well. A piece like this rarely pops up (hadn't seen one for CNG since) thus it's likely to have a lasting impression on you when you handled it back then :)
  12. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    There was also another offered that time of a Boxer Rebellion piece (yihetuan) at the same time by CNG but missed that one.
  13. gxseries

    gxseries Coin Collector

    Very interesting. I'm not too sure if I would classify them as coins due to their nature. Reminds me of the Tiananmen freedom dollar 'coin' that I have. Somewhat similar story.

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  14. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    Great piece! The various chop marks add character to the coin.
  15. Birdman#33

    Birdman#33 Member

    The first one is a challenge coin from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts celebrating their 275th anniversary (Massachusetts has the oldest Grand Lodge in the Western Hemisphere and the 3rd oldest in the world). The older of the two is a token from my Lodge's (Mount Carmel Lodge A.F. & A.M.) 100th anniversary dated 1905.
    Image.jpg Image 1.jpg
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  16. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    Awesome!! That's a real work of art.. Can you share what a challenge coin is? I read that Masonic pennies were used as part of the initiation ritual to a lodge symbolic as a donation or tributary offering from biblical lore. But not being a mason myself, I am merely inferring from others. Since @Birdman#33 is a Masonic master, perhaps can shed some insight and knowledge?
  17. Birdman#33

    Birdman#33 Member

    This is great, I get to write about my two favorite passions: coins & Freemasonry I believe challenge coins come from the military where soldiers carry them with them at all times. When they get to the bar they slam their challenge coins down and the soldier that does not have one is "obligated" to buy a round. From what I understand the higher the rank of the challenge coin the better the chance that you will outrank others (the key is to get a general's coin). Freemasonry is not a drinking organization, however, there is typically a collation after our meetings and the Brethren like to slam their coins on the table (as they make a loud noise). If someone doesn't have a challenge coin on them we make them pour the drinks. Masonic pennies are used in ritual, however, they are used in Royal Arch Masonry. This is an appendant body of Freemasonry through the York Rite. These degrees range from 4th degree to 32nd. Personally, I have no experience in this as I am a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason--another appendant body of Masonry. These appendant bodies (after the first 3 degrees of Freemasonry) are a person's own choice of their own freewill and accord of where they would like to take their Masonic journey. My understanding from those that I know in York Rite Masonry have mentioned that the penny is part of a wage or an offering from biblical lore. I hope this helps--any and all other Masons on this site, please feel free to add your "two cents". I am open to any questions you might have.
    Loong Siew likes this.
  18. maxchallengecoins

    maxchallengecoins New Member

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  19. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    That's great! Nothing beats first hand knowledge and experience on a little known area...
  20. maxchallengecoins

    maxchallengecoins New Member

    Secret society coins were not meant for circulation and functions more like membership tokens or ritualistic functions.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 17, 2015
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