I recently purchased a couple hoards of 100 Huo Quans from the Wang Mang period. They were uncleaned and unsifted, so I got some gem UNCs, some worthless culls, and some interesting and scarce varieties. I prefer this method of collecting as I usually find a few surprises and I learn something from the context of all of the coins being together. One thing I like keeping is coins with nice patinas. I just don’t see many Huo Quans that are red, so I kept most of them. (They are redder in hand.) An interesting find was an example without the sprue filed away. This is highly unusual because these coins were almost always well-made and such significant oversights like this just did not happen. Maybe it is an illicit cast? The vast majority of the coins in this hoard were of the beautiful official style, but some were of much lower quality. The govenment had a monopoly on coinage, so it did not contract minting duties to private individuals. I think there were multiple mints, so maybe they had different standards for quality control. Given the fact that all of the coins were roughly the same size, I think the hoard was put together and buried before the total collapse of everything, so the illicit casting of Huo Quans was not yet a big thing. Here is a sampling from the other hoard that shows how much the coin sizes varied. These coins were lost in a river during the late Xin dynasty or early Eastern Han Dynasty. Here are a couple of interesting errors I found. The left coin has a slipped mould error, so the image was cast twice. The right coin has a massive mould crack, which is equally impressive on the reverse. I was particularly excited to find this coin. The character are far bigger than I have seen on every other Huo Quan I have handled, meaning it must be quite scarce. And here is the most exciting bunch I found. They all have some wood fused to them, meaning they were in a box when they were buried. The patina indicates that the coin were buried on land rather than in water, so the hoard was likely buried intentionally. It makes you wonder why. I do not know the city where these were found, so I do not know if there was any clues the geographical context could tell me. I will probably ask. This isn’t the first time I went through a hoard that had wood stuck to some of the coins. The first hoard I went through, a lot of several hundred clipped wu zhus lost in the Nanjing river in the 400-500’s AD, had wood fragments in it. And then when all of the picking and choosing is done, I gather all of the ones I can live without and get them ready to sell. I find that by doing this regularly, I am exposed to thousands of coins which I know 100% that they are genuine, and I get a feel for what genuine patina is like. In the realm of Chinese numismatics, often the patina will tell you if a coin is real or fake.