Two similar but completely-different coins.

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by TypeCoin971793, Jul 3, 2018.

  1. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody...

    So here are a couple recent purchases of mine. From the surface, it would seem that they have absolutely nothing in common, as one is an ant-nose coin, and the other is a spade coin. We know both coins were cast by the state of Chu, but when they were issued has been a mystery for some time. The spade, known as a Dang Jin spade from its inscription “Pei Bi Dang Jin.”


    This ant-nose coin is not your typical ant-nose coin. It is an extremely rare variant where the obverse contains the character “Jin,” a Zhou monetary unit. This should not be confused with the “Jin” that means “Metal.” (金) There are two forms of “jin” that represent a monetary unit: 釿 and 十斤. As you can see, the variation is in the left radical. The right radical, 斤, is another form of “jin” which means “cattie”, which is another weight unit. It can also mean “hatchet” or “adze”. The left radical of the first variant is the familiar “jin” (金), so we get a character that roughly means a “metal weight unit” or a “metal tool.” The left radical on the second variant is “shi” (十), or “ten.” This means that this character roughly means “10 weight units”. Comparing this coin to the Dang Jin spade, we see that the “Jin” character is the second variant on both pieces (look at the bottom-left character in the left image).


    This form of “jin” does not appear on any other types of coinage, meaning it is a local variant, and the two types are probably contemporary with each other. Given the style of the spade, it is reasonable to conclude that it is fairly recent as far as spades go, probably 3rd-4th centuries BC. This would give a similar time frame to the entire ant-nose coinage. In addition, these Dang Jin spades have been found buried with ant-nose coins, so they are undeniably contemporary and they circulated together. If that is the case, then how were the two related in the economy? The 十斤 “Jin” and the reverse inscription on the spade, “Shi Huo” (十貨). “Huo” (貨) means “money” or “wealth”, so a translation of the reverse roughly reads “Ten Monies.” What could these monies be? The current beliefs are that these monies are the ant-nose coins themselves. Dang Jin spades weigh around 20-30g and ant-nose coin weigh 2-3g, so this is completely plausible. This would also explain the “10 Weight Units” Jin.

    So if 十斤 was recognized as being worth 10 ant-nose coins, then why would it be reiterated on the back, albeit more explicitly? Let’s look at where these have been found. Most have been found within the confines of the ancient state of Chu, but many have been found in territory that used to be the state of Han. The state of Han cast almost exclusively spade coins, while the state of Chu almost exclusively cast the ant-nose coins. Since the two stated bordered each other, it would not be unreasonable to presume that some kind of trade occurred.

    (Image credit:

    However, the two states had vastly different monetary systems. The Han used the “Metal weight unit” (釿) “jin”, which was a monetary unit equivalent to a spade coin that weighed one liang, or 24 zhu, or around 14g. The best system would likely have been to create a hybrid currency that would be acceptable to both states. At somewhere between 20-30g, the Dang Jin spade would have been roughly equal to two Han one-jin spades. This two-jins-for-10-ant-noses would have been a rather-even exchange rate, which would have been rather convenient. Here is a spade cast in the city of Yu, which was located in the state of Wei. A hoard of these was found in Han territory (the far south portion of the modern Shanxi Province). (The character 釿 is located to the right of the left image and is upside down.)


    There also exist very rare examples that are much smaller and have an inscription “Si (4) Bi Dan Jin”. These weighed roughly 1/4 of a full Dang Jin spade, so these would have been a half-jin, a denomination used in Han as well. Some of these were cast in pairs so that the feet remained connected. These would have been equal to the one-jin denomination.

    (Image credit:

    Those are my thoughts and theories on these coins based on mostly anecdotal evidence. If you find them compelling enough to take them to heart, yay! If not, I’d love to hear your comments. If you don’t care, well go back to enjoying your juicy bacon.
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  3. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    A very informative post! I really enjoyed your presentation of all of this information. However, I do not know why I have to choose between interesting posts and bacon-I'll enjoy both.
    TypeCoin971793 likes this.
  4. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Great pick ups TypeCoin971793, and excellent informative write up. Those early ant nose fascinate me welldone.
    TypeCoin971793 likes this.
  5. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody...

  6. old metal

    old metal New Member

    pretty interesting these were used as currency so so long ago, and they would string them together on a rope/string right? i just imagine them in walking in the markets in ancient robes with a large stack of these jingling around hanging off their clothes or something? or on the side of a horse?
    Ancient Aussie likes this.
  7. Alegandron

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

    Thank you @TypeCoin971793 ! I really appreciate your Chinese contributions. I just finished The First Emperor (and, yeah, @Orfew , I am reading my Ancient Selfies, too.) First Emperor was a fun read, helping to put perspective on the Warring States period and how they eventually were conquered and united.

    Hmmm... Some of my coins from the Warring States Period:

    Just Prior:
    China Zhou Dynasty  1046-256 BCE AE Fish Money 67mm 9.5g AB Coole Enc Chinese Coins 6920ff.JPG
    China Zhou Dynasty 1046-256 BCE AE Fish Money 67mm 9.5g AB Coole Enc Chinese Coins 6920ff

    CHINA - ZHOU Dynasty, 1122-255 BC square foot spade 350-250 BC AN YANG - 3 lines rev bronze 31x52mm 7.45g H3.184 S13+

    China Shang Dyn 1766-1154 BC Ant Nose Ge Liu Zhu 2-6g 19-5x11 very scarce H 1.10.jpg
    China Shang Dyn 1766-1154 BC Ant Nose Ge Liu Zhu 2-6g 19-5x11 very scarce H 1.10

    China Shang Dyn 1766-1154 BC Ant Nose Ge Liu Zhu 17-4x10 very scarce H 1.10.jpg
    China Shang Dyn 1766-1154 BC Ant Nose Ge Liu Zhu 17-4x10 very scarce H 1.10
    Ex: @TypeCoin971793

    China Zhou Dynasty 1122-255 BCE Yi Bi Tang Go Liu Zhu ANT COIN PB 19x12mm 3.7g  FD-6  Coole 98+.jpg
    China Zhou Dynasty 1122-255 BCE Yi Bi Tang Go Liu Zhu ANT COIN PB 19x12mm 3.7g FD-6 Coole 98+

    China Shang 1766-1154 BCE or Zhou Dynasty Ghost Face Ant Nose 1.65g Hartill 1.4.JPG
    China Shang 1766-1154 BCE or Zhou Dynasty Ghost Face Ant Nose 1.65g Hartill 1.4
    Ex: Scott Semans
  8. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    I find your theory to be quite plausible, @TypeCoin971793 (from an uneducated perspective). My one qualm is that the 5 ant noses for 1 spade is already a fairly wieldy exchange principle. This makes me wonder if there might be a more complex reason behind the Dang Jin issue... possibly involving a money-changing scheme that was rigged to benefit the issuer, on average, given the range of possible weights for Han and Chu coins. (?)
    TypeCoin971793 likes this.
  9. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    One more (probably very naive) observation: stylistically, the Dang Jin spades resemble nothing so much as Wang Mang's spades which came much later. Is there any connection? does this suggest at all that the Dang Jin spades may not be as early as 4th-3rd c. BCE?

    Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 12.03.47 PM.jpg
    Wang Mang (9-23), huo bu, Hartill 9.30
  10. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody...

    The exchange rate would have been 10 to 1.

    Here are some issues with that theory (no offense intended):

    1. Wang Mang’s coinage was meant to emulate the coins issued during the Zhou Dynasty since the Zhou were considered to be epitome of political morality. That means he was copying coinage known to be from a much earlier time (though probably not as early as he thought).

    2. These spades have been found with ant-nose coins on at least one occasion, showing they are contemporary monies.

    3. Ant-nose coins have mainly been found within the borders of the state of Chu. If they were made after the Warring States period, then it would be reasonable to expect that they would have been found in other places as well? Also, for such a common coinage, you would expect some mention of their issue in Qin and Han records.

    All this goes to show that the Dang Jin spades could not have been minted after the Qin conquest of Chu.
  11. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody...

    The weights of these coins, when looking at the averages, was pretty consistent.
  12. Ken Dorney

    Ken Dorney Yea, I'm Cool That Way...

    Ant nose coinage is generally either misunderstood or misinterpreted. I have not studied them so much that I could be authoritative on them, but I am always hesitant to make any correlation based on weights. I have seen many of these with weights that vary too widely to make them valued on that alone, so I have always assumed they were of token value.

    This may be hard interpret. One site find is only suggestive at its least, and it may only show that they still had some nominal value (of any kind, really). Its doesnt necessarily mean they are related in any way at all.
  13. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Sorry, I wasn't clear. It would be 10 for one Dang Jin spade, yes, but I meant 5 ant-noses for 1 Han one-jin spades, as you said here:
    Wouldn't that mean 5 ant-noses for one Han one-jin spade, and isn't that already pretty convenient? (But perhaps I'm misunderstanding something here.)

    Interesting. You've convinced me of an early date for the Dang Jin, but I was also just wondering generally whether there was a link. So maybe Wang Mang was copying the Dang Jin spades, thinking they were Zhou?

    I still think an exchange-based profit margin may have been involved somehow... lots of ways this could go, depending on where the various coins were readily accepted.
  14. Kentucky

    Kentucky Supporter! Supporter

    Just bought this one recently and can't pass up any opportunity to post it...

    clean ant nose.jpg
  15. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody...

    The point of the thread was to show that they were related, by comparing the character on the ant-nose and the Dang Jin.

    Ah, I see now. I was wondering about that, since a direct link to a single Jin would make sense. But remember we are dealing with a local unit that is based on a unit of 10. In reality, it would be two 釿 for one 十斤. That seems like a more-convenient enchange rate than one 釿 for one-half 十斤.
    Severus Alexander likes this.
  16. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody...

    Ban Liangs are the same way. You can only make correlations in weights by looking at the averages for each variety.
  17. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody...

    That is the general consensus.
    Severus Alexander likes this.
  18. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody...

    So there are two different types of ant-noses with a “Jin” inscription. Interestingly, the Chu “Jin” is a little over twice as heavy as the Han “Jin”, which matches the exchange rates suggested above. However, the ant noses with the Chu “Jin” are way too heavy for 10 to be equal to one Dang Jin spade. Maybe this is just all a coincidence. Given the rarity of these types, it is possible that these were prototypes/presentation pieces as the monetary systems/standards were developing.

    68E9DEB8-4C6B-4D56-92DB-BC8E8564F19F.jpeg A6ADCAC2-67D6-4D91-80FC-6EDEFA6CB354.jpeg

    8 different ant-nose varieties together for comparison and viewing pleasure.

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