"When the gold yuan had been introduced in August (1948) the Government had insisted that all silver, gold and American "greenbacks" must be turned in to the banks, with the threat of heavy penalties for failure to comply. May people had obeyed, but not all. By November public confidence in the gold yuan had declined so far that surreptitious deals were being done in silver or greenbacks, and at the end of the month inflation had become so serious that the old Chinese silver dollars became legal tender once more... The smallest acceptable unit of American currency was the dollar, while the Chinese silver dollar was worth G.$0.50. This meant that the Central Government currency was still needed for most ordinary transactions, and an extensive trade in silver and gold dollars sprang up. At every market and at every major crossroads in Peking one could find crowds of people, and among them a steady "chink-chink" of silver coins being clinked in the palm. Thousands of impoverished merchants were earning a meagre profit as money-changers. Buying and selling silver dollars was a difficult job. There wee at least six type recognized as valid - two minted in the recent period (1932-) and in Yuan Shih-K'ai's time, one in the reign of the last Manchu Emperor, one the true Mexican dollar, and one a British coin which seemed to have been minted for use in Tibet. The Manchu dollar and one of the recent ones were of poor quality, and fetched only two-thirds of the price of the others. In buying, one had to ring the coin for pitch, and also blow across the edge, when an entirely different note could be heard on holding the coin to the ear. One had also to be on the lookout for signs of tampering with the coin by filing or dissolving off some of the silver. Amid such desperate poverty, standards of public morality collapsed as each struggled for the livelihood of his own family" (pp. 39-40) Ralph and Nancy Lapwood, Through the Chinese Revolution, (Westport, Connecticut: Hyperion Press, Inc., 1973; reprint of London: Spalding & Levy, 1954 edition). Note that the "gold yuan" noted in the Lapwoods account was not a gold coin; it was paper money with a gold promise of some sort printed on it. Inspired by the Lapwoods, I put together a collection of the coins mentioned: Top Row: "... one in the reign of the last Manchu Emperor...: I included two coins here, the first one being an Imperial-era dollar from the province of Kwang-Tung; these "dragon dollars" were very common, and issued for a number of years, so I think it probable these were being clinked together in the Peking markets of 1948. The other one on the right was issued by the central Chinese authorities in 1911 (although I believe these were being minted for several years afterwards, after the first Chinese revolution); this would be a "last Manchu Emperor" type, I think. Second Row: "... two minted in the recent period (1932-) and in Yuan Shih-K'ai's time..." The one on the left is the "Yuan Shih-K'ai" dollar, called by collectors the "fat man dollar." These were first issued in 1914 but struck for many years (and probably from several mints) afterwards. The one on the right is a "recent" period type, a "junk dollar" with Sun Yat Sen on the obverse. Another one (not shown) is the "Memento dollar" because of its legend (in English) - I have one of those but I forgot to pull it out to photograph. The junk dollars were even re-minted by the US in 1934 under contract by the Nationalist Government; I am not sure how to tell the USA versions apart from those minted in China. The Junk, Fat Man and Memento dollars were minted in enormous numbers and are therefore very common. This does not mean they are cheap - in fact they are very expensive now, I presume because of collector interest in modern China. Back in the 1980s I used to buy these for $6-$10. Even the Imperial dragon dollars were cheap. I wish I'd bought a lot more of them! Third Row: "...and one a British coin which seemed to have been minted for use in Tibet..." The British Trade Dollar was minted from 1896-1930 and was intended for use in Asia, pretty much everywhere, not just Tibet. The Lapwoods were not numismatists and the appearance of the reverse of a British Trade Dollar does look rather Tibetian but I am not sure these were used much in Tibet; my understanding the Indian rupees (and local imitations) were the preferred silver currency there. It would seem the UK trade dollar was mostly circulating in China and Malaya; here is a translation, per numista: Chinese characters and Jawi script in ornamental flower. Lettering: 壹 ساتو رڠڬية 圓 Translation: Chinese: One Dollar Jawi: One Ringgit https://en.numista.com/catalogue/pieces8472.html The example here has many chopmarks, applied by Chinese merchants and banks after it was tested. Fourth Row: "... one the true Mexican dollar...": On the left an eight reales dated 1888 (Zacatecas Mint) and on the right a peso dated 1898 (Mexico City Mint). These were used extensively in China from the 19th-20th century. The eight reales are often found chopmarked, as these example are (the 1888 has a small one in the rays to the right). The earlier 8 reales (1820s-1897) were more popular with the Chinese and sometimes they can be found extensively chopmarked, such as this one: The pesos, which were similar in design, were supposedly not accepted as readily as the eight reales, although they look very much alike - the Chinese public was very conservative when it comes to coin designs, as pretty much the whole world was until recently, when circulating coins lost all their precious metals. Finding the pesos with chop marks is somewhat difficult; this one has a large one on the reverse; the earlier 8 reales are commonly found chopped. As with the junk dollar above, the US Mint minted Mexico City pesos dated 1898 in 1949, in an effort to prop up the Nationalist Government (not the Communist government described by the Lapwoods in Peking; the silver dollars were to be used to pay the military, who had grown suspicious of paper money. However the Nationalist government had to flee the mainland and moved to Taiwan, where they remain to this day). The one in the photos is an original 1898 strike (you can tell by the way the o in the Mo mintmark is flush with the top of the M; on the restrikes the o sticks up higher than the M; you can count edge beads too, but that requires better vision and more patience than I have!). Red arrows indicate the mint mark (obverse) and the chopmark (reverse). No USA silver dollar collection is complete until it has an 1898 peso struck stateside. There is an excellent and informative website on these restrikes, and the money situation in China during this era (including paper money) here: http://www.brianrxm.com/comdir/cnsmain_mexicopesochina.htm *** Most sources I have encountered over the years states that silver dollars went out of circulation in China around the time the war with Japan heated up in the early 1930s. Silver no doubt did get hoarded at that time, but when the paper money became so useless, but according to the Lapwoods, the silver came back out again in 1948, as the Lapwoods describe. Such eyewitness accounts are quite informative and worth seeking out, I think. Note that other trade dollars of the era, including the US Trade Dollar or French Indo-China piastres, were not encountered in the Beijing markets of 1948. Some of my examples are shown chopmarked; the Lapwoods do not mention this practice. They do mention that fake dollars were a problem: "...In buying, one had to ring the coin for pitch, and also blow across the edge, when an entirely different note could be heard on holding the coin to the ear." I'd heard of the "ring" method to detect fakes, but blowing across the edge is new to me! Share your silver dollars used in China, travelers' or missionaries' accounts of coins, and whether or not you detect fake coins by blowing across their edge!