Korean Imperial Coinage: Pair of 1/4 Yangs in Copper-Nickel + Variety Comparison

Today's post is about a pair of 1/4 Yangs from the Korean Joseon Dynasty and Empire. 

  • These two coins look very similar yet are also different (legends, characters, rings, etc)! 
  • We will discuss variety breakdowns and comparison along with general discussion about both coins. 

Coin 1 of 2
The 1/4 Yang from the Year 502 of the Joseon Dynasty. 

Left Coin: 開國五百二年     두돈오푼      朝鲜       1/4 Yang 
Right Coin: 光武二年  두돈오푼 大韓     1/4 Yang


Left and Right Coins: 
General Overview:

Date: 1893 (Year 502)
Dynasty: Joseon 
Province + Mint: Korea, Incheon
Emperor/Ruler: King Gojong (1863-1897)
Denomination: 1/4 Yang
Catalog: Krause KM# 1110
Composition: Copper-Nickel (Cu-Ni)
Weight: 4.8g
Size: 20.7mm
Mintage:  --
Date: 1898 (Kwangmu 2nd Year)
Dynasty: Korean Empire
Province + Mint: Korea, Incheon
Emperor/Ruler: Emperor Kwangmu (1897-1907)
Denomination: 1/4 Yang
Catalog: Krause KM# 1117
Composition: Copper-Nickel (Cu-Ni)
Weight: 4.8g
Size: 20.7mm
Mintage: --

The Korean Twin Dragons that predated the Japanese style dragons of the later Protectorate Era.
(Looks like seahorses!) 

I personally love the yin-yang like designs of these dragons!
This style is evident, though a bit changed, for the Silver 1 Yang series from the Imperial Era. 

My Coin Remarks:

Both coins are, in my opinion, lightly circulated. They retain the denticles on the rims and the characters on both sides are present. There seems to be no smudges or mushy characters that often result from heavy wear and usage. Moreover, the focal point---the twin dragons--on the obverses, are sharply delineated, where we can see the minute details of the claws, scales, and central fireball. However, there are some slight wear on the reverse, such as the extreme details on the leaves that compose the surrounding wreath. Yet, on the reverse, the four characters denoting the denomination is clear and sharply struck. 

The later 1898 1/4 Yang also retains some of the original luster, which could not be shown with the scanned image. There is also an interesting die-crack on the obverse of that coin. Good little mint error on an otherwise common variety. 

Altogether, for both coins, I am glad that the high points of the dragons' scales were not worn significantly. I would grade both coins at around XF to AU. 

Series Overview (Note the 3 Legend Types):

GREEN HIGHLIGHT = Changes in Characters 
Legend Differences
Yr. 501 - 1892
1 Variety
  • 3 Characters: Tae Cho Son or 朝鲜

Yr. 502 - 1893
 1 Variety
  • 2 Characters: Cho Son or 朝鲜

Yr. 503 - 1894
 1 Variety and SCARCER
  • 2 Characters: Cho Son or 朝鲜
Yr. 504 - 1895
 2 Varieties in Legends
  • 3 Characters: Tae Cho Son or 朝鲜
  • 2 Characters: Cho Son or 朝鲜

Yr. 505 - 1896
 1 Variety
  • 2 Characters: Cho Son or 朝鲜
 Kwangmu 1 - 1897
 1 Variety and RARE 
  • 2 Characters: Dae Han or 大韓
 Kwangmu 2 - 1898
 1 Variety and MOST COMMON. 

There are two varieties (described below): Large vs. Small Ring. 

Also, counterfeits exist!
  • 2 Characters: Cho Son or 朝鲜

 Kwangmu 3 - 1899
2 Varieties and RARE 

Large vs. Small Characters Varieties
  • 2 Characters: Cho Son or 朝鲜

 Kwangmu 4 - 1900
1 Variety and RARE
  • 2 Characters: Cho Son or 朝鲜

Mint Varieties - Dating Changes and Ring Sizes:

Dating Differences on the Legend
It is interesting to note the changes in the dating system from:

The 開國 XXX 年 or Opening Date XXX Years to 光武 X 年.

Let me translate this more detailedly before we go further. 

  1. 開國 XXX 年 means XXX years since the creation/founding of the Joseon Dynasty. This means we add XXX years to 1391. 
  2. 光武 X means X years since the ascension of Emperor Kwangmu. This means we add X years to 1896. 

Originally, these 1/4 Yangs were minted during the Joseon Dynasty, which preceded the establishment of the Korean Empire in 1897. Thus, we must take this in note: the 光武 or Kwang Mu characters refers to King Gojong's imperial name, that is, when he became an Emperor of the Korean Empire. Thus, you can see that the 1st 1/4 Yang, made during the 元年 or 0 Year of Kwang Mu corresponds to 1897, which is the 1st year of the Korean Empire. 

Therefore, these varying legends makes collecting these 1/4 Yangs fun. It takes some time to understand the entire history of the Joseon Dynasty and relate it back to these little dragon coins! Some math involved! :-) 

The three ways to call it. 
(A variety analysis)
On the coins from this series and other coins like the 1 Fun and 5 Fun coins, there are three ways that named KOREA. They are:

  1. Hanja: 大朝鮮  or Dae Cho Son
  2. Hanja: 朝鮮 or Cho Son
  3. Hanja: 大韓 or Dae Han

Varieties of the Kwangmu 2nd Year 1/4 Yang

Large vs. Small Ring
This pertains only to the Kwangmu 2nd Year 1/4 Yang only. 

According to Krause's Standard Catalog of World Coins, there are "many varieties of character size and style exist for year 2 coins." Now, one of the most defined and well-attributed variety is the large ring vs. small ring types. This is evident on the obverse, where we can see the inner ring surrounding the twin coiled dragons.

In terms of rarity and value, there is virtually no difference. This is because the year 2 1/4 yang was produced at the highest quantity and even given restrikes according to some sources! 

My year 2 1/4 yang is the large ring variety. 

Other Interesting Notes:

 Counterfeits (and Restrikes) of the Kwangmu 2nd Year 1/4 Yang
According to some browsing and reading on the linked Wikipedia page and references to my Korean coin catalog from South Korea, there are apparently a well known and founded idea of counterfeit 1/4 Yangs of the 2nd Year, 1898.

This was because the extensive dies and presses used to produce that year's coins were extensively reused. This lead to extensive restrikes bearing the same 1898 year and even some extensive worn-out counterfeits for general circulation in Korea. 

Furthermore, the Japanese Osaka Mint even minted their own series of 1898 1/4 Yangs in the same metal. This was in turn, used in Korea, and looks exactly like the original, Korean made one. 

Counterfeits arrose because these dies and presses were given out to unlicensees, which minted at their own discretion and authority. 

Wikipedia further states: "The Korean government would eventually establish a system for designating cupronickel coins as being "Official", "Class-A counterfeits", and "Class-B counterfeits", these coins all had varying market values.[4] Even the government produced "official" coins were accepted at a discount, this was because base cupronickel coins had completely flooded the market.[4] This uncontrollable situation would lead to more than half of all currency circulating in Korea at the time being cupronickel coins. Removing these coins from circulation would prove to be a tough predicament for the Japanese during the latter half of the 1900s.[4]"

Really Rare Unissued Yang BANKNOTES. WOW!  
50 Yang - Treasury Department of the Kingdom of Korea (1893) 01.jpg

10 Yang - Treasury Department of the Kingdom of Korea (1893) 01.jpg

Additional Information:

Great Intro to Korean Numismatic History, in English:

The Korean Yang (and the currency system)
My other coins from the Korean Joseon, Empire, and Protectorate Eras