Korea: Joseon Dynasty - The Sang Pyong Tong Bo 常平通寶/상평통보 Cash Coins - 2 Mun Focus - Varieties, Mintages, Introduction
Today's post is THE FIRST in the series of cast copper cash from the Korean Joseon Dynasty. Here, I present a series of different Sang Pyong Tong Bo, the iconic and general currency used for nearly 300 years.
- Introduction to the Sang Pyong Tong Bo coins (常平通寶).
- Historical Origin.
- Purpose and Function.
- Predecessors and Successors.
- Use within context.
- Variety Breakdown: Furnaces, Minting Areas, Regional Areas, Discernment.
- Additional Variety Breakdown: Character Analysis and Interpretation. (e.g Thousand Character Classic, Shapes like Crescent, Dot, Line, etc)
- Specific coin remarks on the condition and details on my set of coins.
- Specific information on variety, rarity, and denomination of my series set.
- Other additional or supplemental information, e.g catalogs, websites, scholarly sources, etc.
Historical Origin and Context
The Sang Pyong Tong Bo (SPTB) series of coins were introduced in the middle eras of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea (1392 - 1897). According to many general sources, it was introduced under the reign of King Injo (仁祖/인조), the sixteenth king of Joseon, who reigned from 1623 to 1649. The SPTB series, according to Wikipedia's article on the Korean Mun, was introduced in 1633. According to Ki-baik Lee's book, A New History of Korea, he states how the "expanded commercial activity [of Joseon wholesale commerce] necessitated [a] wide use of metal currency." This ultimately led to the "minting in 1678 of copper coins" known as the SPTB. Thus, we can assume that these series of coins would have a starting minting era of the 1600's.
In terms of the translation of the characters on the obverse, denoted in Hanja (Chinese characters), are as follows:
Korean Transliteration: 상평통보 or "Sang Pyong Tong Bo"
The English translation is as follows:
Therefore, the entire phrase, 常平通寶, means Always Even Currency.
Purpose and Function
The SPTB coins were used for general circulation.
In short, these coins, which includes the widely adopted and standardized SPTB, affected the Joseon Economy. The daily transactions of that time, which included "marketing transactions, payment of wages, ... payment of taxes" and "land rent" payment would be done with coins like the SPTB. Overall, the coins were used increasingly through the entire Joseon Dynasty till their replacement with milled or machine struck coins.
Preceding and Succeeding Issues
Numismatically, the standard currency unit, was the Korean Mun, or 文 in Chinese/Hanja and 문 in Korean.
Throughout the Joseon Dynasty, there were several CAST coins that encapsulated the Mun system. Moreover, note that some were for General Circulation and some were more for Charms/Curio.
(English Name - Hanja/Chinese - Hangul/Korean) - General Year
Contextual Usage - Series
Variety Breakdown: Regional Mints and Casting Furnaces, etc.
In my opinion, what makes collecting these SPTB coins is the sheer variety. This also makes the attributions and valuations also a doozie of a time. I do love it!
The variety breakdown can be simplified into the following. Moreover, the attribution and thinking process can also be done by the following.
These characteristics/attributes are on the reverse of any SPTB coin. This post will focus on the 2 Cash.
Discernment - Regional Mints and Furnaces
Identifying the Mints can be done by identifying the top Chinese character on the obverse.
The following chart is comprehensive and easy to use. It is directly from http://primaltrek.com/koreancoins.html. (Click to enlarge)
Additional Variety Breakdown: Character Analysis and Meaning
As noted previously, there are some slight variations in these SPTB coins.
Here are the first 44 characters of the Thousand Character Classic. It is known as 千字文 in Chinese or 천자문 in Korean. In English, it is pronounced as cheonjamun or ch'ŏn ja mun.
Additional Information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thousand_Character_Classic
My Coin and Remarks
My set of seven coins are encompass a good variety of traits. They are also circulated and worn. Overall, these coins are made from cast copper.
Denomination, Estimated Year, Condition, Mint, Furnace Number (If Possible), Additional Notes