Silver Coinage of Sinkiang Province's Aksu Region: An Analysis of Three Specimens from my Personal Collection
Aksu's Hammered Silver Tangas in the 1/2 Miscal or 5 Fen Denominations:
In this “second wave” of silver miscal (or mace) coinage of Sinkiang, I would like to focus on its chronology, and then secondary emphasis on region and denomination. Hence, we shall start this series with a SCARCEST variety of one particular type: the ½ miscal or 5 Fen tanga from Aksu. If you have read my post on Sinkiang’s silver coin history, the hammered (and not milled) coins were the first circulating issues---started with Yaqub Beg and continued by Emperor Guang Xu (1875-1908), when Sinkiang became a province of Qing China. Hence, this piece was struck in AH 1296, approximately 1879 on the Gregorian calendar. It can be considered an early issue from Sinkiang and part of its hammered coinage series that were produced not only in Aksu, but in Kasghar, Yarkand, Khotan, and Yangi Hisar as well.
This type was generally minted between c1879 (AH 1296) to c1880 (AH 1298) with two general types according to Nastich and Schuster. I have marked the date simply as 1879. Nevertheless, this piece is considered the first type, the generally scarcer example, as it has a slight difference in the Arabic script. Now, within this first type, this piece is the variety with DATES ON BOTH SIDES, rather than on one side and a floral design on the other. The rarity for this piece is RRR, the highest for this type. The rarity of this type is further supported by Krause’s SCWC entry in the 1801-1900 series, as it is noted a “Rare” for the c1879 Aksu ½ miscal with no price guide value.
The obverse features the character GUANG 光 for the name of the penultimate Qing Emperor, Guang Xu and has the Turkic legend besh fung (or 5 Fen). The date is surrounded by an ornamental circular border. The reverse is all in Turkic, with “aqsuda qilghan” with “yay” and surrounded by an ornamental circular border that is still present on this specimen. It is nicely struck with the intertwining motifs that define these seemingly "crudely struck" pieces that pale in comparison to the qualities of say, Kwangtung or Kiangnan. Lastly, to define this type of coin, we shall reference Dong Wenchao, who categorizes this specimen as a “Tanga with the Character ‘guang’’ (206).
In terms of condition, this piece is an excellent EF piece in a well centered and sharply struck planchet. Circulation cameo is present on this uncleaned specimen. Slightly elongated and uneven planchet.
References: NS-E53a (RRR); Krause Y A7.27 (Rare); XJN 285v Dong Wenchao 234v
Specimen 2 is another Aksu coin, and will be a hammered tanga of the ½ miscal or 5 Fen denomination. This piece, though looks visually similar to the previous Specimen 1, is different in scarcity and date, and according to Nastich and Schuster. This is because Specimen 2 is part of the second type out of the two. Though this may be confusing, the overall type as paraphrasing Dong Wenchao is the "Aksu tanga with the character guang 光" as there is a guang/光 on the obverse, denoting the penultimate Qing Emperor Guang Xu (1875-1908). This piece is slightly different from Specimen 1 as it was minted in AH 1298 or c1880-1, and would be the last year of issue for this Aksu “guang” tanga. Now more broadly when considering the entire hammered tanga coinage of Aksu, the region made two types: this type with the character “guang”---which is a Chinese character---and a type with entirely Turkic sides (Y A7.4).
This type has many varieties and this is the most common out of the bunch as it is dated on both sides with 1298/1298 and has a “R” rarity according to Nastich and Schuster. The other two are scarcer, with a “RR” rarity: 1, with a 1297/1298 mule, and 2, with a ---/1298 single-side date. The obverse of this piece has the large “guang” character and a square with Turkic legend of besh fung (five fen) and the date. There is an ornamental circular border especially present on the reverse, which is entirely in Turkic. It states “aqsuda qlighan” or made in Aksu, the 1298 date, and “without yay.”
This piece is a thin piece on a light planchet and has a weight of ~1.5g and is in a EF grade. Excellent deep strike with some circulation and toning. The character “guang” is clearly shown and not cut off too much. I also spot a floral motif or design on the obverse, that appears like a sunburst.
References: Krause Y A7.5, Dong Wenchao 234v, NS E53b (R), XJN 285v
Aksu's "Mid Period" Milled Miscals in the Chinese and Arabic Format
Analyzing Specimen 3 will finish our rather short interpretations on Sinkiang’s Aksu region and her silver miscal coinage. As you can see, instead of the hammered tangas in 5 Fen or ½ miscal denomination elucidated by Specimen 1 and 2 (which appear quite uniform and similar), we will shift our attention to the “mid period” coins of Aksu, according to “Xinjiang Numismatics.” Generally, the “mid period” types will be a trend for future posts and they refer to types with a Chinese obverse and an Arabic reverse with floral wreath. They were minted at Aksu (scarcest), Kashgar/Kashi (the most!), and Tihwa/Urumchi (relatively later issues where none were produced in the late 1800s).
Segueing, we have a scarce 5 miscal from Aksu, minted in AH 1311 or 1894 on the Gregorian calendar. This piece was part of a series of 5, 3, and 2 miscals, where the lower denominations are scarcer than the 5 miscals! Thus, one thing to take away from Sinkiang coins is that just because a coin is heavy and a high denomination, does not mean that they command a higher numismatic value or is scarcer in type. I am not saying this as a definitive statement, but something to consider when collecting the series! This is because the 2 and 3 (and for other issues, 1 and 4) miscals denominations were lesser used and thus, struck in lesser quantities. Now, the reason why Aksu is a scarce region for these Chinese obverse and Arabic reverse types is because they only minted coins from AH 1310 to AH 1312 (of three years!), according to Lin and Ma. We are able to find the date for this on the reverse’s upper left.
The obverse is a standardized type, where the central column states “guang xu yin yuan / 光绪银元” or the silver coin/money of Emperor Guang Xu (1875-1908) and the left column means “wu qian" or 5 miscals/mace with OFFICIAL FIVE (伍 not 五). Lastly, the last column is 阿城 or “a cheng” which denotes Aksu. One interesting observation is that the “yuan” is written like 元 rather than the “yuan” of Kashgar and Tihwa, which is a 圓. Moreover, a distinctive Aksu note is the presence of a circlet in the northeast field of the obverse and a bar below 元. The reverse shows a wreath with 12 leaves per side with a flower. As you will see in future posts that discuss other regions like Kashgar and Tihwa, this design will be consistent. Lastly, the date is present with “13” and “11” in the upper left to the upper-middle left field.
This piece is excellently struck and in AEF condition, with slight weakness on the 啊. Uncleaned. Deep reeding and sharp denticles with an even circulation patina on the surface for a scarce issue. From an old US collection with noted provenance.
References: Lin and Ma 785v; Krause Y15; DWC 287, XJN 383. Circlet and Bar. Kann 1190.