Nagasaki Genho Tsuho

This is part two of this series and a final chapter. Scrutinizing for minute differences is very tiring. My school started a few days ago, and I must save my eyesight, whatever that is left, for other purposes.

Double Dot Tsu  通

This type with the double dots is a bit more difficult to attribute as there are many more varieties than the single dot type. The first part will consist of those varieties with the large characters; the second part will be of the small character varieties.

For the 2A varieties, the right leg of "Gen" 元 is long, and it protrudes from the corner of the square rim. The character "Ho" 寶 is medium sized, and its legs are about even with the bottom corner of the square hole.

For the 2B varieties, the key point of reference will be the large size of the character "Ho" 寶 with its legs positioned far below the coner of the square hole.

For the 2C varieties, the right leg of "Gen" 元 is long and curves up high; its left leg is short and seems unbalanced.

For the 2D varieties, all characters are small.

2A Both legs of 元 protrudes slightly from the corners of the square rim. The top of 通 is small. An average coin measures 24mm.

2A.1 Although the right leg of 元 protrudes slightly from the corner of the square rim, the left leg is even with the corner. The top of 通 is large.The tail of 通 is long. An average coin measures 24mm.

2A.1-1 The right leg of 元 is especially long, and it almost touches the character 豊 . The top of 通 is large like the above but its tail is much shorter. An average coin measures 24mm.

2B Although quite close, both legs of 元 do not reach the corners of the square rim. The character 寶 is large. An average coin measures 24.4mm.

2B.1 Quite similar to the above but the character 豊 is larger and the top of the character protrudes slightly above the corner of the square rim. An average coin measures 24mm.

2B.1-1 Quite similar to the above but the right leg of 元 is long, and it protrudes from the corner of the square rim. An average coin measures 24mm.

2B.2 The character 寶 is much smaller compared to the above three varieties. 豊 is written low. Both legs of 元 are even with the corners of the squate rim. An average coin measures 24mm. This is non-magnetic.

2C The right leg of 元 is long and protrudes past the corner of the square rim, and it curves up high. Its left leg is short. The second horizontal stroke of the character is especially long, and it nearly touches the right leg. All characters are medium size. An average coins measures 23.8mm.

2C.1 The right leg and the second horizontal stroke of 元 are shorter than the above. The character 豊 is written higher. and the top of it clearly protrudes above the corner of the square rim. An average coin measures 23mm.

2C.2 All characters are confidently written. Unlike the above two varieties, 通 is centered below the square rim. 豊 is written higher, and its rightvertical line of the top of its character is much longer than the left stroke. The right leg of 元 is about even or only slightly protrudes from the corner of the square rim. An average coin measures 23.6mm.

2D The right leg of 元 is about even with the corner of the square rim. 豊  and 寶 are very small and written high. This variety is unsually non-magnetic. An average coin measures 23.8mm.

2D.1 The right leg of 元 is short . 豊 and 通 are larger than the above. An average coin measures 24mm.

2D.2 The tip of the right leg of 元 curves slightly outward. The left leg of 寶is curved and kicks outward. 豊 is written slightly lower compared to the positioning of 寶. An average coin measures 23.6mm.

     END 終 FIN


Genuine or Not Genuine

There are six coins illustrated, obverse and reverse, of Mito Tora Sen, Ryukyu Tsuho, Akita Tsuba Sen, and Tosa Tsuho. Three out the six are genuine. Can you tell which ones? Just click "comment" below and that will take you to the "comment" page. Click "unanimous" and type in the letters that google displays. Click "publish." It requires no name and no email address is necessary. It is totally "unanimous," and I do not work for NSA.


Wado Kaiho Genuine? Reproduction?

As always, there are countless counterfeits on the market, everything from the commonest to the rarest. Most are sold as reproductions but when they change hands repeatedly, anything can happen. The photos are of Wado Kaiho 和同開珎 Wado Kaichin, first coinage of Japan cast around 708 A.D. All of these are recent production. The group of coins, illustrated, is still in the “rough.” The other images went through a “face lift” with applied patina. Are they lurking in your collection as genuine? Even a common variety, if genuine, is worth $300 to $1000, depending on the condition.


Attribution Guide to Genho Tsuho Part One

This is a new research project of mine. Rather than to place whatever little information I have on the back burner, I have decided to post it here, in the rough. All of the varieties seem to be quite common, although made 350 years ago. The list is not complete by any means. Two types are noted within this series: single dot 通 and double dot 通 (cannot write a character with double dot). Today, we will post those varieties that are found with a single dot. The coins belong to me and I did not search out the best available specimens.

Genho Tsuho 元豊通寶
Single Dot Tsu 通 

1AProper 元 and all other characters are properly written as well. This variety is usually nicely made and on a large planchet measuring an average of 24.4mm.

1A.1 Quite similar to the above but the right leg of 元 is positioned evenly with the corner of the square hole. 豊 is positioned high, and the top of its character protrudes above the horizontal line of the square hole. The characterists of the planchet is similar to the above.

1A.1-1This is the same variety as the above but cast from a circulation issue. The characters are thick, and it is on a smaller planchet measuring 23.8mm. This issue is non-magnetic.

1BThis variety has smaller characters and on a smaller planchet compared to 1A and its sub-varieties. 元 seems larger than the other characters, and its left leg is even with the corner of the square hole. The second stroke of  元 leans left. 豊 is tall, and it is about even or protrudes slightly above the hortizontal line of the square hole. An average coin measures 23.5mm.

1B.1The left leg of  元 is short. Compared to the above, 寶 is lower and its right leg passes below the corner of the square hole. The planchet quality and the measurement are similar to the above.

1B.1-1The left leg of 元 is long, and it is high above the horizontal line of the square hole. The right vertical line of the top of 豊 is shorter than the left. 寶 is much smaller that the above variety. The planchet quality and the measurement are similar to the above.


What are Seed Coins? What are Mother Coins?

"Seed" coins and "mother" coins are the same. In Japan, a "seed" coin is called a "Bo-Sen" 母銭 or a "mother" coin. In the West, we call it a "Tane-Sen" 種銭 or a "seed" coin. As long as the collectors understand each other that is what matters. For the record, it was Munro who started calling it a "Tane-Sen" in 1904, and that term got stuck in our minds. Perhaps, during Meiji Period even the Japanese collectors called it a "Tane." Or did they? For simplification purposes we will refer to it as "Bo-Sen" within this writing.

This is what Munro says: "Tane sen is one which is used to make impression on the clay moulds into which the metal is poured to make coin. They are therefore of the best and clearest design and are much in demand, being also rarer than the ordinary sen." Munro makes it simple enough.

Bo-Sen was, almost always, made from copper, and served the same purpose as our standard coin dies. Let us try to understand Bo-Sen in more details. First, an artist prepares a drawing of a proposed coin on paper. Then, a wooden model is carved, followed by a casting of a pewter sample. From this pewter sample is born a copper Bo-Sen.

Illustrated is a Bo-Sen made at the Morioka mint in 1866. This coin is what collectors call a 4 mon coin as the value was 4 mon. Four smaller cash coins equal 4 mon. On the obverse are the characters of Kan-Ei-Tsu-Ho, 寛永通寶, and on the reverse is the character "Mori" 盛 for Morioka mint. The circulating issue of this variety was cast in iron. This, being a Bo-Sen, is made of copper. An iron issue in average condition is worth perhaps $10; this Bo-Sen is worth perhaps $200. A Bo-Sen of this nature is easily identified for obvious reasons. It gets a bit trickier to identify a Bo-Sen when the circulating issues are made from copper, too. In the near future, we will cover, in more details, hot to identify other types of Bo-Sen, so come back often to this homepage.

Tenpo Tsuho Cast Coinage of Japan Value 100

This oblong, bronze coin, authorized on the 15th day of the 6th month, 1835, had an official weight of 5 monme 5 bu (20.62 grams) when first issued. For unknown reasons, on the 11th day of the 9th month, same year, the weight increased by an additional 3 bu and weighed 21.75 grams. (Note: A mint state specimen in my collection, cast at the main Honza mint, weighs 20.46 grams.) Tenpo Tsuho coinage was quite a popular issue for the mints and its casting continued until the 4th month of 1869. Although its composition varied widely, officially, the metallic content was set to: 78% copper, 12% lead, and 10% tin.

According to the records provided by the Japanese Finance Department, the mintage was about half a billion. Accordingly, due to its huge mintage, collectors can still acquire a sharp specimen of a common variety for less than ten dollars. Many minor variations in calligraphy exist, and such varieties determine the rarity and price. This introductory essay is for the general audience, and as such, introduction to varieties and complex attribution of this series will not be discussed here. However, do keep in mind, for now, that a coin resembling another in almost all details may be worth $100 or even $500 just because of a minute difference in how the calligraphy was formed.

Tenpo Tsuho is a curious coin. Upon the edges, at approximately 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions, a hand-punched floral motif is seen. Some refer to this punch as a petal of a cherry-blossom. The size and the shape of the punches differ somewhat as the casting took place in various mints, both legal and illegal. Three distinct sizes exist: small, medium and large. None of the sizes plays a crucial role in its rarity. Sometimes one finds a double-punched petal. If the first punch was off-centered and too close to the rim, or if the stamp was only partially visible, re-punching was necessary. Such an error is quite scarce.


Rare Japanese Cash Coins Reference Work

Abridged History of the Copper Coins of Japan by Leon Van De Polder

This is the earliest reference work treating on Japanese cash coins in English. It was issued as a part of Asiatic Society of Japan bulletins, as Vol. XIX, 1890/1891. I believe there were only about 200 members back then so this work is quite a rarity. I have owned a Xerox copy done by Bruce Smith, ca.1985, one tattered original, and this copy, which I consider possibly the finest known. According to WorldCat, there are only six holdings, four in the US and two in GB.

The first page is not numbered and starts with the page number 420 and goes to page number 500, with 25 plates of hand-drawn cash coins, together with an article titled Note on the Eiraku-Sen by J. H. Wigmore. This is a three plus page article without any illustration.

Unlike Munro, who was a collector, Polder sounds like a historian. Hewrites about edicts and historical accounts of the coinage. This makes for a very interesting reading. Although much rarer than Munro, I would recommend a Xerox copy instead of the original. Afterall, where can you find the original?

Coins of Japan

Coins of Japan by Neil Gordon Munro

This is the best book on the subject ever written in English language. The original edition was published in Yokohama in 1904. There is a wealth of information contained within these pages. What is more incredible is the amount of illustrations, rubbings and full-page plates, 25 cromolithographic plates (fancy word for tinted plates often used to illustrate coins on early 1900 postcards, I think) to illustrate Oban, Koban, and other gold and silver coinage. Also, there is a rare color plate of Magatama.

Munro covers everything from pre-Wado Kaiho (Kaichin) to Bita Sen, E-Sen to Shima Sen, provincial issues to cash coins we don't even know about. This book is a catalog but it reads like a fine biography. One-hundred years went by since the publication. I doubt if anyone can write a better book on Japanese cash coins in a thousand years.

I owned 5-6 original edition in the last 25 years. I kept the first one I ever bought in 1980 (see photos above).This is a rebound edition with its original covers and spine. The interior is quite fresh and has none of those age spots. All the tissue guards are present and it is a presentation copy by Munro. I just could not part with it since there is a photo of my son playing with it in 1982. I paid $150 back then. It was a lot of money to me then, still is.

Nowadays, a decent copy will fetch between $500 and $750. It is worth every penny but best make sure there are all of the plates and things present. Even a reprint will cost a pretty penny today. It is Ok but the Magatama plate is missing, and the colored engraving is black and white, etc. Can not expect too much from a reprint. WorldCat lists 44 holdings for the original 1904 edition and an additional 3 copies for the 1905 London edition.