WOW! How Time Flies on Japanese Cash Coins

Reprinted from Japanese Cash Collectors Club, 1984 or 1985

Japanese cash coins were a new thingy then. Today, they are still new. Any decent writing in the last 20 years in English? The following were two of many letters to the club. The questions and the answers are printed here without being edited. This publication was “known” for its roughness. I was young then and a rebel. I am older today but still a rebel.
By the way, these two good friends are gone. George Fisher wrote the neatest KANJI. He wrote better than most Japanese and Chinese. Owen Fleming was from down-under. He had a superb collection of numismatic literature. I was able to procure a few rare works previously owned by him through a book dealer in Australia. George and Owen were great people.

FROM OWEN: Normal one bu silver are about 23.8mm by 15.4mm with a thickness of 2.8mm and a weight of 8.66 gms, and with all four sides cut or sheared, probably weight adjusted and then cherry blossom stamped, and “sadamied.”

My mystery is 20.5 x 14 x 2.8, is only cut on the long sides, as north and south are round edged, the cut ones are not impressed with cherry blossoms and have no angled millings and weighs only 6.50gms.

A normal piece has virtually straight edges-this one has top and bottom rounded as though cast in a bar shape and the two long cut sides slope inwards when sighted from the one bu silver face. What is it?

The type is J&V I 302-Ansei and the frames either side enclosing the characters, and the characters themselves are all of the same size: not complete but have been cut through with the closer shearing, and at north/south, not even a trace of them can be seen. There are the same north/south background lines in the frames enclosing the characters and SADAME is well impressed and is possibly a little larger than some of my specimens.

(Ed. Note: At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. I still don’t. My answer? See below.)

ANSWER---I don’t know. Anyone out there with an answer? How about you Joe Boling? You collect these “gizmos” don’t you?

FROM GEORGE: Can you tell me anything about a large (about 34.5mm x 34.5mm) “rounded square” Sendai Tsuho copper coin I have? It weighs about 18.7 grams and, with the large space available, the 4 kanji are much more elegant than those on the small Sendai Tsuho either in iron or copper. Herbert J. Cook of Olympic Coin Gallery didn’t know for sure, but thought it was an E-Sen.

ANSWER---E-Sen? That’s cute! People tend to label everything E-Sen if it is not listed in reference works. Well, I’ve seen two of these in the past and another one was offered to me for $60 from a dealer who specializes in Chinese cash. It’s worth about a fifth of that. This is just a blown-up fantasy of Sendai tsuho.

Somewhere, someone is always trying to fool collectors by making these things. They are fun and interesting, but don’t mistaken them for rarities. Acquire these issues only as a curio, and don’t pay a bundle either. This reminds me. In the Sept. 1983 Hong Kong auction by The Money Co., there was a lot#770 described as “16 Piece Sample Set of Provincial Shiken Sen, 100 Mon Coins Struck in Lead.” Come off it! An estimated value of $500 and up? These things are not old and certainly not mint made coins. Struck in lead? And I thought all the Japanese cash were cast, not struck. My pal in Japan tells me these things are fantasies created in the 1970s. Did any of you bid on that lot? Another one from the same auction. Lot#264, “The Shogun’s Treasure Oban.” Do they really expect us to believe these tall-tales? Perhaps I should start consigning my fantasies to these auctions. I could make a killing!

(Ed. Note: Japanese Cash Collectors Club was rough. I tackled everything. The above is just a small sampling. Wanna read more? Come back often. Stuff I wrote will blow your minds. Another fellow that issued these thoughts was John Novak. He wrote quite a bit in the 1960s. He was my kind of man!)


Why do Cash Coins have Square Holes?

A picture paints a thousand words.

Fantasies of Odabe

Ichiro Odabe

Probably the most famous maker of fantasy pieces during the Taisho Period was Ichiro Odabe. He had an unusual imagination and made many fantasy coins of excellent quality. They are all fine pieces and attractive; he had a fine casting technique too. Lately, since his fantasies are widely recognized and collected, many inferior castings are flooding the market. These secondary copies should not be mistaken for originals, which have no value. He never restricted himself only with fantasies and made fine copies of Tosa Kanken and Tosa Tsuho.



This is me trying to figure out whether I have a common or a rare Kanei Tsuho. From the "looks" of the TSU 通, it is a common coin. But wait, could it be a マ頭通? I should check the reverse. This is a bad joke; only the specialists of this series would understand.

Unique Hakata Ginban

Hakata Ginban

Although no collector ever possessed this rarity, its existence was known throughout the numismatic community for centuries. This elusive, historical item became a reality with the discovery of its first specimen during an estate sale (an estate that dates back to the Muromachi Period) in Fukuoka, Kyushu. An antique dealer knowledgeable in numismatics “spotted” it among numerous other articles. (This Ginban has not seen a light of day for over eight centuries.) This dealer made an offer for the Ginban, a price in the five-figures (conveted to US currency). However, Okumura Takeshi, a local historian, persuaded the owner that the item should not be sold to the dealer, and that it should remain in the community. He was successful.

The illustration above is a drawing by us. The inscriptions on the obverse are: Haka-Ta, Aratame-Sho, Shou-An-Ni-Ten 博多 改所 正安二天. It was made ca. 1300 A.D. On the reverse (not illustrated) are several characters, but only one is clear, the character of Naga 長. As you can see from the illustration, the piece was “holed” to be used as a sword guard.

Perhaps while on the subject, I should mention a sister of this piece, Hakata Kinban (one made of gold). The whereabouts of this gold issue is unknown. It was a part of a cultural history maintained by Kushida Temple. The Kinban was “borrowed” during the American occupation, and it is still being “borrowed.”


Ancient Silver Coins of Japan?

Ancient Silver Coins of Japan?

There have been sporadic illustrations of the so-called silver discs in old Japanese numismatic literatures, and the discs were surrounded with mystery, as only four specimens were known to exist. The research and study, not to mention the actual viewing of the four specimens were rare. However, in 1940, eleven silver disks surrounding a small chest were found in Shiga-Ken, Otsushi. According to some numismatic researchers of the time, the discs were attributed as simple ornaments or funeral offerings.

The measurements are as follows:
1) 8.8g….30.2mm
2) 35.6g…39.5mm
3) 10g…...30.5mm
4) 9.6g…..31.6mm
5) 8.8g…..31.6mm
6) 9.5g…..30.6mm
7) 8.2g…..28.1mm
8) 9.2g…..31.3mm
9) 6.7g…..30.0mm
10) 8.9g…..29.2mm
11) 10g……29.4mm

Some matters are too easily dismissed. Since the ten specimens average 9grams, these discs may have been used as currency. The heaviest disc weighing 35.6 grams was likely sliced into thinner pieces as this specimen is not holed, and the weight differs considerably from the rest.


Lots More to Come

Been overwhelmed with schoolwork recently, but the spring break is near. Keep checking back. Will be writing lots more soon.