Bunkyu Eiho 文久永宝 文久永寶

We have a question from Bill about one of his Bunkyu coins. He writes:

I am seeking your opinion on 2 Bunkyo Eihou coins that I have had difficulty in my attempts attribute. As you can see from the attached jpegs, these 2 coins do not match the rubbings in your "History and Guide to the Copper Cash Coinage of Japan" in which you list 11 varieties (3 of which are of this variety) or in the JNDA Catalogue, which lists a total of 6 varieties. Every kanji has an unique feature than the others that are listed in the above mentioned resources. The coin measures 26mm wide (outside rim measurement), 20mm wide (inside rim measurement), 7mm square inside hole (the same as Jones #256) and is 1mm thick.

The Bun character's horzontal line is only slightly tilted upward to the right, the Kyo character is squattier and wider, the Ei character's upper right arm ends in a very definitive upward stroke that is "squared off" at the right edge, and the legs of the Hou character are unique to all of the listed varieties. I have owned the coin on the right for several years, but it was not until I recently acquired the example on the left that I thought to pursue this as it is a very good example of the coin. It clearly shows the characters and their unique features.

First, nobody should use my catalog to attribute Bunkyu Eiho. That listing was placed there asおまけ (omake). This coinage is not popular with collectors. Perhaps the reason is that it was cast so late in the Edo Period (1862- 69). For those interested in varieties of this coinage, they need to get a specialized catalog. I know of two, but both are long out-of-print and very difficult to find: Bunkyu Eiho Bunruifu by Shigeyuki Kobayashi and Bunkyu Eiho by Bonanza. I guess one could also use Showa Senpu, but it is pictorial and not descriptive. I owned all three catalogs once, but that was many years ago. Because Bunkyu coins are not highly regarded, and that attribution guides are difficult to find, this series is still a sleeper. Collectors should set aside varieties whenever possible. Attribution can come in good time.

Bill provides us with good description of his variety. Being old and not smart, I confuse easily nowadays. So, I have to do things my way. Some people can follow instructions very well. I cannot. When putting together plastic models or whatever, I don’t read instructions. On first try, I mess things up. On second try, it’s better but not quite right. On third try, I am able to assemble but with a few parts left over. If something works without those parts, I figure it is good enough for me.

For Bill’s coin, the first thing I looked at was the position of HO. Its position is much lower than most other varieties. This low HO happens with Fuka-Ji variety. At least that is what I call it. It means “deep characters.” But some Japanese collectors call it Shin-Ji. This character深 represents “deep.” So, when we use this character to describe the variety, no matter how we read it, it still means “deep.” The problem is that the characters on his coin are not genuinely deep. But this is not to say that they are shallow. They are something in-between.

There are some varieties that Japanese call Fuka-Ji-De. I believe we talked about this DE before. It simply means “in the manner of” Fuka-Ji. Within this Fuka-Ji-De series, we find similarities in how the characters are written, without them being deeply cut like that of Bill’s coin.

Now, we have to take note on how the character BUN 文 is written. Its legs are quite short compared to most other varieties. The legs are well inside the corners of the square rim. Within Fuka-Ji-De series, there is a good match with a variety called Tan-Kyu, meaning the character 久 is short. Why the catalogs never relate to how BUN is written is beyond me. It is much more recognizable than the character KYU 久. We can now call Bill’s coin a “Fuka-Ji-De-Tan-Kyu.” But wait, Bill’s coin has filing marks. Because of it, some collectors may say that Bill’s coin is a special coin that needs additional categorization. It is also On-Shi-De. On-Shi-De is a special coinage made for high ranking officials or “masters” to be handed out as gifts. So, his coin is now, “On-Shi-De Fuka-Ji-De-Tan-Kyu.” That’s a mighty sounding title for a coin! But then, there are sub-sub-varieties within this sub-variety that nobody seems to care.

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