The Last Emperor
The 1910 Xuantong Imperial Silver Dollar (Kann 219) was struck in the second year of the child emperor’s reign. The last emperor of China, the Xuantong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, also known as Puyi, was born in February 1906 and ruled from December 1908 until he abdicated in 1912. As Puyi was just a toddler when his reign began, most of his time in power was overseen by his father, Prince Chun, who held the position of Prince Regent until the Xinhai Revolution in December 1911. The abdication of Puyi followed shortly on 12th February 1912, enacted by the Empress Dowager Longyu.
Coins of this type were struck at the Tianjin Mint as pattern designs with low mintages while the mint experimented with potential designs for future issues, although these coins were not officially released for general circulation. They are scarce pieces and highly sought after in the numismatic community today. This silver dollar is one of four coin types struck at the Tianjin Central Mint during the second year of Puyi’s reign to bear the inscription: “宣統年造大清銀幣” (Struck in the Year of Xuangtong Qing Silver Coin).
They were based on a similar die design with varying denominations of: 1 yuan; 5 jiao; 2 jiao and 5 fen; and 1 jiao. As previously stated, they were not officially released for circulation, although the silver dollar with a face value of 1 yuan was briefly circulated in very limited numbers.
Design, Specifications and Nicknames
The 1910 Xuantong Imperial Silver Dollar is also known in Chinese as 宣二 xuan’er (xuan two) because it was struck in the second year of Xuantong’s reign, or 水龙 shuilong (water dragon) due to the design on the reverse. It is a silver coin measuring 38 mm in diameter with a fineness of .900.
The obverse face features a central block of four Chinese characters within a circle of beads: “大清銀幣” (Qing Silver Coin). Inscribed above are the same characters but in the Manchurian written language. Below the central ring is the face value, “壹圓” (1 yuan). A floral spray appears to the left and right of the central ring.
The reverse face depicts an intricately detailed dragon pictured flying over the sea (hence the Chinese nickname for this coin, 水龙) and mountains in the distance. The dragon image is, like the obverse face, surrounded by a beaded circle. Above are the characters (right to left): “宣統年造” (Struck in the Year of Xuantong). To either side of the central ring is a floral motif. The inscription “$1” appears at the bottom of the coin face, giving the denomination of the coin.
Value and Scarcity
A rare coin with a beautiful design and highly desirable in good condition, the 1910 Xuantong Imperial Silver Dollar has great collector value. One such well-preserved example is due to go under the hammer today, and has a reserve price of 160,000 – 180,000 RMB.