Vietnamese Coin
Tu Duc Trung Bao 8 Van

August 19, 2000
Obverse: Vietnamese Tu Duc Trung Bao

Si De Zhong Bao

Reverse: Bat Van An Nam

Diameter: 27.7 mm
Weight: 7.9 g
Metal: yellow brass

      Tu Duc is the reign title of Emperor Nguyen Duc Tong (1848 - 1883) of the Nguyen dynasty.

There is a small note without image in the Krause catalog under C#203 - 'cast copper alloys' rare coin with the obverse legend Tu Duc Trung Bao and reverse 'Bat Van and An Nam'.

Country name An Nam (Chinese 'Peacified South') was never officially used by the Vietnamese to describe their country. There are three historical periods when country was named An Nam and during all these periods Vietnam was under foreign sovereignty:
  • An Nam Do Ho Phu (The Protectorate of Annam) - 603 - 909 AD, under Chinese dynasties Sui, Tang, Later Liang, Southern Han;
  • An Nam - 1407 - 1427 AD, invaded by the Chinese Ming dynasty;
  • French Protectorate of Annam - 1883 - 1954 AD.

Message from Howard A. Daniel III (19-Aug-2000):
          Right now, I do not have time to dig through my files, but I would say off the top of my head that it is a fantasy. Why would Emperor Tu Duc put An Nam on any of his coins when that was not his country name? Did the French or Chinese create this coin, because it is they who used An Nam for his country name?

Message from Francois Thierry, Chief Curator of Oriental Coins in Cabinet des Medailles, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris (21-Aug-2000):
          I would give you some informations about this coin. From a long time I am very suspicious with this copper coin. I never believed in the genuineness of this type. This copper coin type never appears in numismatic books before the sixties of the 20th century. If you read Toda's Annam and its Minor Currency (1882), Lacroix's Numismatique annamite (1900), Schroeder's Annam, Etudes numismatiques (1905), or Ding Fubao's Guqian da cidian or Okudaira Masahiro's Toa Senshi, both of the thirties, you can notice that this coin is unknown. But just when the Americans are coming in Vietnam in the sixties, this copper coin suddenly appeared in numismatic literature: Miura Gosen's Annan senpu (1966), Novak's A Working Aid for Collectore of Annamese Coins (1967); after that some publications have published the Miura's rubbing without verification (see the recent price book of Zhang Zhizhong, Guqian shouce, 1999). But all of serious numismatic books dismissed this coin from the genuine Tu Duc coinage: in his Tien co Vietnam, Pr. Do Van Ninh do not mention this coin and in Yuenan lishi huobi you can not find this coin too.

          The first problem for me is the problem of a 8 Van coin value in the Vietnamese monetary system during the Tu Duc era (see Francois Thierry, "Monnaies et circulation monetaire au Vietnam dans l'ere Tu Duc (1848-1883)", Revue Numismatique, 1999, pp. 267-315, pl.XL-XLI). In 1861 a value 10 coin was issued in the first bao sao serie, and in 1872 a light thong bao value 6 coin was issued after the collapse of the second baosao serie ... On the other hand, the second problem for me is the use of the word Annam on a Vietnamese coin at this period (1848-1883): from the beginning of the Nguyen Dynasty the name of the kingdom is Dainam or Vietnam, but never Annam that means "Pacified South"; this name was used only by the Chinese, by Japanese, by some Vietnamese rulers under Chinese domination, or by the French, but specially for the central part of Vietnam. For me it's impossible that Vietnamese leader used the name Annam for his kingdom!

          I think that the origin of this forgery could be find North China: this coin is probably a forgery copied from a lead fantasy made by Japanese dealer or collector in the twenties ot thirties of 20th century in the occupied Dalian (Liaoning, the former Port Arthur in English or Dairen in Japanese), because in a rubbings album of this time named Dairen senyukai takuei (or Dalian quanyouhui taying in Chinese), one can find a lead coin of 1.9 g with the same inscription in the same script and with the same defaults of calligraphy (see Fu Weijun, "Zai shuo Annan Tu Duc trong bao qian", Hongkong qianbi yanjiuhui huikan, X-1995, 43; and about the Dairen senyukai takuei - Dai Zhijiang, "Dalian quanyouhui taying xu", Liaoning jinrong 1993-XIV-XV, 9/8).

          At last, I would inform collectors that I have seen many lots of this Tu Duc copper coins both in Canton's flea market and in Shanghai coin market from 1994...

Message from Thuan Luc (17-Sep-2000):
          Tu Duc was the Emperor in VietNam from 1848 to 1883. In 1858, the French & Spain launched the first unsuccessful attack the port of DaNang then turned to South to capture SaiGon in 1859. Half of South Vietnam on the Eastern side was occupied in 1860. And Tu Duc signed the peace treaty, in 1862, to agree to pay the Spain 288000 taels of silver per year for the next 20 years. In 1867, the entire South VietNam became a French colony. From 1848 to 1861, the economy was not bad and Tu Duc just felt a little pressure from the lost of 3 Eastern provinces in South VietNam. In fact, the Emperor thought that he could convince the French to give back the captured territory. From 1862 to his last day, the Emperor felt the decline of his kingdom when the French began to dream about the Northern part of VietNam.

          For the first period 1848-1861, two types of copper coins were cast:

    • the large copper coin with its weight of 9 phan was equivalent to 3.3975 g and valued of 4 zinc coins,
    • the small copper coin with its weight of 6 phan was equivalent to 2.265 g and valued of 3 zinc coins. [1 phan = 0.3775 g is based on 72 phan = the Mexican 8-real].

          Even the last year of this period, in 1861, Tu Duc cast 6 types of the Tu Duc Bao Sao, the larger copper coins with the value of 10 Van thru 60 Van. The "VAN" was firstly used in the Vietnam monetary history. The Bao Sao with 10 Van weighted 15 phan = 5.6625 g and the 20 Van weighted 11.325 g. Based on the 9-phan coin, the value of 3.3975 gram of copper was 4 zinc coins, the BaoSao/10 Van should be equivalent to 6.666 Van, not 10 Van. This was a signal of the decline of economy.

          For the second period (1862 -1883), in 1870, Tu Duc recast the new type of BaoSao to reduce the weight of copper of the coin lower. And also, in 1872, the new type of small copper coin with 6 Van on the reverse side of the coin was circulated. Its weight was 7 phan (= 2.6415 g).

          In conclusion, the value of 1 Van equivalent to the weight of copper was changed dramatically:

    • 1848: 9 phan (3.3975 g) = 4 zinc coin = 4 Van => 0.849375 g of copper
    • 1861: 15 phan (5.6625 g) = 10 zinc coin = 10 Van => 0.56625 g
    • 1872: 7 phan (2.6425 g) = 6 zinc coin = 6 Van => 0.3904 g

          This coin of Tu Duc Trong Bao / An Nam Bat Van is weighted 7.9 gram, as 1 Van = 0.9875 gram of copper. And again, the character VAN was first used in 1861 in Vietnam. Which year does this coin fit into the TuDuc's monetary system? I would say this is a very nice fantasy coin.

          [ NOTE: Data are extracted from the history books "Dai Nam Hoi Dien Su Le" (Administrative statute of DaiNam) published by Thuan Hoa, VietNam 1993 and "Dai Nam Thuc Luc" (A veritable chronicle of DaiNam) published by Khoa Hoc Xa Hoi, Hanoi 1962, written by the Cabinet of Nguyen dynasty ].

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