Fake Sycee in Michael Mitchiner's Collection

Stephen Tai,
13 May, 1998
What is in Mitchiner's Collection?

       Eight (NoNo.4036-4043) of Michael Mitchiner's sycee collection, described in his notable book Oriental Currency and Their Value Volume II (1979), as listed below, could be fakes. There are 5 reasons for us to think so.
No Image Inscriptions Weight See More Often
4036. Made in Chekiang Province. Jeng Juang's Pure Silver. The 1st year of Tao Kuang 242 g
4037. Made in Chekiang Province. Kuang Hsu 230 g Same as above
4038. Made in Chekiang Province. 81 g Same as above
4039. Made in Anhuei Province. 162 g
4040. Made in Hupeh Province. 113 g
4041. Made in Yunnan Province. The 1st year of Tao Kuang 234 g
4042. The 1st year of Tao Kuang 136 g
4043. Kuang Hsu Yuanbao 156.5 g

1. Boat shape was not an uniformed sycee shape in every provinces of China.

The 8 Mitchiner's sycee are all in boat shape, and looked pretty much the same, one to another. Their inscriptions showing that they were made in 4 provinces, i.e. Chekiang, Anhuei, Hu-Peh, and Yunnan. A sycee expert may know that the 4 provinces were not unified the sycee they used into the same boat shape, on the contrast, their sycee were severally shaped according to their own regional customs.

2. Similar styles and writings of inscriptions

The style and writing of the inscriptions among the 8 sycee are also similar, too. The similarities have made us suspect that they were generated from a same producer, at a same time.

3. Made in "Province"?

Generally, the 8 boat sycee were excellent shaped, in a way that we almost have no choice but to consider them as ordinary boat sycee as we have seen. However, there still have problems with their inscriptions:

Most of the 8 sycee were simply inscribed with name of province, and/or reign year respectively representing the place and time they were cast. Sycee of the kind remarked with names of place and year, are most likely tax sycee. However, it is abnormal for a number of tax silver to use name of province instead of name of other inferior governments that generally adopted by then practice in making tax silver, such as Juo - District, Hsien - County and so forth. According to the tax-submitting system in Ching dynasty, local governments in the level of county or district were the line officials in collecting taxes from the payers, as a result, those tax silver were cast under their instructions.

In spite of local governments would eventually submit tax silver to provincial governments, and via them, all the way to the central government, however, provincial governments rarely had chances in collecting or making tax silver. Therefore people who made Mitchiner's sycee also had made a mistake in not knowing the historical system.

4. One identical chop was found on three of Mitchiner’s collection

The inscriptions of The 1st year of Tao Kuang found on No.4036, 4041, 4042, are generated from an identical chop.

No.4036 and No.4041, according to their inscriptions, should be severally made in Chekiang and Yunnan province. It is too strange for sycee of two distanced areas to be stamped on with an identical stamp.

5. One of the inscriptions was found used on a known fake sycee

Mitchiner's collection No.4036, one of its inscription of Jen Ju'ang Ju Yin (Jen Ju'ang's Pure Silver), also shown on a sycee which has been known as fake. (See: A Catalogue of Sycee in the British Museum, Plate 70, by Joe Cribb).

During 1970's, many sycee, including few genuine, and many modern fakes, replicas flooded into Hong Kong and Taiwan from Thailand. It could be the first time a collector may witness with his own eyes so many strange silver currency, before that time, most of the Chinese people can only imagine what sycee were looked like by hear-saying. The Late Chinese numismatic expert Chang Kang Sheng reported 20 years ago, some collectors encountering those sycee for the first time, rushed in buying them as many as they could, and asked Chang for authenticity. After reviewing them, Chang noted those sycee almost all bearing the inscriptions of 'Made in xxxx Province' are fakes. I think, the 8 sycee could be part of them.

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