Chinese sycee

    I have been offered a couple of old chinese "coins" and I have some questions.

    The coins:

  • China, 5 tael silver saddle sycee, ND, about 150 g
  • China, 10 tael drum shape silver sycee, ND, about 350 g
    The questions:

    Besides the rarity of these pieces (I have never seen one before), are these really rare? Are there known counterfeits? If the material is really silver, probably indicates that the pieces are authentic, but is there another way to check them. I know price depends on condition (it's difficult to tell on such pieces) and on scarcity, but is there a rough idea about pricing of these "coins"?
    Idea of when these coins were used? If I decide to buy them, I will try to scan them so we can all see the chinese characters on them. That way perhaps someone can identify the pieces better.

Stephen Tai
  1. Saddle sycee had been a typical silver currency circulated in Yunnan province of China, during 1884-1913. I have written a book regarding saddle sycee(in Chinese language i.e. Pai-Fang-Ding) in Taiwan in 1996, you may also find an English abstract of the book for more information.
  2. Drum shape sycee is one of the major silver ingots employed in many regions of Ching Dynasty (1644-1911), especially in Szechuan and Kueichow, those south-west provinces. Almost all of them are in 10 taels.
  3. Apart from the above two kinds, there are many more sycee in different standard of shape, purity and weight, such as shape of boat, square, bowel, kidney, 50, 10, 5, 4, 3, 1, 0.72...tale(s), severally used in different time and regions of China.
  4. If you can't read Chinese, an English book written by Joe Cribb, named "A Catalogue of Sycee in the British Museum", published in 1992, by British Museum Press, is recommended in helping you to get into the world of this Chinese historical currency.
  5. Mr. Belyaev is anticipated to provide some photos of Chinese sycee (the above two kinds will be included) from my book at this weekend, which you may refer to.
  6. Silver sycee had been a major currency in Chinese history, for period more than a thousand year. Silver is not only kind of precious metal in ancient China (as matter of fact, it had been much more valuable then than nowadays), but also taken as exchange media, e.g. Money. People then used cash coins for smaller transaction, sycee for bigger one. Therefor, sycee had been considered as the riches money, some of the poor had never seen sycee for once in their lives.
  7. Sycee are very scarce, if comparing with numismatic coins! because of they were hand-made, no two sycee are identical, most of the sycee circulated in the past had been melt to cast silver coins later on. I don't know whether the current market prices of sycee are reasonable or not, since there have been too few people know much about sycee, a real and reasonable sycee market, to my point of view, has not formed up yet. The order of current transaction, is in a mess, the price for a similar sycee may be quoted from 1 to 10 by different dealers.
  8. Although, pricing orders for sycee are in confusion, sycee is a respectively high price antique in any respect, there are many forgeries found in the market, collectors have to be careful and count on their own experiences for authentication, it's impossible for a collector to differentiate a genuine from a forgeries, or visa versa, if he has never seen the genuine for times. Besides, a broad knowledge base on Chinese history would also be a plus.
  9. Please note: Most of the forgeries are made of silver, as well, because the price of sycee generally is much higher than the cost of material, the content of sycee can not be taken as sole or major yet the least factor for authentication.
  10. It's hard to tell the normal prices for sycee, they have been fluctuated dramatically since two years ago, on the average the prices have been raised up for times. The classification of sycee will also be a problem, there are too many spices under a same kind, take saddle sycee for example, there are more than 12 spices, severally standing for casting in different time, places, and causes, the amounts of each spices left to today are also different, some are few, some are many, collectors may get one for US$120; in some case, they can't buy one, not even with US$2,000. It depends on what spices they are talking about? How much do they (buyer and seller) know about the sycee in the deal?

Any additional comments on that item would be appreciated.
You can sent it to Vladimir Belyaev .
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