Unknown cash coin

Vladimir Belyaev
June 15, 1999
Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Obverse:
be great, Buddha law, model Buddhist priest [Wei] Treasure Fo Fu Seng Bao

Reverse: plain

Diameter: 31.7 mm
Thickness: 3.2 mm
Weight: 14.9 g

Fo - Buddha; be great
Fu - law, model
Seng - Buddhist priest [Wei]
Pao - Treasure
Legend can be translated as Buddha's power; priest's treasure

Style of this nice coin seems to be Chinese.
Possibly, it is some sort of the fantasy coin with unknown background.
Thanks to Stephen Tai for Chinese translation.

Message from Gilbert Tan (18-Jun-99):
          The coin is probably an old Chinese fantasy made to fill the gap for the absence of a normal script coin of the same Chinese characters. Or it could be a flower cash issued for purposes of Buddhism as the characters seem to portray.

Message from Francois Thierry (18-Jun-99):
          This coin is probably a fantasy made in a mold take from a early Ming coin (see the very thin outer rim and the script of character bao) in wich three new characters have been engraved; but the revers is very different with a large outer rim and come probably from a Qing charm or coin.
Any additional information highly appreciated.
Also known Vietnamese coin with the same legend, but with seal style inscription:
Obverse: Vietnamese Phat Phap Tang Bao

Diameter: 24.6 mm
Weight: 3.0 g

This coin shown in the Ding Fu Pao in the Vietnam section as N2927:
Cast by Emperor Chen Gao in the reign year of Tien-Ying .
Inscriptions, in seal scripts, positioned and read cross-wise, reverse uninscribed

Message from Thuan Luc (16-Jun-99):
          The characters in Vietnamese are Phat Phap Tang Bao. Phat = Buddha. Phap = Buddha's teaching (book, praying book, speech that Buddha told his disciplines). Tang = Monk. Bao = money. Phat Phap Tang are the top three precious things in Buddhism.
          What is the origination of this coin? The Vietnam history book recited about Tran Cao's revolution in the 16th century as follow.
          In 1516, when King Le Tuong Duc built his expensive palaces and mobilized thousands people, revolts flared up throughout the country. Tran Cao (Ding Fu Pao wrote Chen Gao) who claimed to be a descendant of Tran with his son and a Cham seized part of the province of Hai Duong. Tran wore black uniform and proclaimed himself the Living Buddha with the reign title of Thien Ung. To obtain invicibility, his troops also had black uniform and supertitious peasants believed and joined Tran.
    Vietnam was in chaos at that time. General Trinh murdered the King Tuong Duc and enthrone another royal relative. Rumor about King Tuong Duc was killed, General Nguyen attacked the Capital. General Trinh brought the new King to flee to the West capital. The Capital was deserted, Tran Cao took the chance to occupy the capital, proclaimed himself King. Even Tran occupied the capital for 12 days, before he was kicked out by both general Trinh and Nguyen's counter-attack, he still cast the Thien Ung thong bao . Do not confuse with the Emperial reign title Thien Ung Chinh Binh, 1232-1250 a.d., in Tran dynasty, during which had cast coin Chinh Binh thong bao , also very rare.
          After a few more battles with the King's army, Tran Cao retreated to the province of lang Nguyen. Tran gave the throne to his son and saved his head to become a monk to hide himself.
          Tran Cao's son proclaimed himself King with the reign title of Tuyen Hoa and cast Tuyen Hoa Huu Bao (do not mistake with the Nothern Song dynasty Chinese coin Xuan He Tong Bao ). Tuyen Hoa Huu Bao and Thien Ung thong bao are very expensive coins. Phat Phap Tang Bao is less valuable. Because Tran Cao proclaimed himseld the Living Buddha and became a monk later, collectors made assumption that Tran Cao cast Phat Phap Tang Bao.
          There is also a big version of Phat Phap Tang Bao in orthodox style recently appeared, while the small cast coin version already mentioned in Miura Gosen's book as unidentified Annam coin. Perhaps the coin name PHAT PHAP TANG is a sacred name, so people cast it as "good luck" coin?

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