An unknown Cash piece
inscribed Gaoli yuanbao

Dr.Tjong D. Yih,
The Netherlands
January 31, 2002
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Weight 6.49 g, diameter 24 mm

      Recently, I retrieved a cash piece that had disappeared in my collection of cash coins. It has the legend Gaoli yuanbao . The metrics are as follows: weight: 6.49 g; diameter: 24 mm and thickness: 2.2 mm. It has a rather small square central hole (diameter: 3.9 mm). Peculiarly, the surface/thickness is a little bit concave i.e thicker near the square hole and thinner near the outer rim. It could not be found in the numismatic literature available to me, except for a reference to an old work (1773) Ku chin chien pu ('Old and new coins') by Coole (1967).

      The legend Kaoli might refer to the ancient Korean kingdom of Koryo that was established by Wanggon, the founder of the Wang dynasty. This kingdom lasted until 1392. Mandel (1972) gives a short overview of the Korean numismatic history. According to him Chinese cash coins circulated in Koryo as evidenced by the finds in old Koryo tombs of the early and middle period. Coins were firstly cast in Koryo around 996 AD. They had the legends Kon Won chung bo (Chinese: Qianyuan zhongbao). These were pieces copied from the Qianyuan zhongbao cash of the Tang dynasty. They had on the reverse the inscription Tong Guk (Chinese: Dong Guo) meaning "Eastern country". A few years later between 998 and 1009 cash were minted with the legends Kae Won tong bo (Chinese: Kaiyuan tongbao) without reverse inscription, thus imitating the famous Tang Kaiyuan coins. Mandel mentions also such coins with the legends in seal script. Thereafter in the period 1097-1105 cash was minted with the legends Tong Guk (Chinese: Dongguo) and Hae Dong (Chinese: Haidong) meaning "Eastern country" and "Eastern Sea", respectively.

      In view of its appearance I am tempted to consider the present piece as a fake. However, this suggests that somewhere genuine pieces exist that have been used as a model.

      The author looks forward with most interest to information on the presence of Gaoli pieces in Museum or private collections.

      Mandel, E.J. (1972) Cast coinage of Korea, Western Publishing Comp. Inc., Racine, Wisconsin, USA
      Coole, A.B. et al.(1967), Encyclopedia of Chinese Coins, Vol. 1 Bibliography of Far Eastern numismatology and a coin index, Denver, USA.

Chinese Coinage Web Site