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Colonial-Era Chinese Coins and Other Cool Relics

Posted by on February 26, 2013
Chinese Coin

Chinese Coin

I’m lucky to live in a town that is rich in history, although most of the residents probably don’t know it. Its first European-bred settlers were the Dutch way back in the 1600s, and before that the area has Native American roots. While most of the homes standing were built in the 1900s, you can still find many from the mid-1800s. But older than that? I haven’t come across any yet… but the soil itself is where I hope to find puzzle pieces from the past!

It’s nice to have local spots where I can disappear to for an hour or two and then get back to family life. Pack up, go, detect, clear head, hope to find something good, clean up, go home. Sometimes it’s perfect. Leading up to the weekend, I had been fighting a cold, but I knew I’d have two hours free time to detect on Sunday, from about noon to 2pm at which time I’d have to leave, clean up, and head to my mom’s birthday party. I woke up to a bitter 29 degrees F and 30mph winds. I went outside with the dogs and said, “Grant, you have a sickness if you detect today.” Well, I’m sick – both in body and in head that day. I bundled up head to toe, and put on my new waterproof Helly Hansen rubberized pants for wind and wet protection.

I went a few blocks away to a vacant house where my step-father is the real estate agent and had gained me permission. I’ve been once before and found a beer token and gas valve in the front yard, but otherwise cleaned the property of a ton of buried garbage. This day I would target the side and back yards, which had basked in the sun all week long. Fearing frozen grounds, I discovered that the soil was ideal – it was soft and didn’t fall apart. On top of that, I didn’t feel any cold or wind. My new Helly Hansen pants proved their worth. I dare say I felt balmy as I was also covered in winter jacket, face mask, and winter hat.

Starting on the side yard, I just found aluminum shards as I walked back toward the brick wall. A bush marked my turnaround spot, and I quickly got a 12/29 and 12/30 on my Minelab CTX 3030. It would ring 12/29 on the left swing, 12/30 on the right. So I dug, and was lucky enough to only have to contend with one of the bush’s roots. I pinpointed and out came a washer… NO! I saw a square hole! Chinese coin? Yes, definitely looked like an old Chinese coin. I was very excited as I was certain it was my first Chinese coin find!

My first Chinese coin find

My first Chinese coin find

A few feet away I found more aluminum shards, a nickel, and then another Chinese coin!

My second Chinese coin find!

My second Chinese coin find!

I started to wonder about migrant Chinese railroad workers and maybe this meant something to my town’s history that I didn’t know about. But then again, we’re not on the west coast which is where the Chinese railroad workers showed their prowess. I’ll have to do some research and see what I come up with. I wound up finding another Chinese coin before I set my sights on the back yard.

In the backyard, my first pass took me along the back of the house and I worked my way all the way up to the end when I got a good signal. I popped the plug out and a GIANT coin stared me in the face, and I could clearly see a left-facing bust. George!! I gasped and fell back, knowing that what looked back at me was a King George coin. But which one, and how old? I grabbed it and poured the rest of my bottled water over it to see it clearly, being careful not to scratch the surface. As the water washed the mud away, it revealed “1916” … I had found a 1916 King George V penny. Another first for me!

1916 King George V penny

1916 King George V penny

I still couldn’t get over the size of it. My alarm set for 2pm, I had 15 minutes left to detect before I had to pack up. Just enough time to finish off the yard. Before I got too far, I got a really messy hit… sounds and numbers jumped all around. Well, why not dig, right? I dug a shallow hole and out popped two more Chinese coins, right on top of each other! My Pro Pointer was lighting up. Another Chinese coin! And another! Then a few nails, and then another coin! My first coin spill! I also retrieved a few small bullet shells from the same hole (I think 22 gauge), which gave me a creepy feeling that perhaps there was a scuffle that led to the spill. My alarm started to sound. Crap! I have to go. Ug, still more to unearth from this hole! I managed to retrieve 12 more Chinese coins (15 total for the day) before I had to pack it up. My mother’s birthday party beckoned.

Group of Chinese Coins

Group of Chinese Coins

The birthday party was very nice. My sister-in-law made a delicious meal, and it was the first time my daughter was able to celebrate her Grammy’s birthday.

A few days later I had an hour to spare, so I went back to retrieve the rest of the Chinese coins, as I was certain there were more. I was able to retrieve just one more, but was happy knowing I didn’t leave any behind. And now, here’s the really cool part! Of all the 16 coins, I have found four varieties. Three have been identified by a very helpful forum member from … thanks hikeinmts!!!!

Here is the email transcript of his ID, based on this photo:

3 variations of Chinese coins

3 variations of Chinese coins

Reading your pics, left to right.

1st coin – 1821-1850. Dao Guang Tong Bao. Minted by Board of Public Works. (Chinese Cash, by Hartill – 22.590 – 22.598) (These numbers are numbers set up by Hartill when he did his work on Chinese Cash Coins.) All of this type of coin are common. All under $5.00.

2nd coin – 1731 – 1795. Qian Long Tong Bao. Minted by Board of Public Works. Hartill – TYPE D – (You can tell this, as the right character of the coin has a slanting base.) Probably 22.208, which gives you a date of 1761-1767. All of this type of coin are common. All under $2.00.

3rd coin – 1731 – 1795. Qian Long Tong Bao. Minted by Board of Revenue. Hartill – H-1, because the inside dots of the “tong” character are verticle lines, not dots. (Also, for your ref……in the picture, the coin is upside down.) And, on the H.1 series, probably 22.234. I wish I could take a look at the coin, in my hand. This one is a little different, for several reasons….it just looks different from the normal that I have seen.) All of this type are common, too. $2.00 and under.

None of the coins that you show have a large outer rim. If any that you found have a larger than normal outer rim, then they would be a more special coin.

How many coins did you find in the cache of Chinese coins? You might try to line them up, making sure that they are all rightside up, and then look for ones that just “look different.” Maybe you won’t be able to explain the differences, but they just don’t look the same as the rest of the coins. On the back of the coin is the mintmark. Set them up according to mintmark. The line that is like writing, not printing….that line is always on the left. And it will be the same for all the coins. Then the character on the right determines the mint. Once you have them according to mint, then just turn them over. Not up and over. Just, over. Then you are looking at the top, bottom, right, and left……that is NORMALLY how the characters are arranged, although a few of the Chinese coins do have the characters top, right, bottom, left. That would make a difference in price, too.

In addition to the Chinese coins and King George V coin, I found some other notable relics, properly identified by’s toy guru Subterranean:

Tommy Toy Train

Tommy Toy #TTV20 "Oil" Tanker "Cap (capacity) 80000, (like Metal Cast tanker, which has a different capacity number) 1930's, attaches to Tommy Toy Towing Car Coupe

Barclay #BV30 1934 Coupe

Barclay #BV30 1934 Coupe

Homemade Rev  War Soldier

Homemade Rev.(?) War soldier, from a kit sold at hardware and toy stores in the early 1900's. The slag still attached suggests it was incomplete or broken after it was made and thrown away. No company that made lead soldiers would let an unfinished figure leave the factory (on purpose.)

Final cool tidbit… I saw a neighbor outside gathering all his garbage that was blowing around. I chitchatted with him a bit and he told me when he bought his house that he found a lot of railroad relics. He went inside, and returned with one for me! A vintage railroad insulator. Another first! I have to return and leave him a thank you note. It’ll have a nice spot when I finally build my – what is certain to be huge – display case!

Vintage Railroad Insulator

Vintage Railroad Insulator

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2 Responses to Colonial-Era Chinese Coins and Other Cool Relics

  1. Lawrence Cissna

    I really like your finds. I found a chinese coin today with a square hole. I do a lot of civil war finds. I,am 73 years old and been digging for about 20 years. Last year I found quit a few texas buttons and one republic of texas artery button, boy what a find
    their so rare. I,am slowing down . I can can only hunt for about 10 hrs. a day with a lunch. Well you have neat stuff.
    Lawrence cissna Alis Duwat

    • Grant Hansen

      Lawrence, let me first apologize for taking so long to reply. I wasn’t getting all of my notifications! Thanks for your comment. 10 hours a day? I’d say you haven’t slowed down one bit! Amazing!!

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