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China 1927 Chang Tso Ling $50 Coin Realizes Over $5 Million


China (1927) $50 LM-1031, PCGS SP64. Courtesy of PCGS. Click image to enlarge.

What is now considered the king of the Republic of China coins, the pattern gold $50 featuring Chang Tso Lin, is now the most valuable Republic of China coin to cross the auction block fetching 34,500,000 RMB or the equivalent of $5,116,492 USD as lot 1800 in the Beijing ChengXuan Auction held on August 11, 2022.

Chang Tso Lin, an important historical figure in China, was once a great and powerful warlord in northern China who ruled an enormous area, including Manchuria, between 1916-1928. Born in 1875 and coming from poverty, Chang Tso Lin rose to power after joining the army to fight in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-98). During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 he and his men were employed as mercenaries. With the Revolution of 1911, they took control of Fengtien (Shenyang). By 1918 he was Inspector General of Fengtien, Heilongjiang and Kirin (Jilin) controlling the whole of Manchuria. In 1920, he participated in the ousting of Tuan Chi Jui a warlord of Beijing, and was rewarded with control of Inner Mongolia. After a defeat and reorganization of his army, opportunity struck in 1924 when fighting in Central China broke out. By 1925, his Fengtien Army controlled Chihli, Shandong, Jiangsu, and Anhui. In 1926, he was finally successful in capturing Beijing and proclaimed himself as Grand Marshal of the Republic. It would be a terrorist attack by the Japanese Army who, using a planted bomb, blew up his train while in transit to Shenyang, killing him.

While Chang Tso Lin was in control of Beijing between 1926 to 1928, the Tientsin Mint struck pattern coinage featuring his portrait. This coinage included four silver dollar designs and copper patterns for would-be gold issues of a $20, $40, and $50 coinage. A few gold examples of the $50 were struck and remained so elusive that even Chinese coin expert Eduard Kann failed to catalog the pieces. It is believed that as many as five examples may exist, with as few as two or three known. One of these very rare gold issues was finally offered for public auction on August 11, 2022, by Beijing ChengXuan Auction. The piece was certified PCGS SP64 with an estimated auction value of 3,800,000-5,800,000 (about $500,000 to 860,000 USD). The final selling price was 34,500,000 RMB, or the equivalent of $5,116,492 USD.

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