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PCGS Around the World: Hong Kong - A Rare Japanese Survivor


Japan Showa 13 (1938) 5 Sen in Nickel, PCGS MS65. Courtesy of PCGS. Click image to enlarge.

There are times during which circumstances turn what would otherwise be a common coin into a rarity. This is true of a Japanese Five Sen that, to the niche-uneducated, would appear to be a common coin. Yet, today the coin, which could have been a common circulation issue, is a rarity in Japanese numismatics.

In 1933, Japan adopted a new design for their circulationissue five sen coinage. Starting in Showa Year 8, these coins feature a Chrysanthemum fixed at the 12 o'clock position of the coin above the denomination Showa "5 SEN" and below an eagle with spread wings. The reverse contains lettering declaring "Great Japan" and the Year of the Showa. Made of nickel and having a center hole, these coins entered circulation in Japan in 1933 and continued until 1937, with over 140 million examples being produced and released into circulation.

In 1938, the minting of the circulation-issue five sen coins continued, with 10 million coins being struck. However, by this time, the military efforts of Japan had begun to require material resources, including metals such as nickel. Rather than releasing these 10 million coins into circulation, the order was given to melt the mintage and use the over 61,000 pounds of metal for the war effort. It was believed that no examples had been released of the Showa Year 13 Five Sen coins. However, a few were saved from the melting pot and found their way into coin collections. Today, it is estimated that possibly as few as four coins survive, with some estimating that it is more likely that 10 coins are out there. In 1938, a new five sen issue coin was struck in an aluminum-bronze composition to replace the nickel version, and that coin would be minted until 1940.

In a Hong Kong Express submission to PCGS, a surviving example of this coin was submitted for certification and grading. The piece is genuine, graded MS65, and is just one of three examples certified by PCGS. With a rarity like this, it is hard to establish a value, but another example surpassed $21,600 in auction in 2021 with a notable pedigree.