Bonhams to offer an extremely rare 1906 20 Won gold Korean coin - one of only a few known

Korea Empire, Kuang Mu, 1897-1907, Gold 20 Won, Year 10 (1906) MS64 NGC
28.8 mm, 16.49 grams, Fr.1, KM-1131. Struck at the Osaka Mint in Japan, the obverse features a dragon curled within a beaded circle clutching the Pearl of Celestial Wisdom, the surrounding legend states the national name Dae Han, Regnal date, and denomination in the Korean phonetic alphabet. On the reverse, the vertically placed denomination is under a Korean plum flower crest within a rose and plum wreath.

The regnal name Kwang Mu, "Military Illustriousness," was assumed by King Kojong, in 1897 replacing the ephemeral name Kun Yang used in 1896-1897. The Emperor is remembered today with considerable affection for his lifelong struggle to preserve Korea's independence. His aggressive neighbors including China, Russia and Japan were locked with Korea in a complicated conflict. By 1905, Japan predominated, and the last Korean coins were similar in size and alloy to contemporary Japanese denominations, however, the Won coins show the dragon firmly grasping the Celestial Pearl in Japanese fashion, while Chinese dragons more modestly pursue the sacred symbol. The largest denomination gold coins of 20, 10 and 5 Won appeared just as Korea's independence was breathing its last breath. These were the only gold issues struck by Korea prior to annexation by Japan. The vast majority of each denomination was retained, in Korean banks as backing for gold notes, and nearly all of these reserve specimens were melted after Korea was annexed to Japan in 1910. A very tiny number escaped, thanks to determined numismatists such as H.A. Ramsden of the pioneer Japanese numismatic firm of Jun Kobayagawa, who rescued a handful of 5 Won pieces. Reportedly 2,506 examples of the 20 Won were struck in 1906, but the number now extant is minuscule with only a few pieces known in any grade.

The present piece, graded MS64 NGC, appears to rank among the highest of all surviving examples, richly lustrous with fully struck surfaces and devices. A light amount of natural golden-peach patina ensures originality. For pedigree purposes, a smattering of small contact marks are noted in the reverse field within the wreath.

Auction history finds two Extremely Fine examples offered in recent years; one in 1982 at the Mortimer Hammel Sale which brought $25,000; the other in the Stack's 1996 December Sale which realized $34,000. This specimen traces its lineage to the Lipno Collection (Henry Christensen), November 1961, lot 421; Louis Eliasberg Collection (ANR) April 2005, lot 2315; (Stack's) March 2006, lot 986; Vermuele, Ward, and Mexico Maxico Sale (Stack's) January 2010, lot 1575 where it sold for $155,250.

New York - The Coins, Medals and Banknotes Department at Bonhams is pleased to announce the sale of one of the finest known examples of the extremely rare (1906) Korea 20 Won gold coin on December 13 in New York. This specimen traces its lineage as follows: Lipno Collection, November 1961; Louis Eliasberg Collection, April 2005; a general coin auction, March 2006; and the Vermuele, Ward, and Mexico Maxico Sale, January 2010, as lot 1575 where it sold for $155,250.

The present piece, graded MS64 NGC, appears to rank among the highest of all surviving examples, richly lustrous with fully struck surfaces and devices. A light amount of natural, original golden-peach patina.

Gold coins of 20, 10 and 5 Won appeared just as Korea's independence was being extinguished. These were the only gold issues struck by the country prior to annexation. The vast majority of each denomination was retained as backing for gold notes, and nearly all of these reserve specimens were melted after Korea was annexed to Japan in 1910. A very tiny number escaped, thanks to determined numismatists such as H.A. Ramsden of the pioneer Japanese numismatic firm of Jun Kobayagawa, who rescued a handful of 5 Won pieces. Reportedly 2,506 of the 20 Won were struck in 1906, but the number now extant is minuscule with only a few pieces known in any grade.

Struck in Osaka, Japan, the obverse features a curled dragon depicted in a beaded circle which clutches the Pearl of Celestial Wisdom. The surrounding legend states the national name (Dae Han), Regnal date, and denomination in the Korean phonetic alphabet. On the reverse, the vertically placed denomination is under a Korean plum flower crest within a rose and plum wreath.

Auction history finds two Extremely Fine (circulated) examples have been offered in recent years; one in 1982 which brought $25,000 and the other in December 1996 which realised $34,000.

The illustrated auction catalogue for the December 2012 sale will be available online for review and purchase in the weeks preceding the sale at www.bonhams.com/us. For more information about the department, please visit www.bonhams.com/uscoins.

London Preview: September 28-29 at Coinex

New York Preview: December 11-13

Auction: December 13, New York


NOTES FOR EDITORS

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

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