CHINA, WESTERN HAN Dynasty, 206 BC – 7 AD, cash, no date (200-180 BC), Obverse: BAN LIANG, Reverse: blank, bronze, 13mm, 1.25g, elm seed, H7.10, the sprue at the bottom of the picture is partly but not completely detached, VG

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In David Hartill’s Chinese Cast Coins he states that the start of the Western Han Dynasty was chaotic and that people were allowed to cast their own coins. Some of those legal private coins were very small and are called by Chinese coin collectors “yu jia,” meaning elm seeds.

The Ban Liang coins, originally half of a Chinese ounce, shrank and grew through several centuries before being replaced by the Wu Zhu.

At the end Zhou period Qin state became dominant. Qin Shi Huangdi became first Emperor of united China. The Han Dynasty followed, China grew prosperous. A minister, Wang Mang, usurped the throne 7-25 AD. His administrative experimentation brought famine and war. Han returned. The political situation deteriorated until China broke up into independent regions.

The oldest Chinese coins are at least as old as the earliest Greek coins. The Chinese coinage system differed from other systems in two ways. It was monometallic, only bronze coins circulated in general commerce. Gold and silver were treated as commodities. And the manufacturing method was by casting in moulds rather than by striking heated solid planchets. The main reference I use in attributing and describing these coins is the book: Chinese Cast Coins, by David Hartill.