KOREA, 1 mun, no date (1423 AD), Obverse: CHOSON TONG BO, bronze, 23mm, 4.01g, M10.3, F

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The Choson Dynasty was inaugurated in 1392 and lasted until 1897. They made Choson Tong Bo coins for a number of decades, until copper became scarce. The government decided to hold the value of the coins static so they became more valuable hoarded or melted. They were replaced in 1464 with arrowhead coins, which nobody liked, and only two specimens are known at the time of writing.

Early Korean coinage grew out of their observation of Chinese coinage. Both the Korean and the Chinese governments thought of Korea as a vassal state. When the Korean kingdom was organized they consciously and deliberately copied Chinese methods in everything they could think of to do in the way of deliberate culture. The first coin actually had the same year title as the contemporary Chinese coin, with a character designating Korea on the reverse, as if Korea was a province rather than a kingdom. The later Korean cast coinage is notable for a vast proliferation of reverse inscriptions, comprising thousands of varieties. My main reference is the book: Cast Korean Coins and Charms, by Wybrand Op Den Velde and David Hartill.

China calls itself “Central Country.” That is in reference to the vast Asian hinterland that is not China, and to the island peoples out in the Pacific Ocean. Because China tended to do organizational things earliest in that part of the world, the outsiders would notice and adopt useful practices that they observed. Among those borrowed cultural practices was the adoption of the money economy to replace direct barter, or to replace less convenient shapes of metal, rings and tools and jewelry bits. The Chinese style of market money being square holed cast bronze coins, that became the form of the coins made in Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the islands out to Java, into Siberia and as far west as Kazakhstan.