VIETNAM, THIEU THANH NGUYEN BAO, 18th century, 1 cash


VIETNAM, unassigned. 1 cash, no date (18th century), Obverse: THIEU THANH NGUYEN BAO, running script but Li style THANH, claw feet BAO, Reverse: inner and outer rims, bronze, 23mm, 1.7g, H16.308, S591v, thin, oddly neat coin, ex-Fisher collection, F

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One of the vast series of imitative Vietnamese coins made by unknown manufacturers.

While in both China and Vietnam in the 18th and 19th centuries counterfeiting was a capital offense, in Vietnam there was toleration of the copying of Chinese types. In the rate times of peace Vietnamese would cross the border to spend their counterfeit coins in Guangdong, where they were accepted as metal. In times and places of war, well, whatever worked.

Vietnam has rarely been fully united as a country. Unlike the Koreans, who always formally accepted Chinese suzerainty, the Vietnamese never accepted that status. We could say that the country has been at war with China for the last 2000 years. Still, as we all know, a lot of Chinese cultural influence, including the way they structured their economy and the kinds of coins they made. My main reference for Vietnamese cast coins: The Historical Cash Coins of Viet Nam, by Allan Barker. Supplementary reference: A Working Aid for Collectors of Annamese Coins, by John A. Novak.

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.