VIETNAM, unassigned, 1 van, no date (17th c.?), Obverse: TONG NGUYEN THONG BAO, Reverse: inner and outer rims, brass, 24mm, 3.21g, N116, aVF

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From the 17th to mid-19th century a lot of irregular coins were made by a lot of individuals and groups. There is no comprehensive catalog of the unassigned coins.

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, but these unassigned coins are not covered in that book.

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.