1870 Pattern Set from Japan Featured in SBG April 2021 Hong Kong Auction


The April Hong Kong auction being presented by legendary rare coin firm Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio features countless highlights from the Pinnacle Collection, with a majestic Year 3 (1870) Pattern Set from Japan standing as quite possibly the most impressive.

Pattern set from year 3 of the Meiji era (1870)
Pattern set from year 3 of the Meiji era (1870)

Containing eight denominations ranging from the gold 10 Yen all the way down to the copper-nickel 1/20 Yen, the quality of the set is exemplified by each piece’s Gem or Superb Gem designation as well as by the way the surfaces shimmer and glisten when rotated in the light.


This set’s history can be traced to an exciting period of change within Japan following the opening of the island nation to the West and the closing of the feudal period much glamorized through tales of the noble samurai and stealthy ninja. The Meiji Emperor revolutionized the country’s coinage system in 1869, replacing the old, ingot-and-plate-like denominations with more standardized, uniformly round decimal denominations. Prototypes were produced by Japan’s master engraver, Natsuo Kano, in conjunction with Tomoo Masuda, who worked on design, and Hyoka Ishii, who focused on calligraphy.

These designs were then sent to London where the nascent Japanese coinage could be taken to the next level. Engraver Leonard Charles Wyon, from the famous Wyon family of engravers, prepared dies for the new coinage. These dies, along with their subsequently produced patterns, arrived in Osaka in the spring of 1870. Some modifications were made to the reverse design as well as denominations represented, with the 20 Yen being added and the 2-1/2 being reduced to 2 Yen for the initial output. By the end of the year, a new era of coinage began at the Osaka Mint.

While it remains unclear how many patterns were produced by Wyon in London, it is certain that the numbers are incredibly low, with just two complete sets remaining extant. One is believed to have remained with the British Royal Mint, now located in the Welsh countryside in Llantrisant, and other is the set offered here from the Pinnacle Collection. A handful of singles and strikings in other metals appear in the British Museum and Bank of Japan Collection; in private hands, the Yen turns up from time to time, but appearances are rare.

The set offered in the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio April Hong Kong Auction provides a unique bidding opportunity and may be impossible for any collector to duplicate. As such, it represents one of the most desirable — if not the most desirable — items in Japan’s numismatic history, as not only is its rarity unsurpassed, but it is the patriarch of modern Japanese coinage and a symbol of the country’s progress. A true national treasure, its April 2021 offering may well represent the last appearance for many generations to come.

For more information on the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio April 2021 Hong Kong Auction or the Pinnacle Collection, visit the firm’s website at www.StacksBowers.com, call 800-458-4646, or email info@stacksbowers.com.

About Stack’s Bowers Galleries

Stack’s Bowers Galleries conducts live, Internet and specialized auctions of rare U.S. and world coins and currency and ancient coins, as well as direct sales through retail and wholesale channels. The company’s 85-year legacy includes the cataloging and sale of many of the most valuable United States coin and currency collections to ever cross an auction block — The D. Brent Pogue Collection, The John J. Ford, Jr. Collection, The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection, The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, The Joel R. Anderson Collection, The Norweb Collection, The Cardinal Collection and The Battle Born Collection — to name just a few.

World coin and currency collections include The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection of World Gold Coins, The Kroisos Collection, The Alicia and Sidney Belzberg Collection, The Wa She Wong Collection, The Guia Collection, The Thos. H. Law Collection, and The Robert O. Ebert Collection.

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