One of the few coins in my collection I am very certain of is this fine example of a 10 cash chong ning zhong bao (崇宁重宝) minted during the Northern Song Dynasty during the reign of Emperor Hui Zong (1101-1125). This coin was minted sometime between 1102-1106 AD and are plentiful and exist in many varieties. Nevertheless, the coins cast during Emperor Hui Zong's reign are considered among the very best produced during the Song Dynasty in terms of their quality, artistic essence and calligraphy.
Emperor Hui Zong was an impressive artist and calligrapher but not a very good administrator. His decisions resulted in the downfall of the Northern Song through defeat by the Jin. His calligraphy is quite distinctive and is known as "slender gold" script (shou jin shu 瘦金书) because the characters resemble twisted gold filaments. However, the coin pictured above is written in the Li script. This is actually a very common coin and beautiful specimens can be purchased for a very low price.
Unfortunately, these "10 cash" coins were not worth their stated value. There is a humorous story dating from this period that illustrates the hardship caused by the lack of 1 cash coins. The story relates that a patron bought a bowl of soup and paid for it with a "10 cash" coin. The soup seller did not have any small change and so encouraged the customer to eat more and more soup. The customer continued to eat but finally sighed and said, "It is fortunate that my coin is only a “10 cash.” If it had been a “100 cash” it would have killed me!"
These 10 cash coins were so overvalued that they were eventually devalued until they were worth the equivalent of 3 cash coins.
As a writer of fantasy, I enjoy holding coins like this allowing my mind to wander over the years and ponder the people who have held this coin, the lives that they led, the untold stories that now moulder in unmarked graves.
In a separate conversation, I was discussing my love for ancient Chinese coins and one commentator remarked, "Geekery is geekery no matter what the flavor is." My response:
And the flavor of mine is the romance of ancient bronze. When I hold one of these ancient coins and ponder the hands that have held them and the history they have passed through, I would offer years of my life for the gift of psychometry.