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Extremely Rare First Opium War Medal
Gold Extracted from Silver Sycees

CNG 103, Lot: 1252. Estimate $2000.
Sold for $6000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

HANOVER. temp. Victoria. 1837-1901. AV Medal (16mm, 1.55 g, 12h). Gold Extracted from Silver Captured in the First Opium War. London mint. Dually dated 1829 and March 1842. THIS GOLD/ DISCOVERED IN/ SYCEE SILVER/ THE PRIZE OF BRITISH/ ARMS IN CHINA/ WAS EXTRACTED/ AT H.M. MINT/ MARCH/ 1842 in nine lines / THE R.T HON/ W. GLADSTONE/ MASTER/ BY A PROCESS FIRST/ APPLIED TO THE PUBLIC/ SERVICE AND TO THE/ BENEFIT OF BRITISH/ COMMERCE UNDER/ THE R.T HON./ J.C. HERRIES/ 1829 in . BHM 2070; Eimer –. EF. Extremely rare.

Ex Dr. Lawrence A. Adams Collection (Classical Numismatic Group 100, 7 October 2015), lot 1176 (hammer $6500, but not paid); Classical Numismatic Group Inventory 405924 (January 2015).

The China trade was initially a remarkably one-sided affair, with a staggering demand for Chinese goods in the west, but scant need for western goods in China. But in the early 19th century, the British finally found a popular commodity and began to trade Indian opium to the Chinese in exchange for silver. This caused a reversal in flow of specie: where once New World and European silver flowed into China to pay for tea and porcelain, filling the Qing coffers, Chinese silver now flowed west to pay for addictive opium. With the drug not only weakening the minds of the populace, but also the treasury of the state, China banned the trade in opium in 1839, ordering all stocks seized.

British merchants found the prohibition of such a popular trade good unacceptable and the situation soon escalated to war. Unfortunately for the Chinese, the Royal navy’s steamships and modern rifles soundly defeated the antiquated Qing forces. The war ended in 1842, beginning what is known as the “Century of Humiliation” for the Chinese. The Treaty of Nanking forced them to cede to the British the city of Hong Kong, as well as pay an indemnity of 21 million dollars in silver. So much silver was paid to the British that, when it was melted down at the Royal mint, enough gold was extracted to permit the striking of a series of small medals.