If you want to be on the cutting edge of numismatics (the collection and study of coins), Chinese coins is the place to be. There is a lot of excitement in numismatic circles over Chinese coins. But the subject is fraught with troubles, especially counterfeits.
Requester Tom uses one of the good references on Chinese coins, the Standard Catalog of World Coins. There are also some good web sites on the subject, notably Calgary Coin, Zeno.ru, Primal Trek, and SportsTune.
Prices of Chinese coins, as long as they are not counterfeits, are rising. But prices of Chinese coins are also very scattered and volatile. If you know what you are doing, you can find some real bargains. Conversely, if you do not know what you are doing, you can spend ten times what the coin is worth. Careful study is the answer.
Tom's coin is a large 1000 cash (also called 1000 wen) coin from Kansu (also called Gansu) Province in northern China. It comes from the reign of Emperor Hsien Feng (also called Xianfeng), ninth emperor of the Qing dynasty (also called the Ching or Manchu dynasty). In addition to counterfeits, terminology is a problem in Chinese numismatics. A single, consistent method of describing coins has not yet emerged.
Our estimates of catalog values appear below. To get an idea of scatter and volatility in prices, compare the coin in our main image (upper left) with the one in our secondary image (smaller, right, with shadows). The coin in the main picture has a good deal of wear but nice looks. It comes from Stack's Bowers and Ponterio where it sold in a 2015 auction for $725 US dollars. The coin in the secondary picture has more wear and does not look as nice. It sold for $33 in a 2015 eBay auction. The 20 to 1 ratio between these prices cannot be explained by wear and eye appeal alone. Some of it is due, no doubt, to the quality of the Stack's auction relative to eBay. A large part is due to random scatter and volatility. But the eBay coin is probably a counterfeit. Further research must be done to verify this.
With all the caveats mentioned in the paragraphs above, here are CoinQuest's estimates of catalog value:
1000 CASH KANSU PROVINCE:
worn: $150 US dollars approximate catalog value
average circulated: $750
well preserved: $1500
Further information, and another price point, appears below. The image shows some salient features of Hsien Feng 1000 cash coins. The bottom image is a close-up of the Stack's coin ($725). The upper image comes from iNumis in Paris. The iNumis coin is in very nice condition and it sold for 1200 euros, about $1300 USD, during a 2013 auction.