I first started collecting Chinese coins almost as an exercise in the language, to force myself to practice recognizing characters and different styles of writing by identifying coins. However, I soon got interested in the history and decided to work on assembling a real collection.
The more stable periods of Chinese history had pretty regular coinage, and as a result collectors focus heavily on minor variations in the calligraphy of characters and style of the coins. These variations do typically reflect “real” differences in that they might be privy marks of different mints or they might be traced to different periods in a long-reigning emperor’s rule, but they are off-putting for a novice collector, so I decided to try to assemble a broad collection spanning many different rulers and dynasties. I especially like collecting coins from periods of relative turmoil, since the history is less certain and there is more opportunity for research and learning and discovery.
I especially like the warlord issues in the early Republican period, the elusive Mongol coins, rebel issues, Warring States coinage, and coins from periods of chaos like the Sixteen Kingdoms, North and South Dynasties, and Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. I have a lot of common Qing and Northern Song coins too, because that’s typically what you get in bulk lots, but I still haven’t identified all the ones I have!
Chinese coinage is my most active area of collecting and research right now. I hope to eventually publish articles about my research.