Collector: Justus Doolittle (1824-1880)

Rev. Justus Doolittle (1824-1880), American Board missionary in China, is well-known for his publications, including

  • Social Life of the Chinese, with some accounts of their religious, governmental, educational and business customs and opinions, with special but not exclusive reference to Fuhchau [Fuzhou] (1865)
  • Social Life of the Chinese: a daguerrotype of daily life in China (1868)
  • A Vocabulary and Hand-book of the Chinese Language (1872).

He was also a collector of Chinese coins. Note the spade-money issued by Wang Mang on the spines of these books!

borg books

Social Life of the Chinese: Religious, Governmental, Educational, and Business Customs and Opinions – by Justus Doolittle (New York, 1865) – first edition (image source: Borg Antiquarian)

And the “facsimile of a Hong Kong cent” on the frontispiece of this book! There are numerous illustrations of coins in Chapter XXIII on Business Customs:

doolitlle image

Social Life of the Chinese: a daguerrotype of daily life in China – by Justus Doolittle (London, 1868) (Source:

In A Vocabulary and Hand-book of the Chinese Language, he includes among his sources Hillier’s Translation of the Chronicles of Cash (preface, p.3):

doolitlle vocab

A Vocabulary and Handbook of the Chinese Language – by Justus Doolittle (London, 1872) (source:

Doolittle died on 15 June 1880. His collection of Chinese coins was sold a year later by Messrs Bangs & Co., 739 and 741 Broadway, New York City, in June 1881, and a printed catalogue was prepared: Catalogue of American and foreign coins and medals, the collection of O.A. Jenison, of Lansing, Mich. Also, the collection of Chinese coins formed by Rev. Justus Doolittle, of China. Together with a fine and large collection of Union envelopes, the property of a lady of Boston. And a collection of old coin sale catalogues. to be sold by auction, by Messrs. Bangs & Co. … on Wednesday and Thursday, June 22, 23, 1881. A digital version of the Catalogue is available here:

[pp.44-47] Coins of China. Collected and classified by Rev. Justus Doolittle, an eminent Chinese scholar and numismatist: arranged in cards 5½ x 8 in. The references by numbers in red on the cards are to a translation of a Chinese work on Coins, “Chronicles of Cash: a New Arrangement” (See below, No. 1226a) references in black are to R. Wylie’s [sic] work, “Chinese Coins of the Ta-ts’ing Dynasty” (see below No. 1226b). Like most Chinese Coins, they are nearly all in a sort of bronze, varying in composition at different periods; they are generally carefully selected specimens, and it is said that many of the earlier ones are extremely rare. [nos 1182 – 1226b]

1226a   Brief notice of the Chinese work: “Chronicles of Tsien”: a new arrangement by C.B. Hillier; many hundreds of illustrations of Chinese coins from 2356 B.C. to 1623 A.D.; 8˚, paper. Hong Kong, 1852.

1226b   Chinese Coins of the Ta-Ts’ing, or present dynasty of China, by A. Wylie, with author’s autograph; hundreds of engravings; 8˚, paper. Hong Kong, 1857.


Doolittle’s grave in Sunset Hill Cemetery, Clinton, Oneida County, New York, USA (Source:

The Diary of Justus B. Doolittle, covering his life as a foreign missionary in Foochow [Fuzhou], China, until 1873 is in the Hamilton College collection (Clinton, NY), and a digital version is available here. A family photo is included at the end of the digital version – but there is something amiss here: the handwritten comments appear to be in three different hands, and the main caption has been questioned (with question marks in pencil).

justus doolittle photo

The caption appears to read “Rev [Justus B. Doolittle] from daguerrotype taken 1860 ??” (Source: Hamilton College Library – Digital Collections)

According to WU Xiaoxin’s Christianity in ChinaA Scholars’ Guide to Resources in the Libraries and Archives of the United States (Routledge, 2017, p.244) the diaries cover the period from c.1750 to 1783.

Taiwan’s Tokens

YUAN Mingda 袁明達:  《臺灣的代用幣 / Taiwan’s tokens 》 , published by the author, Taipei, 2016. ISBN 978-986-94062- 0-8. Soft cover, 207 pages, colour photographs. Price : 600NTD.

taiwan tokens

I haven’t seen this book, but it was featured in E-Sylum vol. 20, no. 31, July 30, 2017. I’m copying part of the review from E-Sylum below (which is, itself, an excerpt from a review by James Contursi, published in the July/August 2017 issue of the TAMS Journal, the official publication of the Token and Medal Society):

This book publishes the token collection that Yuan has dedicated more than twenty years to build, and it provides the distilled research findings that he has managed to ferret out from various corners during the same time frame. Paging through this volume is equivalent to taking a voyage through the erstwhile uncharted waters of Taiwan tokens, and with Yuan at the helm, a uniquely informative journey ensues.

Yuan archives nearly 700 Taiwan tokens – metal, plastic and paper – in a quarto-sized tome, printed on glossy paper, and divided into nine main headings. I list these because their format and composition may vary from the chapter titles usually encountered in the west. They include: 1) United States military; 2) the public sector, comprised of public park, telephone, transportation and government-issued tokens; 3) children’s playgrounds; 4) department stores; 5) zoos; 6) amusement parks; 7) hotels; 8) industrial enterprises, which encompasses banking, cruise ship, bowling alley, golf and batting range, and restaurant tokens; and 9) early video arcade tokens. These are followed by three pages of early Republic tokens, with an emphasis on Shanghai; seven pages of miscellaneous world tokens; and four pages of Taiwanese paper tokens.

East Asian Coins in North America

Asian Coins in North America is the title of Chapter 4 in Numismatic Archaeology of North America – A Field Guide, by Marjorie H. Akin, James C. Bard, and Kevin Akin (New York: Routledge, 2016). ISBN 978-1-61132-920-9 paperback (also available in hardback and ebook).


The book contains a lot of interesting information about East Asian coins found in North America, largely thanks to Marjorie H. Akin.

“Marjorie H. Akin has spent most of her life in California where she completed her education (PhD, University of Riverside, 1996), married, and raised four children. Her area of specialization within the field of historic archaeology is numismatics, and included among her publications are contributions to Roberta Greenwood’s Down by the Station: Los Angeles Chinatown 1890-1933, Julia Costello’s The Luck of Third Street, and many articles and reports about Asian coins recovered in North America. Her publications in other fields include the seminal essay “Passionate Possession: The Formation of Private Collections” (Smithsonian, 1992), which examined the world of collectors and the often-fractious relationship between archaeologists and collectors. She has been active in the Riverside “Save Our Chinatown Committee” to protect the archaeological remains of Riverside’s Chinatown from development (see” (from about the authors, on p.290)

East Asian coins are mentioned throughout the book, but, the authors write, “Chinese coins and similar Asian coins were never used as circulating currency anywhere in North America, so they have been separated from the other coins that are discussed in this book.” (p.65).

The structure of Chapter 4: Asian Coins in North America (pp.65-81)

  • Why are Asian coins found in North America?
    • Why wen and dong could not have circulated as money
  • The types of Asian coins used in North America
    • Chinese coins
      • Qing period currency systems (1644-1911)
      • Description of wen
      • Avoiding confusion
      • Counterfeits, replicas and forgeries
      • Inscriptions
      • Qing reign names
      • Qing mints
      • Hong Kong mil or wen
    • Vietnamese coins
      • Description
      • Some Vietnamese reign names
    • Japanese mon (1626-1870)
      • Japanese coins exported to China and beyond
    • Korean mon (1678-1888)
  • The Noncurrency uses of Asian coins in North America
    • Fur trade and Native American uses
    • The uses of wen and other Asian coins by the overseas Chinese
    • Talismans
    • Funerary
    • Games and gambling
    • Decoration
    • Medical
    • Hardware

“This book is primarily intended to help archaeologists and historians, as well as people working in the fields of material culture and museum studies, understand just how much information can be gleaned from the complex objects that are collectively referred to as numismatic artifacts. Because they are so complex, combining the economic, political, and aesthetic values of their temporal context, it is not surprising that any archaeologist working with recovered items would need numismatic resources to help understand their significance. New archaeological methods of analysis and what they can reveal will be of interest to more experienced numismatists who want to deepen their understanding and appreciation of numismatic materials and who wish to learn about the relationship between numismatics and archaeology.” (Ch.1, p.19)

Charles Batten Hillier (1820-1856)

A few years ago, Andrew Hillier visited the Department of Coins and Medals, British Museum, in search of information about his great-great-grandfather, C.B. Hillier, who had published two pieces on Chinese numismatics in the Transactions of the China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in the 1840s and 1850s. Since then, Dr Hillier has completed a PhD on the Hillier family in China and Hong Kong. Now a Research Associate at the University of Bristol, he kindly agreed to write this guest-post, putting C.B. Hillier’s work into a broader context. (more…)

Money in Ancient China: People and their Everyday Life around Money

Money in Ancient China: People and their Everyday Life around Money, by KAKINUMA Yōhei (Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 2015, ISBN 978-4642057950)  —  thanks to Wen-yi Huang for highlighting this book on her EarlyChinaSinology blog. The book is in Japanese, and I’ve tried to put the abstract and contents into English below. (My Japanese isn’t very good, and if you spot any errors, please let me know so I can correct them.) (more…)

Supermarket of the Dead 冥間超市

“Supermarket of the Dead. Burnt offerings in China and the Cult of Globalised Consumption”  – an exhibition by Wolfgang Scheppe with the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Dresden State Art Collections) in the Northwing, Reception Floor of the Residenzschloss (Royal Palace), 14 March to 14 June 2015.  (more…)