The following essay was last updated about 2002, before the appearance of David Hartill's Cast Chinese Coins in June, 2005. Hartill's work is now the single most useful Western-language book in the field, and will satisfy the needs of most collectors. I have not yet reviewed this work for accuracy in rarity & valuation. It is not a comprehensive numismatic or economic history; works such as Peng Xinwei's provide far greater depth. Finally, conservative series such as banliang, wuzhu, and kaiyuan are treated in greater depth elsewhere, such as the works of Roger Doo, and Qing varieties are more detailed in Burger, and in Hartill's own Qing Cash. I hope the essay below is still useful for those seeking secondary and specialized references.
There is no all-in-one collector-oriented reference for ancient Chinese coins similar to the Krause catalogs for modern world coins. You will probably need to buy separate works in each category in order to get historical and numismatic background information, a collector-oriented introductory work with photos, a reasonably comprehensive, illustrated catalog of types, with a numbering system, an attribution guide to help you with "raw" unattributed pieces, and finally, a price guide with market values. Following are just the main or most available works in each category with emphasis on English-language titles. There are many, many others. Rubbings are more typical (and useful) than photos in this field, and Chinese works usually do not have any English text or assign catalog numbers. Prices indicate the work is likely in stock.
If you're looking for just one book to use in collecting these coins, go with Schjoth for its standard numbering system, though Fisher's Ding plus Jen together give much better coverage.
1) Historical Background
Peng Xinwei (P'eng) Monetary History of China (English R) ±862p+122pl,sc,1994; The most important historical work on Chinese money covers Shang proto-monies through Ch'ing (except Ch'ing AV & paper). This 1965 work, now translated by Edward Kaplan, draws not only from earlier Chinese scholars, but Western works, gazetteers, diaries, archaeological reports, temple records, and works on economics and government administration. "(It) will become the single most important work on the subject in English....packed with new information and insights and a pleasure to read." (B. Smith). Though not a catalog, the 122 plates (not very clear) provide an in-depth survey of Chinese money. A scholarly work, not collector-oriented. Vol 1 = Early through Sung; Vol 2 = Liao through Ch'ing. $30 per volume, $50 for both.
2) Collector-oriented Introductory Works
Coole, Arthur B. Coins in China's History 187p, 9.5 x12",1965; A graphic overview of Chinese money from the cowrie through the Republic, loaded with photos, charts, and a 60-page dynastic/ historical chart. Four editions have different pagination. Out of print.
Qian Jiaju A History of Chinese Currency (16th Cent. BC - 20th Cent. AD) 220p, 7.5 x10", hc, 1983 PRC Beautiful color photos of knife, spade, cash (29p) sycee (1p.), machine-struck (20p), and plenty of paper money (Dynastic paper 9p, later paper 138p). Not a catalog, not comprehensive, but a great sampler/introduction to Chinese money. Chinese edition exists. English edition. 29.50
3) Catalog of types, reasonably comprehensive, with illustrations and numbering system
Schjoth, Frederick Chinese Currency: The Currency of the Far East 1976 London 88p+132pl, 8.5 x13.5 ", hc, 1929, various reprints Good historical information and comprehensive enough in listings to have become the Western standard for cast Chinese (1612 China listings). Sketchy on Chou and later Ch'ing. Decent coverage of Annam & Korea; some charms. Uses drawings, not rubbings: clearer, if less accurate. Most dealers use S numbers to list stock. Hancock 1965 revision has some useful additions, some useless or misleading; it's a wash. Hardcover reprints (London or Hancock) $65; photocopy reprint with plastic spine binding $27.50;
Fisher, George A., Jr. Fisher's Ding 266p(153sheets),8.5 x11,looseleaf,1940RR1990; The extremely useful 1940 Ting Fu-pao (Ding Fubao) Catalog (Li Dai Gu Qian Tu Shuo) is now even more accessible to non-Chinese readers. (A) has produced a good-quality photocopy version with selective Pin-yin translations and clarifying notes in the text, coin numbering, a reign-title index, Schjoth cross-ref chart with 1990 wholesale pricing, and more. Highly recommended. 28.50; in 3-ring binder 29.50
Op den Velde, W Cash Coin Index (China) Shaping up as the "ultimate" China cash catalogue with near-complete illustrated listings & concordance to major references, excellent historical & numismatic background, m aps, etc. 1995 (latest) version. Loose photocopies of unpublished Ms; the author seeks feedback. I Introduction: 3 finding lists (including the R.B. White), script styles, dynastic lists, notes on language, stroke counts & pronunciation, making. of cash illustrated, bibliography (150p) $9.50; II Early Round Coins (68p) $4.50; III T'ang & Five Dynasties (114p) $7.25; IV Sung Dynasties (144p) 9.00; V Liao-Western Hsia-Chin-Yuan Dynasties (120p) $7.50; VI Ming Dynasty (82p) $5.25; VII Ch'ing Dynasty 1616-1850 (122p) $7.75; VIII Ch'ing: Hsien Feng (132p) $8.25; IX Ch'ing 1861-1911, Rebels, Republic (102p) $6.50. Full set of all 9 chapters, in folders 52.50
Hua Guangpu, Ed. Zhong Guo GU Qian Mu Lu V1: Early to N. Sung (625p) V2: Sung to Ming (481p), V3: Ch'ing (730p) Each 5.5 x8, hc, 1998. All known types & varieties listed with rubbing, rarity scale, price in Yuan, but no catalog number. $20 each; $52.50 for set of three.
Jen, David Chinese Cash: Identification and Price Guide (Review) 352p, 8.5 x11, sc, 2000; Non-comprehensive type catalog with fair rubbings, cat #, x-ref to S and FD, values in 2 grades, some historical & numismatic info; sections on mother coins, callig. varieties, fakes. Some listings not in other catalogs. Fosters fuller appreciation of series among western collectors, but disappointing for lack of comprehensiveness and two-part listing/numbering system. $24
Thierry, Francois Monnaies chinoises: L'Antiquité pré-impériale (des origines á 221 av. J-C.) 368p+74pl, 21x30c, 1997, a catalog (538 pcs) & numismatic history of pre-round forms is said to be the most up-to-date Western work on the spade-knife series, with correct attributions. $70.00. A second volume covering round coins up to T'ang is in preparation.
Staack, Herbert Die Lochmünzen Chinas 424p, 8.5x12, sc, spiral, 1988 Catalog of cash derived from Ting and other standards, historical order, numbered, rubbing illustrated, no monetary history or prices. Many useful charts & tables. Bilingual. Overly-comprehensie; includes some fakes. $50
David Hartill, author of Qing Cash is working on what promises to be an intelligent, rubbing-illustrated typology with varieties well explained for the Western collector.
4) Attribution Guides
White, R.B. Comprehensive Finding List of Chinese Cash 618AD - 1912AD 48p, 8-1/2x11, sc, 1976 An easy to use list by reign titles for finding date, dynasty, and catalog number in Schjoth, Tsai, Ting Fu Pao, Coole, Lockhart. Much easier than paging through a catalog. 6.00 Mowery, Thomas (Northern Sung Coins) "Attribution by Schjoth number in a matter of seconds" 17p looseleaf Schjoth drawings arranged in categories on multi-colored sheets by position of character for easier identification, especially of worn or crusty pieces. 1.50
5) Price Guides
Semans, S. Composites: East Asian Cash Clips of offerings from all price lists & private offers 1977-date, including Dan Ching auction, sections on Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean cash also 4.00
Various: Fisher's Ding has a price listing, reflecting dealer-to-dealer China-market prices ca. 1986 when market was at its lowest, and the basic Ting Fu Pao work has prices in 1948 Chinese $ in the plates. The Hua catalogs are primarily pricing references, though I have not evaluated these yet to say whether they are accurate or consistent. Jen has pricing, enough of it accurate to hide the wild inaccuracy of the rest!
6) Inexpensive introductory catalogs (for the non-specialist)
Moore, Edward C. Introduction to the Cash Coins of China 12p,8.5 x11,sc,1996; Brief illustrated guide to the series using S or FD numbers to catalog major types. An inexpensive way to get your feet wet in this series. 3.00
Jorgensen, Holger Old Coins of China: A Guide to Their Identification 28p, sc Brief handbook with chronological listing of basic knife, spade & cash types, reduced drawings with text. First published 1944, various reprints exist. 2.75
Cresswell, Oliver D Chinese Cash 110p., sc,1971R1979 More comprehensive than Jorgensen, with reduced drawings for illustrations, catalog #'s, and background information. 6.00
Remmelts, A.A. Chinesische Käschmünzen 79p, sc, 1970? Similar to Cresswell but cleaner format and sharp drawings in text make it useful for identifications. No text. Prices, relatively accurate 8.00
7) Some other useful references
A.B. Coole's Encyclopedia of Chinese Coins contains illustrations of all specimens of knife, spade, and Chou round coins from all publications up to the 1960s & is thus of more use to an advance researcher than a collector (7 volumes, all out of print, around $50 each when found). The Shanghai Numismatic Society is publishing a series called Daxi or Shanghai Encyclopedia. These are immense 11x15" volumes of 600-1200+ pages with all the Shanghai Museum specimens, probably the most comprehensive series ever done. So far Vols. 1 (Knife & Spade), through Vol. 3 (Sui, Tang, Five Kingdoms, Ten Kingdoms) out of six covering cast coinages have been released ($150 upwards each). The classic "encyclopedia" of Chinese cash is Ting Fu Pao's 1938 Chinese-language Ku Ch'ien Ta Tzu Tien which presents opinions by previous writers on nearly all Chinese cash (Reprints $±100). Two out-of-print Japanese works covering all cash series comprehensively are Shintei Showa Senpu by Hirao Shusen and Toa Senshi by Okudairo Masahiro ($1000+ each). Illustrative Plates of Chinese Ancient Coins by Liu Jucheng is a useful work because it contains only verifiably-excavated coins, eliminating controversies about fantasies which plague other works ($40).
Good specialized references exist in English for the periods that are most poorly covered in Schjoth: Wang Yü Ch'üan¨s Early Chinese Coinage gives a good English summary of what was known about knife & spade monies as of 1951 with good plates ($32-45). Qing coinage is discussed and catalogued in good depth in Werner Burger's Ch'ing Cash Until 1735 (first four reigns) and David Hartill's Qing Cash ($52.50 & $135). There are a few works in Chinese specialized by dynasty, most notably Shincho Senpu (Ch'ing Cash) by S. Hanawa (out of print), and three works on Hsien-feng multiple cash. Several of the provincial numismatic societies in China have done slick, photo-illustrated catalogs that include early cash, but emphasize struck coinage and paper money. Important for the Sinkiang (Chinese Turkestan) cash series is Chen Hong Xi's (Price List of Sinkiang Red Cash Coins) (13.50). Many older collections are identified by J.S. Lockhart's catalogs of his own collection (in print) and the Glover collection (out of print), though they are generally less comprehensive than Schjoth or Fisher's Ding and contain many forgeries. The Daniel K.E. Ching Sale of Chinese Coins auctioned by Scott Semans, is useful for photos and market information but mainly for relatively up-to-date (1991) numismatic information difficult to find in English ($15). Calligraphy variations, in which date and mint information are hidden, are catalogued for the Sung Dynasty in Norman Gorny's series of booklets ($7.50-20), and for Qing in the Burger and Hartill works. For charms (amulets) there are a number of Chinese works illustrating many specimens but without any information (Yu Liuliang et al $35, etc.) and a few smaller works with some collector-oriented background material, but the only Western-language descriptive catalogs are Remmelts ($25) and Grundmann ($75), plus an introductory article by Joseph Cribb ($1.50). Sycee, silver cousins to cast cash, are catalogued and often well historied in at least six lavishly illustrated publications in Chinese, plus several smaller specialized works, but the Western standard is Joe Cribb's A Catalogue of Sycee in the British Museum ($175).