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China was among the first countries in the world to use money as documented by historical records and actual artifacts dating back 4,000 years.By the time of the Shang Dynasty (16th ~ 11th century BC), sea shells (cowrie) were already circulating as a major form of currency.The obverse side at the far left has the archaic Chinese character (蔺).The reverse side of the spade coin is shown at the near left and appears to be inscribed with a number(s).Please see "Three Hole Spades" and "Rare 'Three Hole Spade' Sold at Auction" for a detailed discussion of "the king of ancient coins".Displayed below is an example of knife money from the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) of the Zhou Dynasty.Because conditions for transportation and trade were very primitive at the time, cowrie shells became more and more valuable the further inland they were carried.

Even so, there are records indicating that real cowrie shells continued to be used as money even as late as the Yuan (1271-1368 AD) and Ming Dynasties (1368-1644 AD) in parts of Yunnan Province.(君) means a "chief","sovereign" or "ruler" but it is unclear what this character may have signified during the period in history when this form of money circulated.This specimen has a length of 18 mm, a width of 10.5 mm and a weight of 1.7 grams.The spade coin at the left has an inscription which is believed to be This is an example of a flat handled spade money from the Zhou Dynasty.The characteristic of this type of spade money is that it has a round handle, round shoulders and round feet.

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