Rare Korean coin will be auctioned in New York on 13 December 2012 by Bonhams auctioneers. Two years ago, the 20 Won coin dated 1906 sold for $155,250. Bonhams said just 2,506 of the 20 Wons are believed to have been struck and the surviving number is very small with only a few known pieces in any grade. After Japan's colonization of Korea are over, nearly all of these reserve specimens were melted, only very tiny number escaped. The present piece, graded MS64 NGC, appears to rank among the highest of all surviving examples, richly lustrous with fully struck surfaces and devices. A light amount of natural golden-peach patina ensures originality. For pedigree purposes, a smattering of small contact marks are noted in the reverse field within the wreath.
The obverse features a dragon curled within a beaded circle clutching the Pearl of Celestial Wisdom, the surrounding legend states the national name Dae Han, Regnal date, and denomination in the Korean phonetic alphabet. On the reverse, the vertically placed denomination is under a Korean plum flower crest within a rose and plum wreath.
Diameter: 28.8 mm
Weight: 16.49 grams
Mint:Osaka Mint, Japan.
The regnal name Kwang Mu, "Military Illustriousness," was assumed by King Kojong, in 1897 replacing the ephemeral name Kun Yang used in 1896-1897. The Emperor is remembered today with considerable affection for his lifelong struggle to preserve Korea's independence. His aggressive neighbors including China, Russia and Japan were locked with Korea in a complicated conflict. By 1905, Japan predominated, and the last Korean coins were similar in size and alloy to contemporary Japanese denominations, however, the Won coins show the dragon firmly grasping the Celestial Pearl in Japanese fashion, while Chinese dragons more modestly pursue the sacred symbol. The largest denomination gold coins of 20, 10 and 5 Won appeared just as Korea's independence was breathing its last breath. These were the only gold issues struck by Korea prior to annexation by Japan.