101038 | JAPAN. Meiji 24 (1891) silver "Opium Dollar."
101038 | JAPAN. Meiji 24 (1891) silver "Opium Dollar" (38mm, 22.75 g).
Cf. KM A25.3 (for host coin); cf. JNDA 01-10A (same). Overall Extremely Fine. Lightly toned. Inner ring no longer fully attaches, though it does fit fairly snugly.
Like the trade dollar from the United States, Japan also had a trade dollar meant to circulate in the Far East alongside the coveted Mexican 8 reales, highly prized due to its consistent silver content and value. Though these other trade dollars had varying degrees of success, a practice emerged—the meaning of which continues to elude numismatists to this day—whereby one coin was hollowed out and another used as a "lid" attached by means of a hinge. One of the popular—and rather illicit—explanations was that these pieces were then utilized as a sort of snuff box in order to conveniently carry a small amount of opium (the narcotic being extremely rampant throughout the region). Another explanation is that they were used as lockets, with sailors being able to place a small image of their loved one inside for safe keeping. Regardless of the true purpose, they represent a great piece of coin art from the late 19th century.
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