A World of Money: The Omodaka Tensho Oban

An Oban is a large oval gold plate coin, minted in Japan as part of the Tokugawa coinage system. The Oban was the largest denomination coin, valued at 10 Ryos or 10 Koban plate coins. The Tensho Oban was the first type of Oban minted, foreshadowing the full implementation of Tokugawa coinage in 1601.

The appearance of an Oban of any type is an uncommon event. The Omodaka variety of the Tensho oban, however, is one of the rarest of all Oban varieties and perhaps the first time this variety has been auctioned in the United States. Heritage proud to be able to offer an XF example in the September 7-12 2011 September Long Beach Signature World & Ancient Coins Auction.

The Tensho Oban weight was fixed at about 165 grams and was hammered into three different sizes. This example is the ‘NAGA’ (or long type), and at 170×103 mm (roughly 6-3/4 x 4 inches) it is the largest physical size of all the Obans minted. Furthermore this is an extremely rare variety of the Tensho Naga Oban due to the different upper stamp of the two stamps on the reverse: the Omodaka stamp.

The Mori family was given permission by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (the great uniter of Japan) to make this official Oban and stamp the symbol of the their family on the reverse, which was the Omodaka plant leaf and flower.

It’s not known how many were minted, but very few exist today. The metallic composition is 73% gold and 27% silver. The ink on this coin is original and a vibrant black color. There is scuffing on the high points of the obverse with a small amount of ink missing. Repair apparent on both sides at 8 o’clock on the obverse, and at the matching area on the reverse at 4 o’clock, as evidenced by the disturbance of the original texture of the surfaces near the edge. The repair seems to have been done over a hundred years ago and carefully hammered after perhaps being dropped.

This piece is one of only a handful in existence and excessively rare, and will no doubt bring spirited bidding when it arrives at the auction block. Estimate: $300,000 – $350,000.

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