Bruce W. Smith forwarded these thoughts on the mysterious token Dave Bowers wrote about. Thanks!
Regarding the Ho Hi Whang civil war token. To a collector of Chinese coins and tokens, Ho Hi Whang is clearly a Chinese name. I had seen a reference to this piece years ago, and filed it in my Chinese-American tokens file, but never looked into it till now. I have some doubts as to whether it was really made during the civil war, but it does appear as a single lot in an 1877 Woodward sale, so it was made before 1877 and was well known by that time.
It appeared to me to be a magician's piece, designed to be mysterious. The word "dairi" has two meanings that I could find. First, it refers to the part of the Imperial Palace in Japan in which the emperor lives, and by extension, is a reference to the emperor. The other meaning is as another name for the dahu -- a kind of goat in European mythology; that is, something which doesn't really exist. The word "Qubo" is a mystery. It is not Chinese or Japanese, and I have no idea what it means.
In the Stacks Eliasberg & Krause sale of 3/2/2010, Lot 199 was one of these tokens. The beginning of the description notes that the main inscription is Latin, and in fact a quote from a work by Cicero. They don't say what it means, and the rest of the description on the lot is nonsense. An online translation of the phrase reads "consultation among mankind". But to understand what that means, someone will have to read the full text.
Despite a whole shelf of books on Chinese mythology, I could find no reference to Ho Hi Whang or anything similar. The phrase is not in standard romanization, which would be "Ho (or Hou) Hsi Wang (or Huang). It might be a confused reference to Hsi Wang Mu, the Queen Mother of the West, a figure in Chinese mythology, who created the world with Mu Kung, and was the head of a troop of genii living at Kunlun. Her surname was Hou, so someone unfamiliar with Chinese names, might have called her Hou Hsi Wang (Ho Hi Whang).
Following another possibility -- that Ho Hi Whang was the name of a magician in the 1860's or 1870's -- I did an online search of newspapers from 1863 through 1876 in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Maryland. I found nothing on "whang" except the term "whang-doodle." In the 1870's this appeared to be a political term, though I am unclear what it refers to (no doubt, something bad). In 1868, however, the term was used for Chinese workers on the railroad in Oregon.
The end result is, we now have a lot of information, but it doesn't tell us much about the token.
I don't see any indication that this is a satirical token aimed at coin collectors, unless the quotation from Cicero somehow conveys this meaning. However, the "date" on the token might be a bit of satire. Prior to the 20th century, Chinese numismatic works attributed specific coins, illustrated in catalogs, to rulers who are clearly mythical, and who lived in prehistoric times -- before metallurgy was discovered in China. Europeans were skeptical of these early dates (before 2000 BC), as they should have been. So the outrageous date 129374 B.C. might be a dig at Chinese numismatics in those days
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
AN INTRIGUING U.S. CIVIL WAR TOKEN: OH-165-AD-2
Wayne Homren, Editor
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