Chinese coins, as we know them, are not older than the 8th century B.C. Traces of more primitive currencies which preceded them survived into historic times.After the barter stage of economy, when an excess of one necessityof life was exchanged by its owner for another necessity of which he was in want but could not easily supply, certain things, early became standards of value and were used as exchange media, such as oxen and instruments. With the transition from a pastoral civilization to an agricultural community with its multiplicity of products, a demand for some more convenient medium and for fractional exchange was felt. There is abundant evidence of the use of agricultural implements and household utensils as currency in the ancient times.The earliest Chinese coins were small bronze spades and knives, copies of the spades and billhooks and other small articles of husbandry that had been used for barter. The knives were about six inches long and bore the value and name of the issuing authority.〝Pu〞 money, a modified form of the spades, circulated widely in the 5th and 4th centuries B.C.
Small change was supplied by cowrie shells in this period, just as it had been long before the invention of a coinage. There was an issue of bronze cowries in the 7th century B.C. Round money with a hole in the center was issued as early as the 4th century B.C., but it was not until 221 B.C. that the reformer, Shih Huang Ti of the Chin dynasty (221-210 B.C.), superseded all other currencies by the issue of round coins of half an ounce (panliang), which were continued by the Han dynasty. The value of this coin was gradually reduced and debased, so was replaced in 118 B.C. by emperor Wu Ti's 〝five-chu〞 piece which remained the coin of China for the next eight centuries. The 〝five-chu〞 piece continued till the rise of Tang dynasty when the emperor Kau Tsu in A.D. 618 issued the〝Kai-yuan〞 coin which gave the coinage of all the Far East its form till the end of the 19th century-around coin with a square hole and a four character legend of the form 〝currency money of (regnal period).〞 This coin became the form for the coinage of all the Far East until the end of the 19th century.
Paper money has been in use in China since the 9th century, and was used almost to the exclusion of regular coins under centain of the Mongol emperors, for example Kublai Khan, whose paper money is described by Marco Polo. For over 2,000 years copper cash,- with its occasional multiples, was the only coinage of China; gold and silver were currency by weight only, the latter in the form of boat-shaped ingots. With the increasing popularity of Spanish colonial and Mexican dollars as a silver currency in China, several attempts were made to institute a silver coinage in the 19th century. But not till the very end of the 19th century were mints established to strike silver and copper coins of European style in all the provinces.
These four stamps with four ancient coins selected from the collection of the National Museum of History are all in vertical type. Their denominations and designs are： 1.00 stamp with the〝yuan-chin〞of the Chou dynasty (1122-221 B.C.); 4.00 stamp with the〝 pan-liang〞 of the Chin dynasty (221-206 B.C.); 5.00 stamp with the〝 five-chu〞 piece of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.); and 8.00 stamp with the〝five-chu〞 piece of the Liang dynasty (502-557 A.D.).