Korean Art and Antiques

Extremely Rare 18th Century Korean Coin Chest (Donkwe) 6 sides Zelkova

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Korean: Furniture: Pre 1800: Item # 1307938

Please refer to our stock # 1211 when inquiring.
Korean Art and Antiques
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New York, NY 10036

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Extremely Rare 18th Century Korean Coin Chest (Donkwe) with all six sides made of Zelkova Wood. With zelkova wood supplies dwindling at the end of the 18th Century, Koreans started making coin chests of zelkova on 4 sides, and pine on 2 sides. By the end of the 19th Century, coin chests were made either entirely of pine, or pine on 4 sides and zelkova on 2 sides. You will never find an older or more beautiful piece of Korean antique furniture. Coin chests are highly prized by collectors, as their purpose required that they be the heaviest and most well constructed piece of furniture in the home. Paper money did not exist in Joseon Dynasty Korea, and the coins were of very small denominations. They had to be strung together in large, heavy quantities to have any worth, so a strong money box was a necessity. Here's a funny quote from 1898 on Korean money by Mattie Ingold, an American missionary physician who worked in Jeonju: "If Korean money were proportionately as great in value as it is in weight and clumsiness, the Koreans would be a very wealthy people." This coin chest is likely the oldest one to be offered for sale. But it's not just old, it also has the most gorgeous wood grain. The iron lockplate is itself a work of art. It is in the shape of an inventively rendered swallowtail, and is adorned with the mythical longevity plant, bullocho, at the top of the lockplate and inside the lockplate. The swallow is an ancient Korean symbol of beauty and prosperity. The swallowtail shape is echoed in the other iron hardware on this amazing chest. 37w x 19d x 20.75h inches, 94w x 48.25 x 52.75 cm.