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The oban was a large-sized gold plate and a typical Japanese form of currency used between the late 16th century and the middle of the 19th century. It was likely the largest gold piece of its time.


Tokugawa Iemochi 




Did you know that…

The lucky cat known as maneki-neko is commonly depicted holding a gold object similar to the oban?

At the end of the 16th century Toyotomi Hideyoshi was leading Japan to unification. In addition to its political and military planning, the Hideyoshi government marked a milestone in Japanese monetary history. In the 1580s the oban was minted for the first time.

The oban was a large, oval plate of gold, and was a form of coinage typical in Japan throughout the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1868). The plate was meticulously chiselled, marked, and signed in the end by the superintendent of the mint – a member of the Goto family. Because the ink used for the signature was easily worn away, the pieces were wrapped in silk or other fabric, separately or in bundles.

The oban was the most prestigious form of currency at the time. With about 165 grams of gold that was 70% pure or more, the oban was at first closely linked to the distribution of gifts and rewards. Over time, its weight, size, and purity fell, although it became more common in trade as time went by.

By the time the last issues began, in 1860, the oban had lost roughly a third of its original weight and half of its gold content. Shortly thereafter its issue was halted entirely, and in 1868 the new Meiji Dynasty began the transition to Western coinage.

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