Chang Tso Lin was warlord of Manchuria from 1916 to 1928 and at one time ruled an enormous area of north China. After two previous attempts, he captured Beijing in June 1926, and a year later proclaimed himself as the 'Grand Marshal' of the Republic's land and naval forces.
Soon after rival warlords forced him to leave in 1928, he was killed when a bomb planted by officers of the Japanese army blew up the train he was riding on to Shenyang.
During the two years that Chang controlled Beijing and Tientsin (now Tianjin), the Tientsin Mint struck four silver dollars, two copper patterns for a $20 and a $40 gold coin, and this $50 gold coin.
None of the coins were ever adopted for general circulation and they all remain very rare. The Chang Tso Lin $50 dates from 1927 (or Republic, Year 16) and one side features a bust of Chang in military uniform surrounded by a border of flames, while the other features a dragon and phoenix motif with a legend around, also in a flame border.
The specialist who catalogued it had never seen another example in his 40 years working with Chinese Republican coins. It also escaped the attention of E. Kann, who mentions only the two copper patterns in his Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Coins, and had never seen or heard of the $50 coin. In addition, it is the highest denomination coin in gold or any other metal ever issued in China.
Consigned anonymously, it managed 10,000 times its original $50 value when it was knocked down at the low estimate of $500,000 (£284,575) plus 15% buyer's premium.