THE COIN CHEST – 돈궤

Among Korean furniture, the coin chest called “Ton-Kwe” in Korean is quite easy to recognize.

With an average size of H. 45cm, L. 100 – 120cm, D. 35 – 45cm, it consist of a low box made of heavy thick bold wooden panels.

This sturdy piece of furniture was usually made of elm or pine wood. Early pieces made during the 19th century displayed beautiful elm or zelkova wood. By the end of the 19th century, production increased and pine wood gradually replaced costly elm wood.

Large coin chest. Photo courtesy of “Two Design Lovers” gallery, Australia.
Small coin chest. Elm wood.
Courtesy of Hughlin Gallery, San Fransisco, USA
Coin chest. Pine wood, iron fittings.
H. 46cm, L. 104cm, D. 38cm.

Courtesy of Susan Silver Antiques, USA.
Small coin chest. Built with beautiful grained Zelkova wood.
Photo courtesy of Koreanart 21 Auction., Seoul.
A large Korean coin chest, late 19th century. Pine wood, hand-wrought ornamental ironwork. With half top open. Calligraphy pasted inside the trunk.
Dimension: 16″ x 32″ x 14″. Private collection.

The coin chest is characterized by a top-opening design with a lift-up lid. Iron metalwork, without much decoration, was used to reinforce the heavy structure. The lock plates feature patterns such as squares, clouds, and flower motifs, sometimes with engraved symbols.

Coin chest. Elm wood, iron fittings, oil finish.
Top opening of a coin chest.
Lock plate – Cloud pattern
Lock plate – Square pattern.

In 1633, the “Mun” became the main currency of Korea. Copper and bronze coins were issued and remained in circulation until 1892. These coins had very small denominations, and they were often strung together because they had little individual value. The sheer volume of accumulated coins necessitated the use of large storage containers to safeguard the family’s money. The top lid is not hinged but can be locked at the front. (WIKIPEDIA).

Late “Joseon” currency. 상평통보 = SANG PYONG TONG BO

On original coin chests, there is no evidence of the use of brass for making the hinges. This can be observed on restored pieces.

Restored coin chest. Metalwork has been changed with brass pieces.
New yellow brass lock plate and handle on this coin chest.

COLLECTIONS IN KOREA.

Coin chest. Red pine wood, iron fittings. 19th century.
H. 52cm, W. 107cm, D. 46,5cm.
Collection National Museum of Korea.
Coin chest. Pine wood. H. 53,8cm, W. 106,5cm, D. 47,8cm. Collection: Andong City Folk Museum, Korea.
Coin chest. H. 74,5cm, W. 152,5cm, D. 51cm.
Collection: Daegu University Central Museum, Korea.
Coin chest. Zelkova wood. H. 55cm, W. 105cm, D. 55cm.
Collection: History Hanok Museum, Korea.
Coin chest. H. 46cm, W. 105cm, D. 45,5cm,
Collection: Jeonju University, Korea.
Coin chest Korean. Pear wood.
Collection: Folk Painting Museum, Korea.
Coin chest. Pine wood.
Collection: Korean Folk Painting Museum, Korea.
Coin chest. H. 36cm, W. 128,5cm, D. 53cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Korea.
Coin chest. H. 40,5cm, W. 106cm, D. 45,5cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Korea.
Coin chest. H. 72.5cm, W. 130,4cm, D. 59cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Korea.
Coin chest. Pine wood, iron fittings, Jeolla Do province.
Collection: NAMGARAM MUSEUM. Jinju-si, Gyeongsangnam-do, Korea.
Coin chest. Pine wood, iron fittings. H. 58cm, W. 131cm, D. 58cm. Collection: NAMGARAM MUSEUM. Jinju-si, Gyeongsangnam-do, Korea.
Coin chest. Pine wood, iron fittings. H. 90cm, W. 172cm, D. 89cm.
Collection: NAMGARAM MUSEUM. Jinju-si, Gyeongsangnam-do, Korea.
Coin chest. Elm wood, iron fittings. H. 40cm, W. 81cm, D. 38cm. Collection: NAMGARAM MUSEUM. Jinju-si, Gyeongsangnam-do, Korea.
Coin chest. Elm wood, iron fittings. Jeolla province.
H. 39cm, W. 107cm, D. 45cm.

Collection: NAMGARAM MUSEUM. Jinju-si, Gyeongsangnam-do, Korea.

One comment

  1. Dear Sir,
    Which cabinet are you talking about? Please send us a photo.
    All Mandarin duck cabinets featured in this website are from private collection or Museums.

    Best regards
    Yves

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