Other Articles in this Series on Korean Coins
South Korea's hwan coinage (1959-1975)
South Korea's First Gold and Silver Commemorative Coins (1970)
The 30th Anniversary of Liberation 100 Won Commemorative coin (1975)
The Fifth Republic Commemorative Coins (1981)
Circulation Coins of the Republic of Korea
Bank of Korea Mint Sets

South Korean Coin Database
Coin Shops in Seoul

The South Korean Pattern Coins of 1965-1966

Prior to the opening of South Korea´s first coin-minting facility in late 1966, the Korean government reviewed a series of fifty pattern (die trial) coins of various copper-zinc ratios and diameters that exemplified possible specifications for the new series of "Won" circulation coins that were planned to appear in denominations of 1, 5, and 10.   The Korean Mint would eventually contract with the British private mint John Pinches to have the working dies and collars manufactured for the new coins, and it is quite possible that these pattern coins were also made for the Korean government by John Pinches.   Although fifty types were made, the exact population of these coins is unknown.   Most likely, only a few of each kind were minted.   The rarity and desirability of these South Korean patterns is reflected in current market prices:   A group of three NGC-graded 1965 patterns, consisting of One-Won (MS-62 Brown), Five-Won (MS-62), and 10-Won (AU-58 Brown), sold for around $7,000.00 USD in 2011.   At Hwadong auctions in 2017, a 1965 10-Won pattern sold for the equivalent of just under $8,000 USD; a 1965 One-Won pattern for just under $5,000; and a 1966 One-Won for just under $3,400.

The fifteen different reverses of the 1965 One Won pattern coins
This chart shows the fifteen different One Won patterns' diameters and metals ratios.
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The reverses of the fifteen different One Won patterns all had the same design, but were counter stamped with the coin's diameter and metal composition ratio.
The 1965 One Won Pattern Coins' obverse
The 1965-dated One Won patterns all have this same obverse design.
One Won Patterns (1965)   There were fifteen different kinds of One Won pattern coins made for the Bank of Korea in 1965. They all featured the Silla Dynasty-era Chomseongdae observatory on their obverses, with "Bank of Korea" and the denomination both written in Korean script.   The reverse sides featured the English script "REPUBLIC OF KOREA", along with the date (1965), and spaces left to counterstamp the copper-zinc ratio and the diameter in millimeters of that particular coin.   By creating pattern coins in different sizes and metals ratios, Mint and Bank officials could better decide which specifications would be best for the planned circulation coin.

The fifteen different reverses of the 1965 Five Won pattern coins
The fifteen different Five Won reverses.
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The reverse of one of the fifteen different Five Won patterns.
The 1965 Five Won Pattern Coins' obverse
The 1965-dated Five Won patterns all have this same obverse design.
Five Won Patterns (1965)   Like the One Won patterns, the Five Won pattern coins all had the same design features along with the spaces on the reverses to counterstamp the copper-zinc ratios and the diameter.

The fifteen different reverses of the 1965 Ten Won pattern coins
The fifteen different Ten Won reverses.
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The reverse of one of the fifteen different Ten Won patterns.
The 1965 Ten Won Pattern Coins' obverse
The 1965-dated Ten Won patterns all have this same obverse design.
Ten Won Patterns (1965)   The Ten Won patterns of 1965 have the same design and counter-stamping seen on the One Won and Five Won patterns.

The 1966 One Won Pattern Coins
The 1966-dated One Won patterns all have this same obverse and reverse design, but appeared in three different diameters. Note that the diameter and composition specifications were worked into the design on the die, and were not counter stamped.
One Won Patterns (1966)   There were three different One Won patterns made in 1966.   It seems that Korean officials preferred a smaller diameter size for their 1 Won coin, and wanted to compare the 17.2 millimeter diameter patterns with ones that were slightly larger and slightly smaller, hence the three patterns.   It is also clear that they had narrowed down the choice of the obverse design and metal ratio of 60 percent copper, 40 percent zinc.   Every one of the 1966 pattern coins feature the words, "Test Coin" (시주화) in Korean script, and "The Bank of Korea" in English.   The 1966 One Won pattern coin´s main obverse feature is the Mugunghwa, the Korean variety of the Rose of Sharon, a design that would later grace the obverse of the 1 Won coin minted for circulation.  

The 1966 Five Won Pattern Coin
The 1966-dated Five Won pattern coin.
Five Won Pattern (1966)   After having narrowed down a preferred diameter and copper-zinc ratio, the Korean Mint asked its coin designers to draft an obverse design for the proposed 5 Won coin.   The resulting design for the pattern coin was obviously designed by the Mint´s lead currency designer, Kang Bak, as this same exact depiction of rice stalks would appear six years later on the 50 Won coin, which is attributed to Kang Bak.   However, the rice-stalk image was not retained for the final coin design, instead it was replaced with a depiction of Admiral Yi Soon-shin´s turtle ship.   This pattern shows the preferred metal composition (88% copper, 12% Zinc), and a smaller diameter (20.4mm) than the previous year's Five Won patterns.

The 1966 Ten Won Pattern Coin
The 1966-dated Ten Won pattern coin.
Ten Won Pattern (1966)   The 1966 Ten Won pattern features the 15th Century Kyonghoeru (Hall of Happy Meetings), a two-storied pavillion structure that stands on a rectangular stone island in a lotus lake in the Kyongbok Palace in Seoul.   However, the final obverse design for the 10 Won coin was changed to an image of the 8th Century Dabo Pagoda that stands in Bulguk Temple.   Again, it seems that those in charge had already decided on the size and metal composition for the new 10 Won coin.



Non-Countermarked Varieties

  Examples exist of 1965 patterns that are missing their counter stamps marking the diameter and metals ratio.   At least one countermarked piece appears to have been stamped with two different diameters.

Article by Mark Lovmo (2011)