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Aside from officially produced coins, private coining was common during many stages of history. Some coins were produced in very large numbers – during the Western Han, an average of 220 million coins a year were produced.Various steps were taken over time to try to combat the private coining and limit its effects and making it illegal. Other coins were of limited circulation and are today extremely rare – only six examples of Da Quan Wu Qian from the Eastern Wu Dynasty (222–280) are known to exist.These have lost the hollow handle of the early spades.They nearly all have distinct legs, suggesting that their pattern was influenced by the pointed shoulder hollow handled spades, but had been further stylized for easy handling.This was used to allow collections of coins to be threaded on a square rod so that the rough edges could be filed smooth, and then threaded on strings for ease of handling.Official coin production was not always centralised, but could be spread over many mint locations throughout the country.The beginning of the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BCE), the first dynasty to unify China, saw the introduction of a standardised coinage for the whole Empire.
This, together with such little evidence as can be gleaned from the dates of the establishment of some of the mint towns, show that they were a later development.While nothing is known about the use of tortoise shells as money, gold and cowries (either real shells or replicas) were used to the south of the Yellow River.Although there is no doubt that the well-known spade and knife money were used as coins, it has not been demonstrated that other items often offered by dealers as coins such as fish, halberds, and metal chimes were also used as coins.This socket is rectangular in cross-section, and still retains the clay from the casting process.In the socket the hole by which the tool was fixed to its handle is also reproduced.