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In One Ear: Pieces of history

Astoria dig yields old coins
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on October 13, 2017 12:01AM

“You know you’re from Astoria when you dig up a coin from the Qianlong Emperor’s time,” Don Kelly posted on the “You Know You’re From Astoria Oregon When …” Facebook page. “This coin is older than the settlement itself.” If you will recall, Astoria was settled in 1811.

Mr. Wikipedia says: “The Qianlong Emperor (September 1711 – February 1799) was the sixth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, and the fourth Qing emperor to rule over China proper.” (

Don found the coin in Astoria with his metal detector — a hobby he’s pursued since he was 14 — but don’t bother asking him where. “Exact site is a secret!” he declared.

Is the coin valuable? According to, a coin like this one in great shape was worth around $160 in 2009. Rare mints could be worth $1,000. However, coins that are heavily worn are only worth from $2 to $10 (

So how did such an old coin wind up in Astoria? Especially since the Chinese came to Astoria to work in the canneries much later, in the 1870s ( Two possibilities come to mind: Perhaps it belonged to a long-ago Astoria coin collector; or, maybe it was brought here on one of the merchant ships that passed this way, starting in the late 1700s. Maybe even Capt. Robert Gray’s ship, the Columbia Rediviva, here in 1792 ( After all, he traded with both the local Native Americans and China. It’s fun to speculate, anyway.

“It’s the second Chinese coin I have dug up in Astoria,” Don recalled. “The first one I found was dated 1820-1850. The Chinese had a major influence in this area, and I’m honored to find these rare pieces of history!”


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