A Brief History of the Chinese Gold Panda

A Brief History of the Chinese Gold Panda

By Tyler Rossi for CoinWeek …..

First struck in 1982, the .999 pure Chinese Gold Panda series has been a perennial favorite of numismatists and collectors ever since. That first year, the People’s Republic of China ordered a total of 16,000 one-ounce pandas that sold out within months. Shortly thereafter, the coins were being sold and resold on the secondary market for upwards of four times the original sale price. So beloved was the Gold Panda that in 1985, the American Numismatic Association named the 1983 100 yuan 1 oz coin the “Coin of the Year”.

As a truly innovative coin, the Gold Panda is the first bullion coin ever to change its reverse design on an annual basis. In fact, when the Chinese Government tried to halt the design change in 2001, the public outcry was deafening. Therefore, while the 2001 and 2002 Pandas ended up having the same design, the decision to restart the changing design process was implemented for the 2003 type. By doing so, China has been able to create a steady collector demand that has resisted volatile gold market fluctuations.

First designed by Shanghai artist Chen Jian, this gold coin’s reverse is always centered on a panda. Later, from 2004 until 2012, the design featured the mother bear and her cub. In 2013, there were three adult panda bears. While the reverse always features a different panda design, the obverse depicts the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. This temple, actually a religious complex, was built in the 15th century by the Yongle Emperor as a place dedicated to annual harvest ceremonies. The design is ringed with the legend “Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo”, which translates to “the People’s Republic of China”.

Initially, the coin displayed the metal’s weight and purity both in Chinese and English but not the face value. This was added in 1983. Ten years later, the Chinese weight and purity were removed, leaving only the English translation. The other major change to this design was the inclusion of a large border ring surrounding the Temple of Heaven in 1992.

The 1995 coin saw the implementation of frosting for the first time on both faces.

During the series’ first year, the Shanghai Mint struck coins in 1, 1⁄2, 1⁄4, and 1⁄10 ounce denominations. For nearly 20 years, these weights were denominated as 100, 50, 25, and 10 Yuan. When the 1/20th ounce panda was introduced one year later in 1983, the coin was denominated as 5 Yuan. In 2001, all of the denominations were appreciated by a factor of 5. So, the 1 oz 100 yuan was now worth 500 yuan. Another major change was made in 2016 when the weight system was swapped from imperial troy ounces to metric grams. Unlike the earlier denomination change, this impacted the actual bullion value of the coins. For example, the 500 yuan, 1 oz coin now weighed 30 grams (0.9645 ounces), and the ½ oz 200 yuan was changed to 15 grams (0.4823 ounces).

China also struck a number of extra-large collector’s coins: in 1984 the 12 oz, in 1987 the 5 oz, in 1991 the 5 kilos, and in 1997 the 1 kilo. All of these were available only in Proof finish.

A Brief History of the Chinese Gold Panda
1985 Panda Gold Coin.

Early Chinese Pandas struck between 1982 and 2000 were minted in response to demand. This means that the mintage was unlimited, and production would continue until the Chinese Central Bank stopped receiving orders. All subsequent issuances have been limited to a maximum mintage. That being said, the Chinese Mint is notoriously circumspect when divulging information on its activities and the mintages are not always very clear. In fact, the government only regularly reports on the total ounces struck per year. Between 1982 and 1998, the Mint struck a total of 2,174,174 ounces of gold, and between 1982 and 2013 it struck 4,926,360 ounces. In total, however, they struck roughly 24 million coins of all denominations.

Also, while popular, the finer details of the Gold Panda series are shrouded with some mystery. For example, most Panda coins do not have a mint mark. Only in 1987 was an S used for Shanghai and a Y used for Shenyang. However, we know that three different mints have produced these coins: Shanghai, Shenyang, and Shenzhen Guobao. Additionally, it is possible to tell that the Shanghai Mint struck Gold Pandas from 1982 to 2004, the Shenyang Mint from 1985 to 1999 and 2003 to 2004, and the Shenzhen Guobao Mint from 1999 to 2002 and 2005 to the present.

Despite not having mint marks, small design differences can help point to where specific coins were struck. One difference is the date size. Large Date coins were struck at the Shanghai Mint and Small Date coins were struck by the Shenyang Mint.

Interestingly, many Proof types do include a small P to help distinguish them from BU type coins. Mostly, this small P is placed near the panda’s right foot.

Ten years ago in December 2012, the Chinese Treasury Department and State Administration of Taxation decided to exempt Gold Panda bullion coins from the national 17% Value Added Tax (VAT). Not only did this allow the national China Gold Coin Incorporation to introduce a program in September 2013 to buy back Gold Pandas from the public via retail outlets in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, but now the China Gold Coin Incorporation would be able to resell the coins for a profit.

1989 Panda Silver Coin
1989 Panda Silver Coin.

Based on the gold series’ initial success, the Chinese government introduced its silver line in 1983. As with the gold coins, the reverse panda design of the silver coin changes every year. A few years later, in 1987, a series of Platinum Pandas were issued. But due to the increasing price of platinum, this series was discontinued after 2005. Interestingly, the Panda series also includes a number of bi-metallic coins produced between 1990 and 1997. These coins consist of a silver outer ring and a gold inner core.

While many people consider the Gold Panda to be simple bullion, the coins’ value demonstrates that this is mostly false. As of 2022, a complete set of standard denomination BU gold Pandas (10, 50, 100, 200, and 500 Yuan) has a melt value of $3,266. However, in MS 69, they are worth roughly $4,625 – a 41.6% premium. This is dramatically higher than most standard bullion coins that trade at a 5% to 7% premium.

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Standard Catalog of World Coins – 1901–2000, 45th Edition. Krause Publications (2018)

Standard Catalog of World Coins – 2001–Date, 13th Edition. Krause Publications (2019)

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About the Author

Tyler Rossi is currently a graduate student at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management and studies Sustainable International Development and Conflict Resolution. Before graduating from American University in Washington D.C., he worked for Save the Children creating and running international development projects. Recently, Tyler returned to the US from living abroad in the Republic of North Macedonia, where he served as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years. Tyler is an avid numismatist and for over a decade has cultivated a deep interest in pre-modern and ancient coinage from around the world. He is a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA).

中国, 中國, 熊猫金币, 熊貓金幣, 大熊貓

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