Chinese Coins: The First Year Gold, Silver and Brass Panda Coins

Gold Silver and Brass Pandas

1982 Gold Panda – 1983 Brass Panda – 1983 Silver Panda

Posted by Peter Anthony ……..

Once regarded as an inferior item, the Proof Brass 1 Yuan Pandas distributed by the China Mint between 1983 and 1985 are now some of the most sought-after releases in modern Chinese coinage.

panda_gold_1982Are Pandas bullion coins or are they numismatic coins? The price of a bullion coin is determined by its intrinsic value plus some fabrication and distribution costs. On the other hand a numismatic coin’s value is largely determined by collector demand. This means that sometimes its price will move counter to the trend in precious metals.

When Pandas were first released the China Mint (as it was called back then) envisioned them as bullion coins. Perhaps the biggest numismatic surprise of 1982 was when this Chinese “bullion” coin soared in price to more than ten times its melt value. Demand overwhelmed the mintage of 13,532. While a single ounce of gold traded for about $300 in 1982, one ounce Panda coins popped up to $4,000.

So within a few months of their introduction 1982 Pandas were indisputably numismatic coins. A year later, the China Mint followed up this success with two new series of proof Pandas.

panda_silver_1983The 1983 silver proof Panda contains just 27 grams of silver, but that didn’t matter to collectors. The mintage of 10,000 quickly sold out and its price rose above the $1,000 mark. Today, it can bring several times that amount in Proof-69 condition.

The 27 gram proof silver Panda series continued in 1984 and 1985. They are often grouped with the 1983 as a highly desirable, compact 3 coin set. The NGC Registry includes a popular “Silver 10Y Panda (27 Grams), 1983-1985, Proof” set.

Less noticed and considerably less expensive was a 1983 proof brass 1 Yuan Panda coin. The five star symbol of the People’s Republic occupies the obverse of the 1 Yuan brass Pandas instead of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. However, since it has a Panda on one side most collectors consider it a full-fledged Panda coin.

panda_brass_1983This modest brass coin initially traded between dealers for a Buck and change, or under $2 each. At one time boxes loaded with thousands of them were crammed into the Japanese Panda coin distributor’s office. In the USA, Panda America gave brass Pandas away for free as premiums to buyers of “better” coins.

In 1984 the China Mint released another batch of brass Pandas with a design that was nearly identical to the 1983. In Proof 69 both the 1983 and 1984 brass “Buck and change Pandas” are currently worth more than $300 each. One note: brass readily reacts with oxygen and chemicals in the environment. Many brass Pandas have dark spots or stains today.

The king of the hill among brass Pandas is the 1985. The original plan was to mint thousands of these, but the final mintage is believed to have been less than 100. This elusive little coin has become a sought-after numismatic prize. In a March 2015 Macau sale by Champion Auctions an ungraded 1985 brass Panda sold for $23,000. Not much relation to precious metal prices here! With melt values of a penny or less, the brass Pandas are outstanding examples of why Pandas are one of the world’s most popular series of collectible, numismatic coins.

Peter Anthony is an expert on Chinese modern coins with a particular focus on Panda coins. He is an analyst for the NGC Chinese Modern Coin Price Guide as well as a consultant on Chinese modern coins.

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