Posted by Peter Anthony on 5/10/2016
Many collectors consider proof coins to be the ultimate expressions of numismatic art. Panda coins offer a wide range of proofs for collectors. In fact, many were only released as proofs. These include all of the larger than one ounce sizes like the kilograms, 12 oz. and 5 oz. Panda coins. Proofs are available in silver, gold, platinum, palladium and even brass. The proof Pandas are made from specially prepared dies and struck at higher pressure than normal to bring out the finest details of the designs.
With so many types of coins to choose from it can be difficult for collectors to know where to begin. My own favorite starting point is the NGC Registry. The NGC Registry is a list of sets in which points are assigned to individual coins depending on their scarcity and grade. The screen names of the owners of the sets with the highest point total are listed on the NGC website. For instance, Russ736 has the top “Gold 1/4 Ounce Panda, 1982-Date, Mint State” set. This system gives recognition to dedicated collectors and also shows which coins and sets are the most popular.
The first Panda proofs issued were 1983 10 Yuan silver coins. They weigh 27 grams and are .999 pure silver. They are part of three NGC Registry sets:
- Silver 10Y Panda, 1983-Date, One-Per-Date
- Silver 10Y Panda (27 Grams), 1983-1985, Proof
- Silver 10Y Panda (1 Ounce), 1983-1999, Proof (Incl. Colorized)
The 1983 Panda was the second year for the series with a modest mintage of 10,000. Many collectors and dealers were surprised when they appeared. Martin Weiss, the founder of Panda America, was closely involved with the creation of the 1983-1985 silver Pandas. This is what he recalls about that process:
“The 1983 silver Panda was the first proof Panda. The program was put together between me and the Tai Sei Singapore distributor for the China Mint. Tai Sei Singapore was partners with Tai Sei Japan, led by Mr. Masamichi Oka, who has since passed away. He was much older than us. I was 41 or 42 and he was around 65 or 67, so he was like my father in a way. He really got upset when he heard about the proof silver project. He said, ‘We have a gold bullion product, how do you come up with a silver proof coin?’ So at first he took a little allocation, but those coins sold so fast that then he wanted the entire mintage. He did get quite a few to sell in Japan.”
The 27 gram silver Pandas were minted again in 1984 and 1985. In 1986 the 27 gram series was interrupted by the issuance of a Panda coin for the anniversary of the World Wildlife Fund. A year later, when a 1987 proof silver Panda was released its weight and diameter were changed to 1 Troy oz. (31.1 grams) and 40mm.
The three 27 gram proof silver Pandas are highly sought after by collectors. They make up one of the shortest runs of Panda coins in the 34 year history of the series, yet they are not the only Panda set from these three years. From 1983-1985 1 Yuan proof brass Pandas were also issued. These were also distributed by Tai Sei Japan, Tai Sei Singapore and Panda America. Although they were initially quite inexpensive the 1983 and 1984 brass coins are highly collectible today. The 1985 brass Panda is a in a category by itself for rarity. Examples have brought upward of $50,000 at auction; perhaps a record for any brass coin.
The 1983-1985 silver and brass Pandas are just a taste of the many possibilities that await collectors of proof Panda coins. Visit the NGC Registry to see all of the sets and start building your own. Happy collecting!
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.
Chinese Panda Proof Coins Currently Available on eBay