As the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Brazil approach, this is a good time to prepare for the festivities. Calisthenics? Running or swimming? How about some numismatic activity? Let’s review some of China’s coin contributions to the Summer Games.

After the reform of China’s economic system began in 1979, the coins for the 1980 Summer Olympics were one of the first sets of coins released by the China Mint. They were distributed by International Coins & Currency Inc. of Montpelier, Vermont.

Perhaps the best-known design in the group is the archer. This same artwork appears on five coins: the 300-yuan 20g gold piedfort, 300-yuan 10g gold, 15-yuan 20g silver piedfort, 1-yuan 12g copper piedfort and 1-yuan 6g brass. The design is the work of Mr. Chen Jian, an artist for the Shanghai Mint, who also designed the 1982 and 1983 Panda coins. It is an extraordinary image that seems to capture China’s past and future in a single gesture. The archer remains popular among collectors.

The 15-yuan silver piedfort coin stands out; only 500 were minted and it is the only 15-yuan coin in the set.

The Olympic Games brass coins were originally shipped in cardboard sheets of 40 coins wrapped in plastic. Like many other brass coins, the 1980 Olympic Games set tends to discolor with exposure to air, but I have seen many taken from the original packaging that grade quite well.

Another interesting coin is the matte proof finish 1984 10-yuan silver Volleyball coin. There are actually two lusters available, mirror and matte. The total mintage is 6,000 but there may only be a few hundred of the matte version, which was sold by Paramount Coin Company. It brings far more than the more common mirror proof.

The star of the 1984 team was a player named Lang Ping. She may well have been the inspiration for Shanghai Mint artist Gu Xing Bao.

By far the best-known Chinese Olympic coins are those issued for the 2008 Beijing Games. The coins were struck in gold and silver and released in three series. Series One focuses on various sports. Series Two on Beijing monuments and Series Three on Chinese traditional culture. The coins range in size from 10 kg down to ¼ oz. Except for the 10 kg gold, none are exceptionally scarce.

There is, however, a recent Olympic Games coin that is little known and a challenge to add to a collection.

It is a product of the Nanjing Mint, a mint that is not so familiar to many collectors of gold and silver Chinese commemoratives. The 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games 50 Yuan, 5 oz. silver coin has a mintage of 2,000. Most of these have already been spoken for and few remain available.

The design is the work of Miss Zhang Chenchen, a gifted young artist in Nanjing. It features depictions of Nanjing history and culture together with icons for the different sports. The coin is a work of numismatic art at a very high level and adds to the strong international reputation for quality that Chinese coins enjoy today.

Collecting Chinese Olympic Games coins can add more enjoyment to the world’s top athletic contests. So go for the gold (or silver or brass)!

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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