Chinese Panda coins continue to grow in popularity. The Chinese minted 8 million silver Pandas in 2012 — a new record.
Last year was another year of growth in the worldwide demand for Panda coins. One of the most delightful, and best known qualities of Panda coins is that the design changes each year. This ever-shifting feature continues to attract new buyers and investors, and keeps the China Mint raising the mintage of the coins. Even so, Pandas get harder and harder to find. The reported mintage of the 2012 1 ounce Silver Pandas is 8,000,000, yet they command a premium over melt value that is close to double what American Eagles or Canadian Maple Leafs do. It's enough to make even the newest Panda a semi-numismatic item.
Year 2012 was the 30th Anniversary of the series that began in 1982. Back then there were just four sizes of Mint State (Brilliant Uncirculated) gold Pandas issued: 1 ounce, 1/2 ounce, 1/4 ounce, and 1/10 ounce. In later years the 1/20 ounce gold, and 1 ounce silver were added to the annual Mint State series. For a few years during the 1990s there was also a 1/2 ounce silver Mint State Panda, but its last appearance was in 1998.
As usual, there were six Mint State Panda sizes struck in 2012; five gold coins and one silver coin. From 1982 to 2003 the B.U. Pandas always had designs with one bear. Beginning in 2004 the design shifted to a two bear image, often of an adult and a cub. The 2012 issue also features an adult and cub. This same motif was used on the four proof issues of the year as well. They are 1 kilogram gold, 1 kilogram silver, 5 ounce gold, and 5 ounce silver.
The China Mint rarely passes up the opportunity to throw a numismatic party for a coin's anniversary, and it didn't disappoint Panda fans in 2012. Five "30th Anniversary of the Issuance of China Panda Gold Coins" were struck, each with a unique design. My personal favorite is the whimsical 2000 Yuan 5 ounce gold coin that shows a bruin hanging on to the edge of a circle in the central area of the coin. The outer area nearer to the rim resembles a clock with dates instead of hours. There is also a bamboo forest, and the Great Wall supports it all on the bottom. Only 3,000 of these coins were struck, and they quickly sold out.
There are also 30th Anniversary Pandas in 1 ounce and 1/4 ounce gold, and 1/4 ounce and 5 ounce silver sizes. The 1/4 ounce silver has a face value of just 3 Yuan, and carries a very cartoonish bear face on it. It's a fabulous gift for younger numismatists, as the design is appealing and the cost is moderate.
This brings us to preservation. As mentioned earlier, practically every silver Panda has a significant numismatic premium attached to it. Buyers who are looking for the most silver for their money usually go for generic silver rounds, or possibly American Eagles. Since Pandas are worth more per coin, it follows that condition and preservation of the coins are important. That is especially true when a coin is given as a gift to a young (or adult) person who may not fully appreciate how important condition is. Nothing protects a coin's value better than a NGC holder, and certification is worth considering for even the newest of Pandas like the 2012s.
Peter Anthony is an expert on Chinese modern coins with a particular focus on Panda coins. He as an analyst for the NGC Chinese Modern Coin Price Guide as well as a consultant on Chinese modern coins.