World Coins: Gold and Silver Panda Party
Posted by Peter Anthony on 7/17/2013
Chinese anniversaries are celebrated with gifts meant to renew love and relationships. Sometimes the gifts are made of gold or silver. That’s how the China Mint chose to renew its vows with Panda collectors in 1991. It gave them some extraordinary commemorative coins and medals on the series’ 10th birthday.
To mark the occasion the Mint issued the biggest Panda of all time: a 10,000 Yuan Gold Panda that weighs 5 kg or 11 pounds. It measures 150 mm, or roughly 6 inches across, about the size of a salad plate. With a mintage you can count on your fingers, its rarity is only exceeded by its impressiveness. The coin has one of the most beautiful designs of any Panda. It features a central circle that shows a bruin on a bamboo stalk. That inner circle is surrounded by the designs of the previous ten years.
China 10,000 Yuan Gold Panda
A 5 kilo bag of groceries may seem like nothing to lift but if those 5 kilos are all gold (worth around $200,000) that bag might feel a bit heftier. And if those 5 kilos are in one coin made of pure, soft gold that has sold for as much as $1.6 million at auction it might feel heavier still. At least that’s how it seemed to me one day as I held one of these beauties. I was both dazzled and worried. What if it drops and picks up a rim ding?
The 1991 10,000 Yuan Gold Panda weighs 5,000 grams and is the elephant of the series. Held side by side, the 1991 3 Yuan Gold Panda is but a wee mouse. This charming coin is just 10 mm in diameter and weighs only 1 gram. It was originally distributed by PandaAmerica as part of a four-coin set of commemorative coins and medals in a beautiful wood box. The set included the 3 Yuan coin, a 2 oz. silver coin, a silver anniversary medal and a gold plated anniversary medal. The one-gram Panda was also available separately as part of a mailer called a “PandaGram.” While this coin may be a lightweight in some regards it’s worthy of respect. It is scarce in general and more so in higher grades. Just a single MS 70 and 38 MS 69s are listed in the NGC Census so far. The truth is that it’s a bit of a challenge to find a decent example at all as quite a few ended up in jewelry.
There are two other very special coins that were minted for the 1991 anniversary; they are piedforts, or double the standard thickness. One is a 2 oz. silver with a face value of 10 Yuan and the other is a 1 oz. gold that has a diameter of 27 mm (compared to 32 mm for a standard 1 oz. Gold Panda) and a 50 Yuan denomination. These two are the only Panda piedforts ever issued and have always been prized by collectors. Besides a low mintage of 2,500, the gold piedfort is also scarce in high grades; only a quarter of the coins graded so far are Proof 69s.
From largest to smallest and thickest to thinnest the 1991 Panda Anniversary coins stand out in any Panda collection. They offer the potential for both fun and profit, which is something we can celebrate any time.
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.