Chinese Coins: A New Class of Pandas

Posted on 3/17/2015

Despite the large number of Panda coins issued by the China Mint, collectors face difficulties obtaining a complete set of every Panda.

Panda collectors have much to celebrate in 2015, the Year of the Sheep. The thirty-third annual installment of Panda coins from the China Mint has arrived. In the last three decades, Panda coins have become the the most widely recognized and collected series of modern Chinese collector coins. Although the Lunar Series is two years older, and fascinating in its own right, Pandas are sold in far greater quantity and in more places. To date, more than six hundred different Panda coins and medals have been issued.

This abundance presents both opportunities and challenges. The large number of Pandas means that there are many ways to collect and enjoy the coins. On the other hand, it is nearly impossible to form a complete set of every Panda, even if unlimited funds are available.

So what is a collector to do? Almost everyone whom I know collects by either metal, or series. For those who like the big picture there are "master sets" of every BU gold Panda. Some, like my late friend Nick Brown, prefer the large proof coins from 5 oz. to 1 kilogram of gold and silver. Other collectors choose crown-size proof silver Pandas, or top grade BU silver Pandas. A small group of collectors chase the special issue commemorative coins, or the gold and silver show Pandas. Still, others build collections of a single size or denomination.

All of these are outstanding, rewarding and satisfying collecting strategies. Here is another one that may be of interest. It covers a great range of coins and stories, yet isn’t too costly. In this collection there is one of each class of Panda coin ever produced by the China Mint. The date of the coins is unimportant, what matters is to have an example of each class. So this kind of collection avoids the issues of key dates and varieties. Instead of varieties the collector gets variety.

By the way, most people call this “type coin collecting.” However, technically every year of Panda is a new type because of the yearly design changes. So I use the word “class” instead.

2015 Chinese Pandas

It's quite a fun project to fill in the holes in this list. 2015 is an exceptionally good year to begin a set because the design of every Panda coin has changed in a new way. For the first time, 2015 Panda coin designs carry a denomination but no weight or purity markings. A 10 Yuan Silver Panda still contains one troy ounce of .999 fine silver, but this is not marked anywhere on the coin. A 500 Yuan gold Panda contains one troy ounce of .999 fine gold, but it doesn’t provide that information anywhere in its design.

This change brings Panda coins more in line with traditional coinage rather than coins struck for the bullion market. It is an interesting development for collectors, not to mention investors. Next year, the Mint plans to change the weights of the coins too. This will make 2015 Panda coins a distinct one-year class. That may be one more thing about Panda coins to celebrate in the Year of the Sheep.

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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