Chinese Pandas: A Weighty Decision

Posted on 10/13/2015

All 2016 brilliant uncirculated Chinese Panda coins will be issued in metric weights.

2016 begins a new era for Panda coins. The old weight system of troy ounces will be replaced by the metric system of grams, the standard system of weights used in the People’s Republic of China. For the first time the full range of Mint State gold and silver Panda coins will be issued in metric weights. This change may affect bullion buyers, who calculate their holdings in ounces, more than coin collectors who collect by denomination. For numismatists it should prove quite exciting as new types are added to the Panda coin world.

The metric system has long been part of the Panda story. The very first Panda silver coins, the 1983-1985 silver proofs, weighed in at 27 grams. This three-year set remains very popular today. It is one of the top Panda sets in the NGC Registry. The mintage for each year was 10,000 and the coins trade strictly as numismatic items and not for their intrinsic value.

A few years later, a 1991 1-gram gold commemorative arrived for the 10th anniversary of the Panda series. Panda America ran a successful publicity campaign in the US for these “Panda Grams.” A high percentage of the total mintage was sold to the jewelry industry. That is why most of the examples seen today are damaged and worn. True Mint State condition coins are quite scarce and valuable.

In 1998, the first silver Panda to weigh one kilogram was minted. It was followed by a gold kilogram in 1999. This changeover from the 12 oz. coins (12 troy oz. equals one pound) was made in the wake of the 1997 Asian Crisis. It was hoped that the larger kilo coins would sell better. This is exactly what happened over the following years.

In 2002, a 300 Yuan kilo silver commemorative coin with a pair of gold inlays was struck at the Shenyang Mint to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Panda series. Three types of kilo bronze medals were also produced by the Shanghai Mint for the same occasion and released by China Gold Coin. Once again, these coins and medals have become very scarce and now sell for multiples of their intrinsic values.

Through the years, however, the system of ounces kept its grip on Pandas as well as American Eagles, Canadian Maple Leafs and other bullion coins. Now it seems that Pandas are being transitioned from a role as a bullion bar substitute to a full-fledged coin. Like most traditional coins Pandas will only show a denomination. There will be no markings for weight and purity. Although not marked on the coins the purity will remain the same as previous years at .999 fine.

The 2016 10 Yuan silver Panda and 500 Yuan gold Panda will weigh 30 grams, the ½ oz. gold Panda will tip the scales at 15 grams, the ¼ oz. gold Panda will contain 8 grams, the 1/10 oz. will be 3 grams and the 1/20 oz. will shrink down to 1 gram. As the first year of a new Panda type, the 2016 coins will mark a new chapter in a coin program that has captured hearts everywhere.

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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