Chinese Pandas: Big Search for a Little Coin

Posted on 1/12/2016

The search for a 1-gram, 2016 10 Yuan Panda coin took me to three coin markets in China.

For the last several years Panda collectors received their first view of the following year’s coins at the Beijing International Coin Expo. China Gold Coin would offer a few hundred of the B.U. coins for sale to the public at the show. After those were gone collectors had to wait weeks until the new Pandas began to appear in coin stores.

As I walked though Beijing’s new Madian Coin Market in early December, I wanted to see how far distribution of the 2016 Pandas had progressed. 2016 is the first year that Pandas have been struck in metric weights. Every coin is a new type, which makes them even more intriguing than usual. I was in particular need of a 10 Yuan, one gram coin for photographic purposes.

Madian is a modern two-story building filled with row upon row of dealer stalls. Shops usually have some specialty. Some sell stamps, others paper money, still others deal in circulating coins. Many focus on gold and silver Chinese coins.

On this day, it turned out that the hottest numismatic item in Madian was not any gold or silver coin. Rather it was a new 10 Yuan copper nickel coin and a 100 Yuan paper note. These were issued to commemorate China’s aerospace program. In shades of blue and green the note displays a satellite on one side and a history of flight, from bird to space travel, on the other. The coin shows a satellite. Dealers had these for sale in quantity, as well as single coins and notes. Everyone I spoke to in Beijing knew about them. Prices ranged from $20 to almost $200, depending on condition.

I did find some 2016 Pandas in Madian, though. Half a dozen dealers had the new gold Pandas in their showcases. Silver Pandas were slightly more available. The asking price for a silver Panda was 169 RMB, or about $26 USD. This was exactly the new issue price at the Beijing Show a month earlier. Unfortunately, none of the dealers would part with a 1 gram Panda. The coins were only offered as part of a 5-coin B.U. set, so I spent the rest of my Madian visit examining other coins.

The new 2016 1 gram gold Panda and the Beijing coin market

As I looked at these, the value of an NGC graded coin jumped out. All of the ungraded coins I saw that day had condition problems that were visible with a 5X loupe.

My Panda search was finally rewarded a few days later, but I had to travel to Shanghai! In the Lugong coin market a dealer finally sold me a solo 1 gram Panda. It’s a tiny little beauty that brings a very strong premium over its $34 melt value in spite of a substantial mintage. Prices will have to come down a long way before it is popular with bullion buyers. I paid more than double melt for mine and NGC-graded MS 70 coins have changed hands in China for as high as $170.

Still to come is the release of the 50 gram and 100 gram proof gold Pandas in the next few months. Many people are excited about these new sizes and look forward to the day when they are finally available for sale.

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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