Chinese Pandas: A Beginner’s Guide to Silver Pandas
Posted on 3/8/2016
A walk through one of China’s coin markets will reveal an amazing number of different types of Panda coins. On one shelf you can find silver, gold, platinum and even brass Pandas. Some are coins with denominations, while others are officially struck commemoratives. It’s been 34 years since the first Panda coin was issued and the numismatic variations on this theme are nearly endless.
But what are newcomers to do? How can they sift through this cornucopia and choose an area to focus on? After all, few collectors will attempt to assemble a complete set of every Panda coin and commemorative.
By far the most popular coin is the 1 oz. silver Panda. The two leading sets are Silver 10Y Panda, 1983-Date, One-Per-Date and Silver 10Y (1 Ounce) Panda, 1989-Date, Mint State (Incl. Varieties). Let’s take a look at some of the similarities and differences between these sets.
The first silver Panda was minted in 1983, just one year after the series debuted. The China Mint struck 10,000 at the request of an American coin company, Panda America and its then-president Martin Weiss. This coin weighs 27 grams, which is less than a full ounce of silver. It is also proof quality. Together with the 1984 and 1985 silver proof Pandas it is part of the Silver 10Y Panda, 1983-Date, One-Per-Date.
1989 was the first year that a Brilliant Uncirculated Mint State, not proof, silver Panda coin was issued. This marks the starting point of the second set: Silver 10Y (1 Ounce) Panda, 1989-Date, Mint State (Incl. Varieties). It contains all the Mint State 1 oz. Silver Pandas, but no proof coins. It also includes the NGC varieties. These varieties are fascinating in their own right and many collectors specialize in them. A new collector would benefit from some knowledge about these. The NGC Chinese Modern Coin Price Guide has much information; just click on the name of the coin. Another source is my own book, The Gold and Silver Panda Coin Buyer’s Guide.
One of the fascinations of the Panda series is that each year (except 2002) has its own unique Panda design. This means that as a set is built there are always new designs being added. And these designs all feature the much-loved animals.
Another popular group of Panda coins is the Silver 10Y Panda Commemoratives, 1991-Date, Mint State and Proof. These are silver coins that were issued to mark important events and anniversaries in the People’s Republic of China. There are currently 65 coins in the set and it offers a special challenge to collectors. A few coins are rare, but most can be found at moderate prices with a little effort. Many have rather small mintages compared to the standard Mint State Pandas for their years.
Besides the date sets, Panda coins can be collected by type, or category. For instance there have been silver Pandas issued in 3 Yuan, 5 Yuan, 10 Yuan, 50 Yuan, 100 Yuan, 200 Yuan and 300 Yuan denominations. Incidentally, the word “Yuan” is actually pronounced “Yu-en”. The larger size coins from 50 Yuan on up are especially attractive ways to view the Panda designs. I remember how my late and much-missed friend Nick Brown used to hold up a large size Panda and announce, “Who wouldn’t want to get a better view of such a beautiful design.”
So there are many ways to collect Pandas. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that every one is a beauty in its own right and a great addition to any collection. Happy collecting.
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.