Chinese Pandas: Setting the Bar High in Shenyang
Posted on 9/13/2016
It is late August and summer is already waning in northern China. Under a brilliant blue sky with a cool breeze in my face, I walk down Chang'An Lu. In a few months this boulevard will be blanketed in snow. Follow it far enough and it leads to the Imperial Palace, or Forbidden City. On the way there you will pass the Shenyang Mint, which dates back to imperial times.
A quartet of high school age boys walk along side me. All four wear identical outfits; white shirts and black nylon pants. They chatter about whatever it is that high school boys discuss; probably studies, as there is only occasional laughter. The five of us carefully cross a small street named Dongbiancheng Lu. From here it is a stone’s throw to the front of the Mint.
Among the three government mints in China that strike gold and silver Pandas and other commemorative coins, Shenyang is the oldest. It opened its doors in 1896 during the Qing (pronounced Ching) Dynasty. One hundred and twenty years later it is still going strong, which is more than can be said for the Qings. To mark this event the Mint rebuilt its outer gate to match the original structure. Decorated in brilliant shades of blue and red with gold accents, the gate signals that there is something special inside. There is.
The Shenyang Mint produces scores of different gold and silver commemorative coins, as well as millions of circulating coins each year. Their art department is among the best in the world. Just a few of the Pandas that were designed here are the 1985 and 2006, as well as the 2002 kilo 20th Anniversary, the 2012 50 Yuan 1/10 oz. gold 30th Anniversary and the 2012 2000 Yuan 5 oz. gold 30th Anniversary.
The 120th anniversary celebration carries on this tradition of Pandas coins. Available now, or very soon, are 2016 8 gram gold and 30 gram silver Pandas that have the added words “The 120th Anniversary of the Shenyang Mint. Co, Ltd.” This set was first put on public display at a press conference on August 18 inside the Mint.
These were not the only items unveiled. There are two new bronze medals (without Pandas) and two beautiful new pieces of collector currency: one with 5 grams of silver on it and the other with 1 gram of gold. Struck on a polymer base, the design features the new Shenyang Mint gate and dazzles when held at an angle to light.
The main attraction at the conference, however, was a special treat for Panda collectors. Woven together into a single enchanting panorama are images from three decades of Panda coins. They are struck onto a half-kilogram .999 silver commemorative bar. It is a sort of greatest hits parade. Collectors will recognize many of their favorite designs.
The reverse side shows the new gate together with the oldest building inside the Shenyang Mint. The designs are by Ms. Chang Huan, widely respected as one of the best coin artists in China. The bar is antiqued and stands out in size and design from any previous official Chinese silver or gold Panda commemorative. Mintage is expected to be a modest 1,000 with no definite delivery date, yet. So even as the weather cools down in Shenyang, numismatists can expect the mint to keep the numismatic scene toasty.
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.