Chinese Coins: Panda Coins Reach 35

Posted on 5/9/2017

Put another candle on the birthday cake.

One, two, three, four up and down lines plus one diagonal stroke counts to five. It’s a natural number: there are five fingers, five toes, five senses and five traditional Asian elements (water, fire, earth, wood, and metal). The People's Republic of China flag has five stars. In China, a five starts with a horizontal line. Next a vertical descends below it just like for a T. That mark gets slashed in half and then that line makes a right turn downward. Finally, one horizontal line forms the base. The four strokes efficiently produce five lines like this: 五. This is the character "wu," meaning 5.

Every fifth year the China Mint (later, China Gold Coin Inc., or CGCI) marks the growth of the Panda series. This is the only Chinese coin series that receives this recognition. The first Panda coins were released in 1982. Five years later in 1987, one-ounce and five-ounce silver proof Panda coins were minted to celebrate the occasion. Every half-decade since then the Mint has thrown another party for collectors. For example, the only piedfort coins in the Panda series mark the 10th anniversary in 1991, not to mention the largest and highest priced Panda coin of all time: a 10,000 Yuan 5 kilogram gold Panda. Only ten were struck at the Shenyang Mint.

1996 saw the release of three gold coins with special legends on the obverse below the Temple of Heaven. The 20th anniversary celebration gave the world an impressive kilo silver Panda with two gold inlays, as well as a 1/10 oz. platinum Panda. This platinum coin is the only one from China that features a panda on both sides.

For the 25th anniversary in 2007 China Gold Coin Inc. released a pair of 25-coin sets, one gold and the other silver. The gold coins were just 1/25 oz. each, so that a complete set adds up to a single ounce of pure gold. Both sets were presented inside large, beautiful wooden cases.

Some of the most interesting coins were minted for the 30th anniversary in 2012. There were five kinds of coins struck and each of them has a festive design. The most prominent is the 2,000 Yuan 5 oz. gold coin designed by Ms. Chang Huan. (Note: the story of how she created this coin’s exceptional design is told in the soon-to-be-released Gold & Silver Panda Coin Buyer’s Guide 3.)

Probably the best-known 2012 anniversary Panda is a ¼ oz. silver 3 Yuan coin. This little commemorative displays a smiling Panda’s face alongside the numeral three. The round Panda’s head does double duty as a zero in the design to form the number 30. This little bear has a mintage of 300,000. It remains popular and relatively expensive despite the significant mintage.

Another 30th anniversary coin has a much smaller mintage and is not nearly as easy to find. This is a 50 Yuan silver commemorative that sports a charming and very well drawn image of a pair of Panda cubs with their mother. The final anniversary coin of the year is a 1/10 oz. gold that stylishly depicts a Panda and her cub reflected in a pool of water.

2017 is the 35th year of Panda coins and there will, indeed, be new coins issued for the latest birthday. In June three coins are slated for release: a large bimetallic Panda that contains 30 grams of gold and 12 grams of silver (mintage 6,000), a 5 gram gold (mintage 50,000) and a 15 gram silver with a mintage of 200,000. These will continue a tradition that celebrates the present and future of Panda coins. Join the party!

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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