In Memoriam: Martin Weiss, 1938-2020

Posted on 11/5/2020

The numismatic innovator changed the world of coins by popularizing Pandas.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®) notes with sorrow the passing of Martin Weiss, a groundbreaking coin dealer who popularized China's fledgling Panda coins in the 1980s and later inspired the creation of other popular series.

Weiss was one of the first numismatists to recognize the vast potential of China's Panda series, which was introduced in 1982, only a few years after China started issuing collector coins. Weiss founded Panda America with a single employee and quickly built the company into a world leader for Pandas by using innovative advertising and distribution methods.

LEFT: Martin Weiss. RIGHT: The China medal that pays tribute to Weiss' role in popularizing Panda coins. TOP: Gold pandas through the years.
Click images to enlarge.

It was Weiss who suggested that China vary the design of its Panda coins yearly, which has created a seemingly endless variety of interesting ways to showcase the beloved endangered animal. Today, the annual unveiling of the next Panda design is highly anticipated by numismatists.

The China Mint appreciated Weiss' keen understanding of the preferences of the marketplace. When Weiss pushed for series celebrating the Inventions and Discoveries of China as well as Unicorns, the China Mint brought them into existence in 1992 and 1994, respectively.

In 2016, China struck trimetallic medals in Weiss’ honor, featuring his bespectacled bearded face surrounded by the words "China Panda Coin Ambassador - Martin Weiss." The other side of the medal includes the inaugural design of a panda grasping a bamboo branch from 1982.

With the creation of distinguished designs that attract strong demand, both domestically and worldwide, China has established itself as a respected leader in minting collector coins. Reflecting on how this innovative spirit was forged during a downturn in the metals markets in the 1990s, Weiss once noted: "How you survive a dull market is by being creative, by coming out with interesting products. That was the secret of the China Mint. Instead of two or three big mintages, they had over a hundred different products in the mid-'90s."

Weiss also was a pioneer in championing the importance of third-party grading. NGC, which was founded in 1987, now has offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong, China, to serve the robust collector coin markets that have grown in the world's most-populous country.

“Marty Weiss rewrote the history of numismatics by showing the world the potential of modern Chinese coins," said NGC Chairman and Grading Finalizer Mark Salzberg. “Sadly, the numismatic world has lost one of its greatest innovators.”

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