Peter Anthony: The 1987 “S” 5 Yuan 1/20 oz. gold Panda was released during the height of the first wave of popularity for the coin series. Compared to earlier years like 1982 and 1983 the quantity minted for this year was a prodigious 133,000 (both mints). The elegant design of the coins is the handiwork of Mr. Chen Jian of the Shanghai Mint who also created the art for the 1982 Pandas.
There is a wrinkle to the 1987 gold Pandas; they have mintmarks on them. Several of the official Panda distributors, notably Martin Weiss of Panda America, had strongly urged the China Mint to add mintmarks. The distributors believed that mintmarks would increase sales to collectors who would buy both versions. So in 1987 the China Mint placed an “S” on coins struck in Shanghai and a “Y” on coins from Shenyang. Indeed to this day collectors often buy the versions for their sets.
The “S” coins from Shanghai were released months sooner than their “Y” counterparts. Shenyang’s coins did not hit the market until October of 1987. As a result the Shanghai versions achieved wider sales and distribution. While these coins are not scarce they are not as common as the mintage suggests. That is because so many were used by the jewelry trade.
1987 Pandas were well made and MS-69 is the most common grade. The bugaboo of 1987 Pandas is the forehead of the Panda. This is the highest point of the coin’s relief and often picks up some rub. If present this rub will easily cost one grading point and possibly more.
The 1987 “S” 1/20 oz. gold Panda is part of three NGC Registry sets: "Gold 1/20 Ounce Panda, 1983-Date, Mint State," "Gold 1/20 Ounce Panda, 1983-Date, Mint State (Incl. Varieties)" and "Gold 1/20 Ounce Panda, 1983-Date, Mint State and Proof"