Monday, December 03, 2012

A Panda Coin Primer - Part 1

Interest in Chinese Panda coins is growing rapidly, but there is still a lack of readily available data about these coins.  The Buyer's Guide to Chinese Gold & Silver Panda Coins (2010) by Peter Anthony is an excellent book and a must have for any collector.  However, online resources are still limited, so we have provided some summary information and tables to help newcomers get their heads around the available collecting opportunities.  

A Panda Coin Primer - Part 1

The Panda Coin was born in 1982 with the creation of four gold bullion coins depicting the Chinese national symbol; the Panda Bear (熊猫). The coins were issued is four sizes, 1/10, 1/4, 1/2, and 1 troy ounce of .999 pure gold.  These first pandas had no denomination (no face value in Yuan), so technically they are considered medals rather than coins.  However, in 1983 denominations were added making then coins, but 1982 has generally been "grandfathered-in" by collectors as the first panda "coin".

1982 Gold Panda
Over the next 32 years (to date), many denominations, types, and varieties of panda coins have been issued.  The following tables and notes give an overview of the Panda Coins Issued by China.

I. Precious Metals

Pandas have been produced in several different precious metals.  We will organize the coins by metal group in later sections.

 Metal Purity Years Produced
 Gold 99.9% 1982 - present
 Silver 90%
 1983 - 1985
 1989 - present
 Platinum 99.9% 1987 - 1990
 1993 - 1997
 2002 - 2005
 Paladium 99.9% 1988 - 1989
 2004 - 2005
 Gold & Silver
 99.9% 1990 - 1997
 Copper 70% 1983 - 1984
 Bronze 1991

II. Gold Pandas

The gold pandas may be considered the flagship of the series.  The 99.9% pure gold coins have been issued every year since 1982 in many different sizes, strikes, mints, and varieties.  

The pandas can be divided in three main groups:  
  • Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) Coins with denomination (face value)
  • Proof Coins with denomination
  • Official Commemorative panda medals with no face value

A. BU Gold Panda Coins

Brilliant Uncirculated coins, known as "BU" or "Mint State (MS), are generally mass produced.  BU Pandas have been made every year and represent what might be considered the standard panda coin.  Except for 1982, they were issued in 5 sizes, comprising 1.9 ounces for a full BU set each year.  The 5-coin annual sets are popular among Chinese collectors.

In 2001, the denominations were changed, but the weights remained (inflation!)

Note that varieties and mint types are not shown on this table.  We will cover that detail later.

Panda BU Coins Issued by Denomination (Yuan)
(troy ounce)
1/20 1/10 1/4 1/2 1

 1982    1/10 1/4 1/2 1
 1983 510 25 50 100
 1984 510 25 50 100
 1985 5 10 25 50 100
 1986 5 10 25 50 100
 1987 5 10 25 50 100
 1988 5 10 25 50 100
 1989 5 10 25 50 100
 1990 5 10 25 50 100
 1991* 5 10 25 50 100
 1992 5 10 25 50 100
 1993 5 10 25 50 100
 1994 5 10 25 50 100
 1995 5 10 25 50 100
 1996 5 10 25 50 100
 1997 5 10 25 50 100
 1998 5 10 25 50 100
 1999 5 10 25 50 100
 2000 5 10 25 50 100
 2001 20 50 100 200 500
 2002  20 50 100 200 500
 2003  20 50 100 200 500
 2004  20 50 100 200 500
 2005  20 50 100 200 500
 2006  20 50 100 200 500
 2007  20 50 100 200 500
 2008  20 50 100 200 500
 2009  20 50 100 200 500
 2010  20 50 100 200 500
 2011  20 50 100 200 500
 2012  20 50 100 200 500
 2013  20 50 100 200 500

In 1991, a 10th anniversary commemorative 3 Yuan, 1 gram BU coin was added.

How to Collect:
  • The Chinese method is to collect every size coin for a given year - 1.9 oz per year
  • Americans often choose a weight and collect all the years of that size
  • More advanced options include collecting varieties (covered later) or certified high grade coins such as MS69 or MS70.

B.  Gold Panda Proofs

Proof coins are traditionally produced with a different process then BU coins.  A proof is not a high quality BU coin, rather it is a coin produced by a special method:  Dies and planchets are specially polished, and each coin is struck multiple times to produce a very sharp and often mirror-like coin.  However, today's high quality mass-produced BU coins are often so sharp and shiny that they may look proof-like, so the China mint has helped us identify proofs by providing Certificates (COA) and somtimes a special "P" mark on the coin.

Proof Gold Panda Coins Issued by Denomination (Yuan)
(troy ounce)
1/20 1/10 1/4 1/2 1 512 1 Kg
(32 oz)

 1986-P 5 10 25 50 1001000 
 1987-P 5 10 25 50 1001000
 1988-P 5 10 25 50 100 5001000
 1989-P 5 10 25 50 100
 1990-P 5 10 25 50 1001000
 1991-P* 5 10 25 50 1001000
 1992-P 5 10 25 50 100500 1000 
 1993-P 5 10 25 505001000 
 1994-P 5 10 25 505001000 
 1995 1001000 

 1996 15th An.10 25 100 








 2000 10000







 2012 30th An.  


*In 1991, a 10th anniversary commemorative 50 Yuan, 1 ounce "piefort" (double thick) proof and a xxxx Yuan, 5 Kg (160 oz) proof coin were added.
**In 2007 a 25th anniversary 3 yuan, 1/25oz gold set of 25 coins was issued

How to Collect:

  • If you can afford them, the jumbo-size coins are true rarities that are coveted worldwide.
  • 1986 to 1992 sets
  • 1986 to 1994 5, 10, 25, or 50 Yuan
  • 100 Yuan Proofs 1986-92, 95, and 96

Part 2 will cover Gold Panda Medals

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Strategies for Collecting Panda Coins

The ongoing financial crises is gradually leading many people to consider investment in hard assets, such as artwork, precious metals, and numismatic coins.  As a result, many people, both in the West and in Asia, are now entering the Chinese coin market.  Below is a basic outline of the Gold and Silver Chinese Panda coin market, along with some broad recommendations.

Panda Coin Overview

Beginning in 1982, the Chinese government began issuing gold bullion coins depicting the the China national symbol of the Panda Bear.  The coins were sold primarily to foreigners as a way to raise foreign exchange revenue and as a way to enhance Chinese prestige around the world.  At the time, gold was still near all-time highs and there was a shortage on coined gold bullion worldwide (only Krugerrand and Maple leafs were available).

Although initially intended as a pure bullion coin, the Pandas quickly began to appeal to collectors worldwide, especially in the US and Germany.  The coins feature and attractive new panda design each year, are available in several sizes of both gold and silver, and are produced in very limited quantities.
  • Gold panda sizes 1/20, 1/10. 1/4, 1/2, 1, 5 and 12 oz as well as 1 kg coins many years
  • Silver panda sizes:  1, 5 and 12 oz, 1 kg, and some 1/2 oz.
  • Most were issued as BU coins, with proof coins available on certain dates only, usually marked with a "P" on the coin.

Collector Appeal of Panda Coins
  • Attractive designs that change each year
  • Very Low mintages compared to other national bullion coins
  • Chinese legal tender status
  • .999 gold and silver purity
  • Availability in multiple sizes/denomination to match collector budgets
  • Many interesting varieties to explore and collect.
  • A very large and growing collector market in China and worldwide
  • A market that is not yet mature, where many rare types of coins are not yet prohibitively expensive
Identify Your Collecting Goals

Before diving into coin collecting of any type, it is important to evaluate your collecting goals, since this will help inform what you should buy.  There are three man categories on participants, you may overlap into more than one category, but one may be your primary interest:
  • The Collector
  • The Bullion Buyer
  • The Speculator / Investor

The Collector

The collector is interested in the beauty of the coins, the thrill of the chase to complete a collection, and the satisfaction and bragging rights achieved from building a great collection. 

For the collector, Pandas provide a bonanza of early stage opportunity.  Mintages of pandas are generally small, and there are many interesting types and varieties that are just now being discovered.  It is still possible to complete full collections of coins at reasonable prices to fit a budget when compared to low mintage US coins.  If you have sharp eye, you may be able to be one of the first identify a new/future rarity!

We highly recommend the Gold and Silver Panda Coin Buyer's Guide Book by Peter Anthony, and you can find many links to panda-related websites on the right side of this page.

How to collect:
  • Chinese collectors prefer collecting all coins from a single date (1/20, 1/10, 1/4, 1/2, and 1oz from a given year)
  • US collectors prefer to collect all dates of a given size (ex 1/2oz pandas from every date).  
  • Certified coins are preferred in the US and gaining interest in China

Collector Sets:
  • Date set - every date of a given coin size
  • Variety date set - every date and variety of a given size
  • Chinese set - all sizes of a given date
  • Grade set - all MS68 or MS69 (or all MS70 if you dare)
  • 1980's set
  • 1990s set
  • 2000's set
  • Proofs or Proof sets
  • Gold, silver, or platinum depending on budget and preference.

The Bullion Buyer

If you are looking to buy gold or silver bullion at a low premium, you may be too late to get into Chinese pandas.  While gold Maples, Eagles, and Krugerrands currently sell in a range of 3% to 4% over spot gold, current year pandas sell from major dealer at about 5% over spot.   Silver Maples and Eagles sell at $2 to $4 premium, while current year (2012) silver Pandas have a premium of $7 or more over spot silver.   This is  a function of strong collector demand and low mintage production.  These coins sell-out every year in recent times.

Furthermore, most older date Pandas trade at very hefty premiums.  20-30% is common and many dates can trade at 2x to 3x multiples of spot.  Special varieties trade even higher.   Lowest cost gold "common" dates are 1986-88 and 2010-2012.  Many silver pandas other then 2010-12 trade over $100 each.

As a bullion buyer, if you are looking for a little speculative zest in your portfolio, you way want to consider some pandas.  It is possible that even common dates may perform better than pure bullion.  Current year coins have historically gained 2-3% premium within 1-2 years. However, selling high-premium pandas requires a little patience.  The typical "we buy gold" outfit will not pay you any more than spot price for a panda, so you will need to sell to a specialist dealer or on ebay.

Recommended bullion-play pandas:
  • 1986-1988 and 2010-2012 gold.
  • Low-grade certified coins (MS66-MS68) or loose coins with slight marks usually trade below market.

The Investor and Speculator

If you are reading this, you are probably already convinced gold and silver are a good long term way to preserve and protect wealth, but you may be looking for something a little more interesting than gold bars, or  boring American Eagles. Chinese gold and silver pandas may have the extra potential you are looking for!

The Chinese coin market is still very young compared the mature, saturated, and well documented US coin market.  While US coins may do well in the future, most of the best rarities have already been identified and priced into the stratosphere.  It is unlikely you will make 2x or 3x your money on any US coin in a reasonable time period.   

Chinese coins, on the other hand, are just now being discovered.  New varieties of coins are being identified each year, and new collectors are entering the market daily.  The new and growing Chinese upper and middle class now have the money and the interest to buy their own national coins, and indeed they are buying heavily with government encouragement.  Over the past 3 years, numerous key panda varieties have more than doubled in market value.  We expect this trend may continue over the next several years.

For the investors, we recommend:
  • MS69 certified Pandas free of spots
  • Lower mintage varieties (mint types) and special issue pandas
  • Years 1990 to 2000 are established as the most scarce
  • 2001 to 2006 are showing speculative potential
  • 1982 is the first year and a key date always in demand
  • 83-85 and 89, and 86-90 proof sets also have potential as good value "sleepers"
  • 1986-88 trade closer to bullion but may see out-sized gains as gold gains momentum.
  • Platinum and Palladium coins were issued for a few years and are scarce

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chinese Coin Market Update 9/16/2012

For those who have been waiting for signs that the Chinese coin market is ready to make a new move up, Ben Bernanke and Mario Draghi fired the starting gun last week.  Almost immediately, new coin orders started pouring in.  Bargain priced pandas on ebay have been snapped up, and prices are moving up again.

As I have mentioned here and on CCF, dealer inventories of Chinese coins are very thin.  If you have your eye on a key coin, you may want to buy it now before it is gone.  Thant includes most gold pandas from 1991 though 2004.  Silver pandas are also regaining strength.   Prices will be going up.

Friday, August 24, 2012

1996 100Y Gold Panda 15th Anniversary Varieties

The 1996 100Y 1oz Gold Panda 15th Anniversary is a very low mintage coin within the Gold Panda series.  The official mintage total is only 3,800 coins.  Given the widespread melting of gold pandas in the 1990's, the surviving population could be much smaller.

Two varieties of this coin have been identified.  I do not know if these are correlated with different mints or die lots, so if anyone knows, please let me know.  The difference lies in the position of the 1996 date.  One of the dates of oddly off-center under the temple.

It is not yet known which of these is more rare, but the very existence of two clear varieties make the 1996 15th a potential long term candidate as a scarce panda superstar.
 1995 100Y 15th Anniversary Gold Panda 1996 100Y 15th Anniversary Gold Panda
Centered DateOff-Center Date


Thursday, August 23, 2012

2012 Philadelphia ANA Coin Show Pandas

The success of the Singapore ICF medals earlier this year no doubt lead to the issuance of medals for the Philadelphia ANA show.   By most accounts, demand for the Philly ANA pandas was stronger than for the Singapore offering.
Compared to the huge numbers of Panda coins produced by the mint in recent years, the low mintages of these medals make them an especially appealing way to get in on the ground floor of a relatively scarce issue.  In addition, the medals are especially appealing to American collectors due to the Liberty Bell depicted on the back.

2012 Singapore Show Pandas Mintage
1 oz Silver Panda 10,000
5 oz Silver Panda  2,500
1/2 oz Gold PandaN/A
5 oz Gold Panda99

This is a rare opportunity to acquire some very special low mintage pandas.  Once the the modest quantities are sold out, prices are likely to rise.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Panda Coin Market Update 6/30/2012

Summer is traditionally the slow time in the gold market as well as the coin market.  Summer 2011 was an exception with gold rising and Chinese coins seeing the greatest demand in decades.  June 2012 is quiet and gold appears trapped in a trading range.  While North American buyers have been reluctant to take advantage of lower prices, and in some cases liquidating coins at a loss, bargain hunters in Asia are very active.  

Buyers from China are less interested in high grade MS69 and MS70 coins, and instead prefer sealed, unsealed, and MS67-68 coins available at lower prices.  This has lead to a narrowing of the MS69 premium over lower grade coins.  Last year, a good 1oz  MS69 may have carried a premium over 30-50% over sealed of MS68.  Today 20-30% is a typical range over sealed coins, and MS68s even trade at a discount to sealed.

Chinese collectors prefer to build a full set of coins for each year - all 5 sizes from 1/20 to 1oz.  The strong Chinese buying has exposed shortages of certain of the smaller panda fractional coins, driving up prices on some unexpected dates.  Examples include 2000 and 2002 1/4oz MS68 near $900.  2000 1/20 over $300, 2006 1/10oz over $600.

Even more importantly, Chinese buying has been continuous and relentless over the last 6 months.  The modest dealer inventories that remained at the end of 2012 have been further drained.  As recently as 2 years ago, Pandas could be easily found in local coin shops, and dealers would sell for a small percentage over spot. Today, Pandas are almost never present in shops that are not specialists in Chinese coins.  When talking to local dealers, one will often hear comments such as "we used to have a lot of Chinese coins, but not anymore"  and "when we get them, they usually sell very quickly in a day or two."

A famous quote of Ross Perot comes to mind:  "That whooshing sound you hear is..." ...all of the Panda Coins in North America heading back home to China.  Chinese buyers are not flipping these coins for a quick profit.  They are looking for safe assets to protect wealth.  Just as we are seeing wealthy Chinese buying prime California real estate, Chinese coin buyers have strong hands and are keeping these coins for the long term.

I believe this is setting up the next great leg up in the Chinese coin market.  When the gold re-ignites, as I expect it will when QE3 follows the next crisis, the very thin remaining inventories of Chinese gold coins will disappear, and prices on many ordinary Pandas will skyrocket.

Now is the time to re-enter the market. It may be the last train out at these prices.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hong Kong Exchange Buys London Metals Exchange

Acquisition of gold and other hard assets is being encouraged by the Chinese government on many levels. Perhaps they are well aware of the debasement game being played by world central banks and see hard assets in Chinese possession as a defensive strategy.

The recent purchase of the London Metals exchange (LME) by the Hong Kong Exchange is just the latest step in what appears to be an ongoing process.  The LME is the one major exchange, other than HK, outside of China, which trades physical gold (COMEX is only paper contracts).  This may be a good way to gain better access to the physical gold market (as well as other key metals).

"The deal could immediately prop up HKEx to become one of the major global metals and commodities exchanges," Hong Kong Exchanges Chief Executive Charles Li said.

LME accounts globally for 80% of trade in nonferrous metals such as copper and aluminum, as well as other industrial metals.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chinese Panda Gold Promotional Video

Here is a link to a very professional Chinese language video promoting investment in Gold Pandas. It depicts the sophistication and traditional value of gold Pandas as an investment.  It appears to have credits for the People's Bank of China and the China Gold Coin Incorporation (CGCI).

It reflects the growing important of "Chinese" gold products in China, as well as the general official encouragement of gold ownership.

The video includes English subtitles

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Singapore Coin Fair Pandas

In the 1980's and 1990's, China frequently issued special panda commemoratives to mark important international numismatic shows, such as Munich, San Francisco, Basil, and others. This tradition, dormant since 1997, has been revived with and exciting new issue for the 2012 Singapore Coin Fair.

The low mintages and attractive design of this set of pandas should be very appealing to Chinese coin collectors.

2012 Singapore Show Pandas Mintage
1 oz Silver Panda 10,000
5 oz Silver Panda  2,500
1/2 oz Gold Panda  2,500
5 oz Gold Panda      99

The production of the generic "standard issue" pandas has grown dramatically in recent years to meet staggering demand.  The 2012 1oz Silver pandas will reach an incredible 8,000,000 and the 1/2oz gold 600,000.  The generic 5oz silver:  50,000 and the generic 5oz Gold: 5,000.  Compared to the standard issue 2012 Pandas, the Singapore show numbers are minuscule!  These are on par with 1990's Panda proofs and show medals.

Adding even more potential to these Pandas, collectors have begun to identify unique varieties of each of the Singapore coins.  The 5 oz Silver has 3 known varieties, generated as a result of a broken die during minting.    The one ounce and the gold are also likely to have sub-types not yet identified.  Varieties are good because each type will have a very low mintage, making each a potential rarity.

Demand for these coins at the Signapore show was strong, and the 5oz Gold is now reportedly sold out at the distributor.  Current sales of the other coins continues to be brisk.

This is a rare opportunity to acquire some very special low mintage pandas.  Once the the modest quantities are sold out, prices are likely to rise.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Will China Buy All The Gold?

Selling coins worldwide, I have the opportunity to see which parts of the world are running to gold at any particular point in time.  Sometimes its America, sometimes Europe, sometimes China.  What is interesting (and somewhat disturbing) is that Americans tend to buy late in a run-up when the price is high, but the Chinese buy most when the price is lower.  They buy when the big banks, futures markets, and the Fed are putting gold on sale.

Right now, America is asleep as the worlds currencies continue their slow implosion.  However, China is buying gold with both fists.  Like a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking up every bit of gold they can get from Americans in exchange for bits of US Government paper dollars.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Spring Festival sparks a 'gold rush' in China

The China Daily reports a 50% increase in gold sales at stores during Chinese New Year this year.

"People seem crazy about gold, snatching it up more like a 'cheap cabbage' than such a precious metal,"..

BEIJING - A "gold rushswept through China during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday thisyearwith demand for precious metals and jewelry surging since the Year of the Dragon began.
Sales of goldsilver and jewelry rose 57.6 percent during the week-long holiday at Caibaioneof Beijing's best-known gold retailersaccording to data released by the Ministry of Commerce(MOCon Saturday.
Other jewelry stores across the country also saw sales boom during the periodwith customersfavoring New Year-themed gold barsgold ingots and other types of Dragon-themed jewelries.
"Long treasured by Chinesegold is no longer owned only by a privileged fewbut has becomea new investment channel open to all," said Guan Qiangassistant manager at Caibai.
The Spring Festival gives people a chance to preserve and present gold as giftsofferinghopes that it will increase in value and not be impacted by inflationGuan said.
During the week-long holidaywhich lasted from January 22 to 28, the sales volume in Caibaiand Guohuaanother of Beijing's top gold retailersreached about 600 million yuan ($95.28million).
The figure showed a 49.7-percent increase over that of last year's Spring Festivalsaid areport released by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Commerce.
Caibai began selling gold bars as investment items during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Gamesbutthe trend of buying gold or silver bars during the Spring Festival has really taken off in the pasttwo yearsGuan said.
For Guan and his colleaguesthe Spring Festival rush was an exciting but exhaustingexperienceas customers flooded the store and surprised clerks with their purchasing enthusiasm.
"With customers crowding and rushing inwe did not even have time to eat and drink," said asales clerk at the gold bar counter surnamed Li.
She said each shop assistant had received hundreds of customers per day and wrote severaltimes more orders than on ordinary days.
"You can hardly even see the gold barsnecklaces and pendants in the display casePeople seem crazy about goldsnatching it up more like a 'cheap cabbagethan such a preciousmetal," said Beijing resident Miao Miao.
"You have to quickly decide whether to make a purchaseor it will be taken away by others."

Link to full article