The Gold Krugerrand Coin of South Africa was the world’s first, and most popular, gold bullion coin. Today, gold-producing nations around the globe continue to capitalize on the popularity of gold bullion products (and record high prices for gold) by minting gold bullion for investors and collectors. China’s response to the popularity of the Krugerrand was the Chinese Gold Panda coin. The coin commemorates one of the most indelible images of China with the gold investment in the form of a bullion coin.
History of the Chinese Gold Panda Coin
The very first Chinese Gold Pandas were minted and introduced in 1982 as legal tender in the People’s Republic of China. When the coin was first issued, it was available in .999 pure gold and was struck in 1, ½, ¼, and 1/10 ounce weights. Since 1983, the People’s Republic of China has minted the gold coins in five total weights after adding a 1/20 ounce coin that year. The only exception to this lineup of coins came in 1991 when the mint added a 1 gram Chinese Gold Panda. That was the only year that particular coin was minted.
Since the Chinese Gold Panda was first introduced, each weight has carried the same face value denomination. The specifications and face value of the various coins in the gold panda series is as follows:
- 1 Ounce Gold Panda (31.1 gram total weight)
- Diameter: 32.05 mm
- Thickness: 2.70 mm
- Face Value: 500 Yuan
- 1/2 Ounce Gold Panda (15.55 gram total weight)
- Diameter: 27.00 mm
- Thickness: 1.855 mm
- Face Value: 200 Yuan
- 1/4 Ounce Gold Panda (7.77 gram total weight)
- Diameter: 21.95 mm
- Thickness: 1.53 mm
- Face Value: 100 Yuan
- 1/10 Ounce Gold Panda (3.11 gram total weigh)
- Diameter: 17.95 mm
- Thickness: 1.05 mm
- Face Value: 50 Yuan
- 1/20 Ounce Gold Panda (1.55 gram total weight)
- Diameter: 13.92 mm
- Thickness: .83 mm
- Face Value: 20 Yuan
Rare and Special Release Gold Panda Coins
The People’s Republic of China Mint has also released a number of different Chinese Gold Pandas for collectors. In 1986, a proof set was approved with a total of 1.9 ounces of gold, and mintage was set at 10,000 coins annually. However, the proof coins were not very popular and become increasingly expensive to produce over time. In 1992, the proof mint series came to an end. The mint differentiated the proof coins from the other Chinese Gold Pandas with a “P” mint mark.
In a rare move, the China Mint replaced the 1 ounce gold panda with a bimetallic coin. The decision to go with a bimetallic mint lasted just one year and was discontinued in 1994. Over time, the China Mint has also experimented with limited runs of 5 ounce, 12 ounce, and 1 Kilo Chinese Gold Panda.
The 5 ounce coin was first minted in 1987 and, initially, mintage was only planned for two years. Beginning in 1992, minting of the 5 ounce coins resumed with a very small mintage that ended up consisting of fewer than 100 coins. The second run for the 5 ounce Chinese Gold Panda lasted until 1996, when it was cancelled permanently.
The 12 ounce coin was introduced in 1984 with a mintage of 250 coins. Minting of the 12 ounce Chinese Gold Panda can best be described as sporadic. Following its introduction in 1984, the 12 ounce coin was suspended in 1985, minted from 1986 to 1988, suspended again in 1989, before resuming yet again from 1990 to 1995.
Finally, the 1 Kilo Chinese Gold Panda was first minted in 1997 with an extremely low production of just 58 coins. The 1 Kilo coins were suspended in 1998, but resumed in 1999 and continue through to this day. The production levels for this coin have steadily increased with time. After an initial production of just 58, mintage was increased to 68 coins through 2004, and eventually to 300 coins as of 2011.
Many of these coins are among the rarest of gold pandas available today because their minting was so short lived, and total mintage was low.
Chinese Gold Panda Coin Design
While many of the world’s other gold bullion coins, such as the American Gold Eagle and South African Krugerrand, have featured the exact same design from year to year, the Chinese Mint took a different path with the Gold Panda. From 1982 until 2001, the specific design on the coin was different from one year to the next. The government of the People’s Republic announced a freeze in designs for 2001 and 2002, making coins from these years the only time that repeat imagery has appeared on these gold bullion products.
Due to consumer outcry for a return to tradition, the China Mint returned to the practice of using a new design on the coins each year. There is a general trend that is followed with the Chinese Gold Panda, which can be seen in the recent gold coins. On the obverse side, the coins include a depiction of the Temple of Heaven in the center. The engraving surrounding the image states “Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo” (in Chinese characters), which translates to “People’s Republic of China.” The Temple of Heaven has appeared on the obverse side of all Chinese Gold Panda coins since 1982.
The reverse side includes the varying images of pandas. On the latest coin, a single panda is seen sitting amongst a background of bamboo with a single branch in its grasp. The face value, weight, metal content, and purity are all engraved on this side of the coin.
Numerous minting facilities in the China Mint system helped produce the Chinese Gold Panda coins. These facilities include, but are not limited to, mints in Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Shenyang. Since mints in China do not put mint marks on any coins, it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to decipher which mints produced which coins.
Buying Chinese Gold Pandas
The most popular coins in the series are the 1, ½, and ¼ ounce weights. Although exact mint numbers are not available, these coins are considered easy to find by most in the industry. The most difficult coins in the Chinese Gold Panda series are the smallest coins, including the 1/10 and 1/20 ounce weights. These were extremely popular during the first 20 years of production because they were affordable and could easily be melted down for use in jewelry.
In general, the total mintage, year of minting, and current condition of the coins determine their value for investors and collectors. The larger coins (5 and 12 ounce, 1 Kilo) are all considered rare among collectors because their mintage was limited. Among these coins, the easiest to find are the newer (2004 and newer) coins because mint levels have increased over time.
Where to Buy Gold Panda Coins Online
Chinese Gold Panda coins are available from a number of online precious metal retailers. With that said, dealers like Golden Eagle Coins, JM Bullion, SD Bullion, Gainesville Coins, Provident Metals, and APMEX have made a name for themselves in the industry by providing secure payment and shipping, high-quality grading and certification, and have the ability to get their hands on reasonable stockpiles of these coins for investors.
For these reasons, the buying Chinese Gold Pandas online is one of the best choices from both a cost, and selection perspective. Because these coins have to be imported from China and are one of the highest quality gold bullion coins available today, they are often priced slightly higher than domestic coins like the American Gold Eagle.