One of the rising producers of commemorative coins in the global precious metals industry is the Chinese Mint in the People’s Republic of China. Although it is not known for producing a great variety of coins on an annual basis, its primary commemorative coin collection is one of the most famous in the world. The Chinese Panda coin is a sovereign product with a history that matches those of more well-known coins like the Canadian Maple Leaf and American Eagle. Investors and collectors eagerly anticipate the latest edition of Chinese Panda coins when they are released each year.
The history of minting in China is clouded by the political strife that divided the nation in years following World War II. While people of the modern-day People’s Republic of China lay claim to the nation’s thousands of years of history, when it comes to the government and the history of minting, the case is not as easy to decipher.
Following the end of a very long and brutal occupation by the Japanese, which ended with the US defeat of Japanese Imperial Forces in 1945, China’s ruling nationalist government had a difficult time regaining control of the nation. The nationalist government had fled to the island of Taiwan during the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, and remained there throughout World War II.
In the interim, a communist government under Mao Tse Tung rose to power having stayed behind to lead revolutionary forces against the Japanese occupation. The government structure of the nationalist party, including the Central Bank of China and the Chinese Mint, eventually remained as part of the nationalist government that now occupies modern-day Taiwan, which itself exists as a nation separate of the People’s Republic of China.
The confusion comes into play when people refer to the Republic of China (Taiwan) and its many institutions, such as its bank and mint that operate under names similar to that of institutions in the People’s Republic of China. For the sake of clarity, the modern Chinese Mint in the nation of China operates as the China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation.
The governmental structure of the Chinese Mint may have technically left the country for Taiwan with the nationalist government, but the physical structures that make up the modern Chinese Mint system have existed for over 100 years in some cases. Today’s Chinese Mint operates under the name China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation. There is no clear information on the founding of the modern mint, but there are clues as to its evolution over the course of the past 120 years.
A centralized Chinese Mint began in 1896 when the Qing Dynasty’s government established the Fengtian Machinery Bureau at the former Shenyang Mint, followed by the Duzhibu Printing Bureau at a former Beijing Banknote Printing Plant in 1908. China’s first communist leader, Mao Tse Tung, established the first official mint of modern-day China during the revolution with construction of the Shangjing Mint.
Over time, these facilities were merged to form the China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation, which today is directly controlled by the government of the People’s Republic of China and overseen by the People’s Bank of China. The minting facilities themselves are located at the Shenyang Mint (1896), the Shanghai Mint (1920), and the Nanjing Mint (1985).
While China has a minting history that dates back thousands of years, the first commemorative gold coins introduced to the global market were produced by the Chinese Mint in 1979 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the formation of the People’s Republic of China. This original gold commemorative coin eventually gave way to a new sovereign bullion coin that would take the world by storm with impressive designs, high levels of purity, and intense demand.
The Chinese Panda coin program is a sovereign coin series just like the popular American Eagle, Canadian Maple Leaf, and Britannia coin from the United Kingdom. The very first Chinese Panda coin produced by the Chinese Mint was the Chinese Gold Panda. These gold coins were introduced by the mint in 1982 in bullion and proof versions.
From the very first year of production, the Chinese Gold Panda has featured a variety of weights for investors and collectors to choose between. Chinese Gold Panda coins were struck in 1 oz, ½ oz, ¼ oz, and 1/10 oz weights in 1982, with each coin featuring .999 pure gold. One year later in 1983, the Chinese Mint introduced a 1/20 oz coin to the program. On some occasions, though not with annual regularity, the Chinese Mint will mint heavier coins of 5 oz and 12 oz.
Each Chinese Gold Panda coin is considered legal tender within the People’s Republic of China. The face value is determined by the baseline of the 1 oz coin. All 1 oz Chinese Gold Panda coins have a face value of ¥500 (Yuan), with each fractional-weight coin bearing a face value representative of its weight compared to the 1 oz coin:
Following the successful introduction of the Chinese Gold Panda, the Chinese Mint opted to design and unveil a Chinese Silver Panda coin, as well. The silver version of the coin was introduced in 1983 as a proof version with .900 pure silver. Only available at this time in a 1 oz weight, the Chinese Silver Panda was only struck in this limited mintage until 1985. No Chinese Silver Panda coins were produced in 1986.
In 1987, the Chinese Silver Panda coin program returned with two of the fractional weights available in the program (½ oz and ¼ oz), and now featured .925 pure silver compared to the previous .900. In an odd move, the Chinese Mint did not mint the silver pandas in a 1 oz weight in 1988, but they quickly returned to the lineup in 1989.
Since 1989, the Chinese Silver Panda has been struck in proof and bullion versions in a total of six different weights: 1 kilogram, 12 oz, 5 oz, 1 oz, ½ oz, and ¼ oz. Like the gold program, the Chinese Silver Panda coins feature face values based upon their weights and silver content. The face values start at ¥300 for the 1 Kilogram coin, and work their way down as follows:
The Chinese Panda coin program is similar to other sovereign coin programs in some respects, and different in others. While the United States Mint is one of the few to use different designs on its silver and gold bullion coins, the Chinese Mint follows the lead of the Royal Canadian Mint and Royal Mint of the United Kingdom in using the same design on both the Chinese Gold Panda and Chinese Silver Panda.
However, while each of those mints uses the same design year in and year out on its sovereign bullion coins, the Chinese Mint was the first to introduce a sovereign coin with brand-new images on the reverse each year. All Chinese Panda coins share the same reverse image each year, but the specific design changes from one year to the next. Only once, 2001 and 2002, has the design been different.
On the reverse side of every Chinese Panda coin you’ll find the common motif for the series, that of a panda in its native habitat. The 2015 Chinese Panda coins, for example, feature a single adult panda sitting in front of a wall of bamboo as it chews on some bamboo shoots. On the obverse of all the coins, every year, is the image of the Temple of Heaven. Located in the center of southern Beijing, the Temple of Heaven has stood for centuries as a testament to Chinese culture.
In a strange move, the Chinese Mint made a significant change to its sovereign coins in 2015. To the dismay of many investors, the metal fineness and weight were removed as engravings on the coin’s reverse design.
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