The price and premium of Chinese Gold Panda coins
Compared to American Eagles, Austrian Philharmonics, Canadian Maple Leafs, and other well-known legal tender gold bullion coins that have been minted from their inception in unlimited quantities, Chinese Gold Pandas have an annual limited edition, although subject to change. This, coupled with the changing panda bear motif, has contributed to making older dated issues fetch a considerable collector’s premium in the secondary market. In 2014, as a response to heightened demand, the Chinese Central Bank increased the annual mintage limit of the most popular 1 ounce weight to one million pieces per year, the highest ever. While the larger supply has somewhat dampened the premium on the 2014 Panda coins in the secondary market, this could prove to be a perfect window of opportunity for longer-term investors given the potential upside these coins carry.
The future value and premium appreciation of Chinese Gold Panda coins are supported by several conclusive facts, the first and most obvious being that they are China’s only legal tender gold coinage. It should also be considered that there are 1.35 billion Chinese and the current mintage limit of one ounce Gold Panda coins is set at 1 million pieces per year, while the United States has a population of 320 million and is currently minting on average 850,000 pieces of the one ounce American Gold Eagle coin per year. Secondly, the legislation that allowed free market pricing of gold and that enabled Chinese citizens to invest and trade in the metal has only been around for a little more than a decade, leaving further room for gold’s popularity in China to grow. The third reason concerns the distribution of Chinese Gold Pandas inside mainland China which has until recently been under direct state control, meaning that only government affiliated institutions could sell these coins, resulting in a highly ineffective and illiquid market. This has now changed and bullion dealers and financial institutions are able to facilitate the trade of these coins. Fourthly, the Chinese government is making a concerted effort to promote gold ownership, something you will not see in western countries. Lastly, China is now the world’s biggest gold consumer, with demand set to increase further in the coming years, which will further promote the liquidity and transparency of the Chinese gold market and this will directly benefit Gold Panda coins.
In 2016 a new era for Panda coins began - the usual investment gold weight system of Troy ounces was replaced by metric system of grams at the request of Chinese internal market. The face values of the coins stayed the same. So currently the coins are issued in 5 sizes: 30 g, 15 g, 8 g, 3 g, and 1 gram. Although the 2015 Panda coins are measured in ounces, they bear no weight nor gold content inscription probably due to the transition to new system.
Chinese Gold Pandas marked the beginning of the country’s bullion market liberalisation
Contrary to most major western economies, China never used gold but rather silver as the primary anchor for its monetary system. The monetary system based on silver served the country for several centuries, but the onset of the Great Depression in conjunction with the rise of communism in the 1930s led the authorities to abandon it in favour of a pure paper standard. To support the new fiat system, legislation was introduced which stipulated that circulating monetary silver had to be turned over to the authorities in exchange for the new paper currency. In spite of the new harsh rules, commercial trade of silver and ownership of jewellery and antiques made out of gold was still allowed, albeit only for a short period. In the late 1930s, the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War and the rivalry between the Communist and Chinese establishment forced the authorities to proclaim a ban on precious metals ownership in any shape or form.
This ban would be in place for five long decades before the Chinese Government made an economic and philosophical turnaround regarding its domestic bullion market with the introduction of the Chinese Gold and Silver Panda coins in 1982 and 1983 respectively. From these years onwards, the Chinese authorities would slowly begin to loosen the restrictions that had been put in place since the 1930s. Besides being a symbol of the country’s liberalisation of the precious metals market and the economy itself, the Gold Panda coin also marked the subtle beginning of a long-term plan to make gold bullion, for the first time in the country’s modern history, the foundation of China’s new monetary system.
The Chinese Panda Bear
The decision to use the iconic panda bear as the coin’s main motif has played a major part in the successful promotion of Chinese Gold Panda coins. The panda bear is an animal endemic to central China and is characterised by the black patches around its eyes and ears. In spite of its charming and peaceful nature and its status as a Chinese national symbol, panda bears are unfortunately very rare animal. Due to deforestation and commercial farming, large parts of the panda bears’ natural habitat have been destroyed and thus the population of pandas living in the wild has dwindled by some estimates to only 2000 individuals. In the past decade, extensive conservation efforts have been made by the Chinese Government to stem the declining panda bear population. Although still an endangered species, the conservation efforts are believed to be working as scientific surveys show that the population of wild pandas has started to recover.
The Chinese Gold Panda was first introduced in 1982 and Silver Panda in 1983, both have since been in continuous production, with the exception of 1986 when no silver Pandas were issued. Chinese Panda coins have been manufactured at three different locations:
*Shanghai Mint 1982-2004
*Shenyang Mint 1985-1999, 2003-2004
*Shenzhen Guobao Mint 1999-2002, 2005 onwards
The Shenzhen Guabao Mint is a subsidiary of the People’s Bank of China (China’s Central Bank).