First struck in 1982, the Gold Panda is the signature of the China Mint. It was the third gold bullion coin to capture a share of the world's gold market, following in the footsteps of the South Africa Gold Krugerrand (first minted in 1967) and the Canada Gold Maple Leaf (first minted in 1979).
The coin features China's iconic Giant Panda on the obverse, and the Temple of Heaven in Beijing's Forbidden City of the reverse. While the Panda may seem like natural choice for a Chinese Gold Coin, many different designs were considered for the new gold coin. The winning design was created by artist Chen Jian, who competed for this honor against nine other designs.
China issued its first Gold Panda coins in 1982, in sizes of 1 oz., 1/2 oz., 1/4 oz., and 1/10 oz. of .999 fine gold. Beginning in 1983, another size was added, the 1/20 Oz. Larger Panda coins were issued in some years, weighing from 5 Oz. and 1 Kilogram. These popular coins are issued in Proof-like Brilliant Uncirculated quality with a different design each year. A freeze of the design was announced with the 2001 issues, thus, the 2002 Pandas are identical to 2001. After numismatists spoke up regarding the annual changes, China reverted to their original policy. There are several mints that produce these coins, including, but not limited to, Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Shenyang. Unlike coins made by US mints that carry mint marks to distinguish their origin, Chinese mints usually do not employ mintmarks; however, in certain years, there are minor variations (size of the date, style of the temple, etc.) in the coin design that allow the originating mint to be determined.
The 1984 12 Oz. Gold Panda is the first Gold Panda of its size. It was struck in a limited edition of only 250 Proofs. The 1987 5 Oz. Gold Panda is the first of that size minted. Only 3,000 Proofs were struck. The first one kilogram Gold Panda was struck in 1997 in Proof condition. Only 58 of these Giant Panda gold coins were minted.
Many other special Gold Pandas were minted, including bi-metal and colorized editions. The China Mint has also issued Gold Pandas that have been designated as First Strike by Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). Over the years, the China Mint has issued special Gold Pandas in conjunction with major numismatic coin shows around the world. Known as "Show Pandas," these issues can be incredibly difficult to locate, as many were only issued at their respective coin show. To celebrate over four decades of China's Giant Pandas at the National Zoo in Washington DC, the China Mint and the Smithsonian released first-ever, special issue Gold Panda Proofs in 2014. These Gold Pandas are struck in .999 gold. 2015 Smithsonian Gold Pandas were also issued.
In 2015, another Gold Panda first was released, although the weights and gold content of the 2015 Pandas are the same as those of previous years. For the first time ever, the 2015 Gold Panda does not have its respective weight and precious metal content struck into the surface of the coin.
Chinese Gold Pandas offer numismatists a stunning variety and breadth of choices.