2016 has been a big year for the China Silver Pandas. Not only has the series received a different design as usual, but the coins now have changes to their silver weight! 2016 Silver Pandas have been resized to gram weights instead of their normal Troy oz. What do these changes mean for collectors? What's in store for future releases? What can you buy now? Find out, along with information about NGC graded first of 30,000 Struck Silver Pandas!
Last December, 2016-dated Chinese silver Panda 10 Yuan coins became available in the U.S. at a number of dealers, including ModernCoinMart (MCM)! They carried a number of both Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) graded and ungraded examples of the new 2016 Silver Pandas. They also have a very special variety of the graded coins available, the NGC First Releases Mint State 69 and Mint State 70 coins that are the first 30,000 coins struck by the Chinese Mint.
These coins are the very first ones struck, and they are tracked during their production to ensure the coins that receive these special labels are in fact the first 30,000 struck. Considering that 8 million of these coins are issued every year, these NGC first-struck coins represent a tiny fraction (0.00375%) of the total annual mintage. Last year the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) carried the first 25,000 2015 silver Panda coins struck, which have sold out at the China Mint, as well as at MCM.
The 2016 coins have been the subject of even greater anticipation from Panda fans than is normally the case with the release of a new issue. The new coins sport a new Panda design, a yearly feature of the China Panda coin series. Each coin has had a new design since the series began in 1983 with the exception of the 2002 coins that used the same design as the 2001 issue. The 2016 design shows a single Panda clinging to a log with bamboo in the background.
The 2016 coins come from the Chinese Mint in sheets of 15 coins rather than 30 coins as in the past. The most exciting change, which is the one that has received by far the most attention in the numismatic media, is the fact that for the first time the Panda coins use metric weight units!
In an exciting twist, the China Mint issued all 2016 Pandas with gram weights! This means that instead of weighing 1 Troy oz. (31.1 grams), the 2016 issue weighs 30 grams. The difference in weight compared to the previous coins is only 1.1 grams, which leaves it at roughly the same size. The diameter of the coins remains at 40 millimeters.
This switch to metric weights is widely believed to have been an accommodation to the domestic Chinese market for these coins. Demand has grown tremendously in recent years, especially since it became legal for Chinese citizens to purchase precious metals in 2011. Since that law came into effect, the Chinese government actively encourages its citizens to invest in metals.
In China and other Far Eastern countries, precious metals have always been traded in grams and kilograms. The switch to metric weight units for Pandas is a testament to China’s growing and dominant role in the precious metal arena. It is also significant that in April 2016 the Shanghai Gold Exchange in China was trading 1 kilogram gold contracts that were priced and sold only in Yuan, which later in the year will also officially become a global reserve currency.
Last year, a stir was created by the absence on the 2015 Pandas of any inscriptions for weight, purity, or metal type. That move surprised many, upset some, and it was widely seen as a step taken to pave the way for the use of metric units. So far, the reaction to the switch to gram weights seems to be positive. Sales of the 2016 coins have been very strong, which is an indication that the change does not seem to have bothered buyers.
The Chinese Mint has shown in the past that it is open to feedback from its customers. For example, when it used the same design in 2002 as in 2001, collectors were not happy and said they wanted a new design each year. So it 2003 it resumed the practice of introducing a new design each year.
The return to indicating the weight in 2016 after its absence in 2015 does appear to also have been done in response to concerns from buyers who did not like the removal of weight inscriptions. They found that rather unsettling and were concerned that it might make it easier to counterfeit the coins.
Numismatic experts on Chinese coins have also discussed whether the 2016 coins could acquire a higher premium as the first coins to use metric weights. Coin collectors love firsts, so that is certainly a possibility. The first silver Pandas from 1983 to 1985, which were proof-only, were made of less than 1 oz. of silver. Today, each is worth more than $1,000. I do not expect the 2016 coins to do that well, but this is something to watch and yet another reason - beside the new design and the option to obtain of the first 30,000 coins struck - that make the 2016 silver Pandas so exciting for buyers and collectors.
Additionally, the 2015 Silver Pandas have become more valuable because they are the only ones that lack inscriptions for their weight, purity, and metal. Currently, the 2015 silver coins are selling for at least 50% over the 2016 issues, and they are becoming difficult to obtain. MCM does offer them for a great price, however. Take a look at what they have, and secure a 2015 issue, one of the new 2016 issues, or perhaps even one of the first 30,000 struck 2016 Silver Pandas!
||Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and American Hard Assets. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|