The change to this year’s silver and gold coins set off a great deal of speculation about why this was done, and what kind of impact it might have on sales of the coins. As a general rule, bullion buyers like to see this information on the coin, especially buyers of Chinese coins.
In October 2014 during the Beijing International Coin Exposition the 2015 Silver and Gold Panda program was unveiled. In addition to sporting a new obverse design of a panda eating a bamboo shoot, something was different about the 2015 coins. After a careful review of the coins, it was found that they did not have any inscriptions indicating the metal, weight, or purity! While a new reverse design is something expected yearly for the Silver Panda coin series, inscriptions denoting the composition of the coin have always been present. Only the denomination of each coin is included on the obverse, and the year and a Chinese inscription on the reverse.
The change to last year’s silver and gold pandas set off a great deal of speculation among collectors about why this was done, and what kind of impact it might have on the coin's sales. As a general rule, bullion buyers like to see this information on the coin, especially Chinese coins. Some worry that the lack of these inscriptions might make the coins easier to counterfeit, and most coin collectors know China is the largest source of counterfeit coins in the world.
Others say the lack of inscriptions for metal, weight, and fineness gives the coins a cleaner look. While that may not seem like the view of the majority, this change it did not result in any lowered sales volume. The Panda seems to have remained as popular as ever!
As we found out in 2016, the reason for the inscription change was to pave the way for a switch to the metric system. To accommodate a growing domestic market for Panda bullion coins, 2016 Silver Pandas and Gold Pandas have been issued in even gram weights. This has provided its own bit of discontentment for some collectors, but it certainly makes this series unique!
This means it is very likely the 2015 coins will be a one-year type, which is something to get excited about. Many classic and modern collector coins of that type have become popular and highly sought after years from their release. Whether that will be the case with a silver coin with a mintage of 8 million remains to be seen, but the situation certainly has created quite a stir among China Panda coin fans.
The change to metric weights should also be seen in the context of China’s growing role in shaping the precious metals markets. China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of gold and one of the largest for silver as well. Its middle class has expanded dramatically in the past several decades, and in China people are encouraged to put some of their savings into precious metals. This is the same reason the mintage of silver Pandas has been increased so much in the last couple years.
In addition, it is widely believed that China will seek to implement some type of precious metal-based currency to replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The country has already established its own gold exchange in Shanghai and has announced plans to create a massive gold fund for central banks. This plan already has investments from over sixty countries.
While not enough is known at this point to understand how the removal of the inscriptions on the 2015 silver and gold Pandas may fit into these longer-term plans, it is possible there is a connection between the two developments. China is clearly seeking to expand its role in the global precious metals market. Since most of the world uses the metric system, the move to gram weights on Panda coins could indeed be part of China’s broader, long-term strategy.
ModernCoinMart (MCM) still carries a few examples of the 2015 Silver Pandas and Gold Pandas, as well as plenty of examples of the 2016 Silver Pandas and Gold Pandas with new weights. We offer certification from the two major 3rd party grading companies, the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). You can check out what MCM currently carries, and see if there is something you would like to add to your collection!
Author Name: Louis Golino
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,” and in August 2021 the column received the NLG award for best column on modern U.S. coins. He has also received other awards for his writing. 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 and other publications. 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 has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.