No country’s association with an animal is as iconic as China’s affiliation with the giant panda. It was no surprise, when China chose the creature for its new gold bullion series, which started in 1982. Since then, the design has changed annually, with Silver Pandas added to the mix shortly thereafter. Thanks to the one-year only designs, Chinese Gold and Silver Pandas are among the most highly anticipated new releases for collectors around the world every year. To keep up with the demand, 10 million 2019 Silver Pandas are set to be minted.
The Chinese Gold Panda debuted in 1982 as one of the first modern bullion series. The initial issue included four sizes, one ounce, half ounce, quarter ounce, and one-tenth ounce. A 1/20 oz. piece was added the following year. While several mints, including those in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Shenzhen, have produced the coins, Chinese mints typically do not have mint marks. Even so, it is possible to determine where coins were produced thanks to variations in the size of the date and style of the temple.
The year after the first Gold Pandas were issued, proof silver coins were added to the mix. They were issued in .900 fine silver until 1985. In 1987, proofs were again issued, this time in sterling (.925) silver. It wasn’t until 1989, that the modern bullion series began and one ounce coins were issued in .999 fine silver, a purity that proof coins matched from that point on.
In 2016, the Panda series underwent one of the most dramatic changes in numismatic history when the weights of the coins were changed from imperial units to metric. The gold and silver one-ounce coins were changed to 30 g, while fractional gold weights went from 1/2 oz to 30 g, 1/4 oz. to 8 g, 1/10 oz. to 3 g, and 1/20 oz. to 1 g. The coins have been issued in metric units ever since.
The obverse design has remained constant throughout the Gold and Silver Panda Series. A rim frame provides a solid background for a Chinese inscription that means, “People’s Republic of China” at the top and the date at the bottom. Dominating this face is the Hall of Prayer for Abundant Harvests, which is situated in Beijing’s Temple of Heaven. Levels of stairs lead up to the circular edifice, which has concentric levels that get smaller as it rises. The building is a stunning example of traditional Chinese architecture.
The highly anticipated reverse design, which will be unique to 2019, features a mother panda tenderly cradling her small cub. With one exception, the reverse of the Chinese Pandas has been unique every single year.