Chinese Silver Pandas

Chinese Silver Pandas are now high quality silver coins with 99.9% pure silver content, though you should be aware that the earliest mintage – that produced between 1983 and 1985 – is only 90% pure silver, and weighs less than a troy ounce as well, so it is of lesser value as an actual bullion coin, though it is highly collectible for its historic value. Since 1986, however, all issues have been on a par with American Silver Eagles in terms of fineness.

Chinese Silver Pandas lack mintmarks, though some individual mints are identifiable by slight differences in the coins’ imagery. Generally speaking, you will be collecting these coins based entirely on year, though the fact that the pandas shown on the reverse of the coin are different for all years except 2001 and 2002 – which share the same reverse – allows you to pin down the year of issue at a glance.

One of the unique factors that must be borne in mind when buying Chinese Silver Pandas is that there are huge amounts of counterfeit Pandas in the world, offered for sale through popular auction sites and the like. There is always a risk of encountering counterfeits in a market as lucrative as gold and silver coinage, but special caution is in order when dealing with Silver Pandas. Make sure to only purchase these coins from reputable silver dealers such as those listed on this site.

Some counterfeits are distinguishable because of their designers’ strange choice to omit the denomination. If there is no denomination on a Chinese Silver Panda coin, this is not an unusual minting error worth more than the standard strikes, but a worthless counterfeit, so beware!

Others are made to be practically identical to the originals except for weight. This means that you cannot trust visual clues alone when buying Silver Pandas from another collector or a dubious secondary source. Unless you are purchasing your Chinese Silver Panda coins from a highly reputable dealer with an unimpeachable record, then you must be able to both inspect the coin and weigh it accurately in order to ensure that it is a valid item of Chinese silver.

Fortunately, a number of verifiably legitimate online sources for these coins are now in existence, allowing you to collect these coins without even needing to leave your home. The main official source for recent issues of these coins in the United States is the Panda America company.

Properties of the Chinese Silver Panda

The Chinese Silver Panda is currently a standard sized silver bullion coin, weighing one troy ounce – though there are also special issues of different weights, such as ½ ounce Silver Pandas, and a special 1 kilogram (2.2 pound) Silver Panda coin. The Silver Pandas discussed here are the one ounce bullion coins.

Since 1987, the typical Chinese Silver Panda has weighed one ounce (31.1 grams), measures 1.6 inches in diameter (40 mm), and consists of 99.9% pure silver. Mintages have varied between 50,000 and 1,500,000 uncirculated bulk coins, with an annual output of 600,000 being most typical. The issue of proof coins is very chaotic. In some years, proof coins outnumber bulk uncirculated coins, while in others bulk coins outnumber proofs 10 to 1 or more. No data is available for the number of proofs issued in most years.

The obverse of the Chinese Silver Panda is identical from year to year. A wide band surrounds the coin’s edge, forming a frame for an image of the triple-roofed Temple of Heaven, a 15th century temple complex located in Beijing. The specific building shown is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. The band is inscribed with Chinese characters which say “People’s Republic of China”, “Temple of Heaven”, and a date stamp.

The reverse of the Chinese Silver Panda shows one or more giant pandas, sometimes depicted in a realistic manner, and sometimes given a more primitive artistic rendering. Each year’s design is different, except for 2001 and 2002, which have identical pandas. The reaction to this feature was so negative among collectors that the Chinese have made all coins with unique designs on the reverse since. All bear Chinese characters as well as “1 oz Ag” or “1 oz Ag .999”.

History of the Chinese Silver Panda

Produced by a murderous communist dictatorship which is paradoxically granted trading favors and treated with kid gloves by the most advanced democratic governments of the world, the Chinese Silver Panda coins got off to a rather rocky start during their introduction in the 1980s, and have been marked by strange issuing decisions since then from time to time. The quality of the coins improved abruptly shortly after their introduction, however, and has remained high ever since.

The giant panda, a striking black and white bear forced to a diet of bamboo by a lack of meat – which also makes the species notably lethargic, since its digestive system is that of a carnivore – is the most distinctive animal species of China, and was adopted for this reason, much as the United States chose to place bald eagles and bison on their coins, while Canada opted for the timber wolf and grizzly bear. In effect, the panda is the “national animal” of China, and is shown on their coins for this reason.

Just as with the Canadian Silver Maple, the Silver Panda started as a silver copy of a gold coin whose success prompted the minting government to make use of the argent metal as well, in order to cash in on a larger potential market from those who cannot afford gold but are still keenly interested in acquiring precious metal. The Golden Panda was released in 1982 and due to its great popularity, the first Silver Pandas were struck the very next year, in 1983.

Due to the nature of China’s government and society, the details of how and why minting decisions are made are completely obscure and veiled in secrecy. For this reason, there is no history of why certain features were included in certain coins or why the early strikings have nonstandard weights, fineness of silver, and so on. This mystery adds a certain air of intrigue to the coins for some collectors, which is just one of the reasons that these coins are now highly sought out by investors and collectors alike.

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