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The first-year 1982 Gold Panda displays the iconic image of a single Panda nibbling bamboo. This singular design became the model for all subsequent Panda coins, with every new design featuring China’s most famous animal. In another first for the China Mint, the dies for the Pandas were highly polished, producing a frosted effect on selective parts of the Panda to replicate its black and white fur. 

From the Bamboo Forests of China to Collections Around the World Since their introduction more than 35 years ago, the China Panda series has been a favorite of collectors around the world, renowned for its attractive one-year-only designs and limited mintages. From the first Gold Panda came Pandas struck in Silver, Platinum, Palladium and more; special “Show Pandas” struck to commemorate specific coin shows held around the world; and even creative sphere- and cube-shaped numismatic pieces that celebrate the series. 

The China Panda has a legacy that will continue for generations—and considering how hot the China market is right now, the excitement surrounding this series may last just as long. 

The China Panda Makes Its Debut
The first Chinese Gold Panda was issued in 1982. According to China Panda expert Peter Anthony, author of Gold & Silver Panda Coin Buyer’s Guide, the series was not always intended to feature the Panda. Though the animal is synonymous with China to the outside world, a variety of designs from numerous artists were considered by the China Mint. There may have been influence from a foreign filmmaker who had filmed the animals and lobbied the Mint to put them onto coins, but the true reasons behind the decision remain a mystery. What we do know is that the winning design came courtesy of Mr. Chen Jian, who had previously designed popular coins like the 1979 Year of the Child and 1980 Olympics archer. When asked, Mr. Chen said he had no idea that his simple Panda design would become recognized by collectors around the world. 

One-Year-Only Designs Meet Constant Quality
Joined by the Silver Panda in 1983, the China Panda Series would eventually be struck in 99.9% pure gold and silver. However, the Silver Panda was first struck in 90%, then 92.5% fineness before landing on 99.9% fineness in 1989, when the coin also went from having a 38.6 mm diameter to its standard 40 mm diameter. Unlike the annually changing, one-year-only reverse designs, the obverse sides of China Panda coins have always shared the same image: the Hall of Prayer for Abundant Harvests, the main building of the Temple of Heaven. Above is “People’s Republic of China” inscribed in Chinese, along with the coin’s date of issue. From the ´90s to the newest designs, this obverse displays the transition from early hand-engraving to machine engraving. 

Why the Temple of Heaven?
For most of the world, the most recognizable and powerful symbol of China is the Great Wall, an ancient series of walls and fortifications built across the northern borders of China between the fourth century B.C. and 1644. So why the Temple of Heaven? Though the Great Wall was considered for the China Panda obverse, the mint chose the Temple of Heaven due to its unique symbolic meanings. The Hall of Prayer for Abundant Harvests has represented the good weather and, as its name suggests, abundant harvests in Chinese culture for hundreds of years. By using the temple as the obverse for the China Panda, the coins themselves are shown as being minted for love and good wishes. 

Major China Panda Milestones 

1982: The World’s First Gold Panda
In 1982, the China Mint struck its very first Gold Panda. It was a trial release, and soon became a massive hit with collectors. Designed by Shanghai artist Chen Jian, this coin bears a rather minimalist image of a Panda playfully enjoying a bamboo treat. 

1983: The World’s First Silver Panda
Struck in 27 grams of 90% silver, the first Silver Panda was struck with a mirrored Proof finish. The design of a mother Panda feeding her son comes from designer Yu Min, and won the “Best Silver Coin of 1983” award. 

1987 & 1989: Beyond Gold and Silver
In 1987, Chen Jian returned to design the first-ever Platinum Panda. Two years later, the first Palladium Panda was minted in response to the massive increase in Palladium values. Both were struck in extremely limited quantities, leaving Gold and Silver as the top sellers in the China Panda series. 

1989: Meet the New Silver Bullion Panda
1989 also saw the first non-proof Silver Panda coins. These Brilliant Uncirculated bullion pieces had a relatively massive mintage of a quarter-million pieces, and were quickly snapped up by collectors. Purity, weight and diameter all increased to what they are today—and the maximum mintage continues to rise! 

2016: Enter the Metric System
In 2016, the series transitioned from imperial units (ounces) to metric units (grams). Rather than being struck in one Troy ounce, the flagship Gold and Silver Pandas were struck in 30 grams of 99.9% gold or silver. The change proved immensely popular, and the mint has never ooked back. 

2019: A Secret Revealed
Thanks to a surprising discovery, collectors in 2019 were finally able to secure full coin sets graded and sealed with labels identifying their mint of origin—a mystery that has frustrated collectors for decades, as the China Mint does not use mint marks to identify where each coin was struck! 

2019 is also the first time that the China Mint revealed the Panda Coin Design a few weeks ahead of the official release. From the 2019 design, the Mint started a ten-year Panda coin design series. 

Struck at Three China Mints 

There are several mints that produce the China Panda series. The Shenyang and Shanghai Mints were the first to strike the coins. In 1998, the Shenzhen Guobao Mint also began production on the China Panda series, However, unlike most coins struck by the U.S. Mint, Chinese Mints do not use mint marks to identify where each coin was struck.

Shenyang Mint
Of the three Chinese government mints that strike China Panda coins, the Shenyang Mint has the longest history. Founded by the Qing Dynasty in 1896, Shenyang remains the largest mint in China to produce circulating and commemorative coins and bars. Renowned for its advanced technology and world-class designers, the Shenyang Mint produces half of all modern Chinese coins. In 1982, the mint struck the first-ever Chinese coin to win an international award. 

Shanghai Mint
The Shanghai Mint began operations in 1920. One of the most important mints in China, Shanghai’s main building is a replica of the U.S. Mint facility in Philadelphia. Appropriate, as the Shanghai Mint used striking machines previously used by Philadelphia. Today, the Shanghai Mint is known as the producer of the legendary China Panda Series, the Dragon & Phoenix series and the popular Chinese Lunar coins. In 2008, many master artists and engravers came together in Shanghai to strike the gold, silver and bronze medals for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which featured rings of jade. 

Shenzhen Mint
While many collectors are not directly familiar with the name of the Shenzhen Guobao Mint, they are certainly familiar with the coins and commemoratives this mint has struck. The Shenzhen Mint now strikes more China Panda coins than any other Chinese mint, as well as a wide variety of other coins and commemoratives, including the Moon Festival Panda series and “Show Panda” coins struck for coin shows around the world.