1984 12 oz Gold Panda
The China Mint began striking the now famous and well-established Panda series in 1982. Today the impressive and weighty Panda coins with incredibly low mintages that we see and hear talked about in the press are quite familiar to most Panda collectors – although well out of reach for most given their cost! However, until 1984 the largest coin in the series was the 1 oz Panda. In that year the China Mint made the leap and issued the first Panda greater than 1 oz in weight: the 12 oz gold Panda. This was quite a step up, given that the 5 oz gold Panda – a weight of coin which might be considered a sensible intermediate stage – was introduced after this in 1987.
Requesting a Favour
As private gold ownership in China was illegal until as late as 2003, modern Chinese precious metal coins were initially made for export markets. Martin Weiss, one of the pioneering distributors of modern Chinese coins in the early days, was the man who made the suggestion for the coin’s creation. In 1983 in San Diego, Mr Weiss helped the Director of the Shanghai Mint, Mr Bien, to get hold of an improved hearing aid to replace his outdated one. As a thank you for this kindness Mr Bien asked Mr Weiss if there was anything he could do for him. The 12 oz gold Panda was the reply.
Rarely in Good Condition
Striking modern precious metal coins to exacting collector standards was still rather new territory for the China Mint during the 1980s, and the production process was far from optimised. As such, many of these early coins were low-quality strikes, mainly because of issues with the planchets and dies. The 1984 12 oz gold Panda was no exception. Another logistical error that was made in the distribution process was that these hefty pieces were sold in flimsy plastic packaging, providing little protection to the vulnerable surfaces of the coin inside. It is now common practice to see coins issued in hard plastic capsules for the distribution of non-bullion pieces in order to protect the faces. This is especially important for 0.999 purity coins, which are softer and more easily damaged than their alloyed counterparts.
The result of a poor production process and careless distribution has meant that it is extremely rare to find the 1984 12 oz gold Panda at the highest grades. For example, the best graded examples known are proof 67, and most of the rest tend to grade proof 62 and above, with proof 64 being the most common grade attained.
The most common damage seen to these coins are evidence of poor handling, and it is a rare piece that can be found without scuffs and small flaws on the faces and rim. Coins found in their original mint packaging – a black wooden box – are also particularly rare.
Specifications and Features
This proof quality coin contains 12 oz gold of 0.999 fineness. It is 70 mm in diameter, has a face value of 1000 yuan, and was struck by the Shanghai Mint with a mintage of just 250 pieces. Each circular coin has its unique number struck onto the reeded edge.
The obverse face shows a rendering of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests – the oldest building complex in the Temple of Heaven Park situated close to the centre of Beijing, and dating from 1420 during the Ming Dynasty. Above the rendering is the inscription of the PRC: “中华人民共和国”. Below is the year of issue, 1984.
The reverse bears a Panda image designed by Chen Jian. The Panda is depicted holding a bamboo shoot and sat among bamboo plants. Below the image is the denomination, 1000 yuan. To the left of the coin face is an inscription detailing the metallurgic specifications of the coin: “成色.999含纯金12盎司12 oz Au.” (Containing 12 oz pure gold of fineness .999).
As previously stated, these coins are hard to come by in good condition, and with a mintage of just 250 they are hard to come by at all. When they do appear for sale at auction they fetch values in the tens of thousands of dollars. Three 1984 12 oz gold Pandas were sold on 26th September 2013 in separate lots at auction with varying grades. All NGC graded, the proof 63 piece sold for $22,325; the proof 65 for $30,550; and the proof 66 for $35,250. This demonstrates just how high the premium commanded by coins of this variety in good condition can be. A particularly noteworthy example would be the NGC proof 67 coin that sold at auction in Beijing in May 2011 for 494,500 RMB (at then exchange rates, approximately $76,120).