World Coins

China modifies weights for 2016 Panda bullion coins

After a long wait, China’s annual Panda gold and silver bullion coins have arrived in the United States of Ameri

And, their weight is telling.

For the 2016 version, the Panda coins are offered in gram weights instead of being based on the troy ounce standard in other worldwide bullion coins.

So, instead of a 1-ounce silver coin, the Panda 10-yuan coin now weighs 30 grams, for instance. That makes the coin a little lighter than a 1-ounce coin, which weighs 31.1 grams. The move is intended to cater to demand in Asia for gram-weight investment products, as many privately issued bars and rounds are made in gram weights.

The coins officially were launched Nov. 18 in China, but it took until Dec. 2 for them to arrive in the United States. Distributor PandaAmerica began shipping them to its customers and dealers on Dec. 7 and 8 after the coins cleared Customs, according to William Graessle of PandaAmerica.

“The biggest problem is getting more,” he said. “I don’t have any extras, the ones I have coming in are already sold out.”

The change has required Graessle to provide more education about the coins, but that hasn’t hampered demand.

The 2016 program totals 12 coins, in sizes from 1 gram to 1 kilogram in gold and from 30 grams to 1 kilogram in silver.

The kilogram coins are the only sizes unaffected by changes in standards.

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This change to the metric standard for all of the coins follows last year’s decision to remove the weight and fineness specifications from the designs. That unpopular move was reversed with the 2016 release, where the specifications again appear on the Panda coins.

“Without [the specifications] it was hard to say this was a one-ounce coin; people question it, like, ‘I just have to take your word on that,’?” Graessle said.

Chinese mints allow feedback to guide the bullion program, he noted.

Another example of this responsiveness occurred after 2002 when the Panda coins used the previous year’s design and the move was not well received.

“Fewer people bought them, so China began changing the designs again,” according to Graessle, and the program tipped back toward annually changing designs.

Typically, the designs of Pandas are changed annually.

With the lower sales, however, the 2002 issue became a sleeper.

Some buyers are hoping the same might happen with this year’s release, according to Graessle. 

“They’ve been received a lot more positive than I ever expected,” he said. “We’re selling a lot of them — the dealers have not put up much resistance to the change in weight. However, there could be a lot of feedback over the year that leads to the weight being adjusted back to 1-ounce — they’ve shown the ability to change when given feedback.

The common obverse of the Panda coins features the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

The 2016 reverse shows a single panda, clutching a thick branch, with stalks of bamboo in the background.

Another change that many collectors won’t witness is how the coins are delivered, with sheets of 15 coins the norm instead of 30-coin sheets as in the past. In addition, a “monster box” now contains 450 coins instead of 600 coins.

The initial release price for the 10-yuan silver coin was $24, and the 1-gram gold 10-yuan coin was released at $47. Other popular price/size points are the 15-gram gold 200-yuan coin ($560) and the 30-gram gold 500-yuan coin ($1,099).

Prices, however, will move in the secondary market. 

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