Precious Metals

Why is the 1995 half-ounce gold Panda so valuable?

The 1995 Chinese Panda half-ounce gold 50-yuan coin is the key to the series of half-ounce Panda gold coins. Its price has ballooned from about $2,100 in 2012 to $16,500 today.

Coin images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Panda coin expert Peter Anthony’s advice about collecting 1995 Panda gold bullion coins sounds like a Chinese proverb.

“To look for one is to begin a long journey, as they are infrequently seen,” he wrote in the second edition of his popular book about the series, Gold and Silver Panda Coin Buyer’s Guide.

According to Anthony, “Many 1995 Panda coins are hard to find and expensive to buy when you do.”

That explains why dealer PandaAmerica’s May 30 email seeking Panda half-ounce coins includes the offer price of $16,500 for what is essentially a hair over $600 of gold.

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The 1995 gold Pandas, in all sizes, are key dates to the series.

Sales were low, because precious metal prices were stuck in a slump, Anthony said.

“It is possible that, at most, only a couple of hundred of really top-flight coins exist in the [half-ounce and quarter-ounce] sizes.”

Copper spots notoriously plague Panda coins and the 1995 Panda coins aren’t immune to that menace.

The Panda half-ounce gold coin is denominated 50 yuan and has a reported mintage of 11,749 coins. The population surviving in Brilliant Uncirculated condition is smaller, at fewer than 1,750 pieces, according to Anthony.

The reverse of the coin shows a delightful panda gripping a branch of bamboo. The obverse carries the standard image of the Temple of Heaven.  

An example graded Mint State 68 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. sold in a September 2012 auction from Heritage Auctions, realizing $2,115, including the buyer's fee. That means the coin's value has magnified eight times in four years. 

The 1994 Panda half-ounce coin is another key date, with a buy price of $7,500, matched only by the price for the 1998 half-ounce coin. 

Experts believe long-term demand for Chinese Pandas can only grow, given the population.

Movement in those key date prices are one way to gauge whether that may come to pass. 

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