The Chinese Silver Panda was among the first silver bullion coins issued during the modern era, making its debut in 1983. This pre-dates both the American Silver Eagle (1986) and the Canadian Silver Maple Leaf (1988).
This long track record has given Silver Panda coins a high degree of trust in the international market. It has also drawn a strong following of collectors to the series with its annually changing reverse designs.
Background on the Chinese Silver Panda
The 1980s saw the emergence of international bullion coins made with highly pure silver which also carried the status of official government-issued legal tender. As stated above, the Silver Panda beat many of its would-be competitors to the punch by first appearing in 1983.
The original versions of the coin were produced in .900 fine silver for their first three years of existence. This alloy is often called "coin silver" because 90% pure silver coins were the standard used for many legal tender coins during the 20th century and earlier.
Following a brief experiment with sterling silver (.925 fine, or 92.5% pure silver), the Silver Panda settled on the investment-grade purity of .999 fine silver from 1989 onward.
Early Silver Pandas also had much lower mintage limits and featured proof-like surfaces, making them a popular choice for today's collectors.
More current iterations of Chinese Silver Pandas are primarily chosen for their bullion value.
Other minor changes have occurred over the history of the series. In 2016, the coins switched from using the troy ounce, a traditional remnant of the medieval use of the troy system of weights, to using the more familiar metric weight of grams.
30 Gram Chinese Silver Panda: Technical Specifications
Each Silver Panda has a diameter that measures 40 mm across, making it roughly the same size as the American Silver Eagle. Its edge design is reeded, which is also called serrated.
For 2017, the maximum worldwide mintage for the Silver Panda was capped at 10 million coins.
Its fine silver content is 30 grams, which comes out to 0.9645 troy ounce. (1 troy ounce is 31.1 grams.) Its legal tender denomination is 10 Yuan, but this is largely symbolic considering the melt value -- also known as intrinsic value -- of its silver far exceeds its exchange value as legal tender.
The coins are issued by the People's Bank of China and have been struck at sites in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Shenyang, and elsewhere in the past. Domestically, Silver Pandas are distributed by a state-owned entity known as China Gold Coin Corporation (CGCC).
Not surprisingly, the CGCC also is the official distributor of the Chinese Gold Panda for the mints. The Gold Panda was actually introduced a year earlier than its silver counterpart in 1982.
In addition to the standard 30-gram silver coin, the Chinese mints also issue Silver Pandas in sizes as small as 8 grams (with a 3-yuan denomination) and as large as 1 kilogram (with a 300-yuan face value).
Expressly collectible versions of Panda coins in the past have featured a range of devices such as privy marks, gilding (i.e. gold-plated surfaces), proof finishes, and even colorized elements.
Beyond intentional collectible issues, many other unintended varieties have surfaced over the years. This is primarily due to slightly different features of the design (such as the size of the date or the font used for inscriptions) varying from one minting facility to another in China.
2017 Chinese Silver Panda Coin Design
Each year, there is a fresh, original design showing a Great Panda (or group of pandas) on the reverse of the coins. The only exceptional came in 2001-2002, when the same design was repeated for each year.
The design for 2017 shows a contented panda sitting in front of a wall of mature bamboo. The panda holds a stalk of bamboo in its arms as it chews on the leaves. Relief elements on the coin exhibit the distinctive light and dark color patterns of the panda's fur.
Inscriptions at the bottom rim indicate the coin's weight and purity, reading "30g Ag 999." The lettering is set against a pattern of bamboo leaves that frames the top and bottom of the design. The face value of 10 Yuan is indicated to the left of the panda.
Like previous issues, the obverse depicts the Temple of Heaven complex in Beijing. Specifically, it shows the Hall of Prayers for Good Harvests.
The year-date of the coin "2017" is placed at the bottom rim while the issuing country "People's Republic of China" is represented in Chinese characters at the top rim.
This particular 2017 30 Gram Silver Pandas has also been professionally graded (also referred to as certified) by one of the leading third-party grading services, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC).
NGC certified the coin to be Mint State 69 (MS69), which is just one point shy of a perfect grade. Beyond this exceptionally high grade, this Silver Panda also received the Early Releases special designation from NGC. This indicates that the coin was received for grading within thirty days of being issued by the mint it originated from.
Both of these details -- the MS69 grade and the Early Releases designation -- make this coin especially attractive to collectors.
NGC's sonically sealed hard plastic holder (or "slab" in numismatic parlance) also protects the coin from any environmental damage while still allowing it to be viewed through the clear holder. The label encapsulated with the coin identifies it along with its grade.
Why Buy a Graded Silver Panda Coin?
There are several important advantages to buying certified coins.
First and foremost, the top third-party graders (or TPGs for short) make authentication their first task. This ensures that the coin is not only made of the proper precious metal content, but also that it was genuinely issued by a government mint (rather than a convincing imitation from a private facility).
With foreign coins whose designs are less familiar to collectors, taking this extra precaution is even more imperative.
Another benefit of a professionally graded coin is the higher premium a coin receiving a very strong grade can command in the marketplace. Collectors place considerable emphasis on the condition of a coin, meaning how well it has been preserved from its original state.
Coins that have been graded are also generally more liquid. In other words, they are easier to sell on the secondary market (even sight-unseen) because the numismatic market has a great deal of trust in TPGs like NGC and Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), the two leading grading companies.
Once the grade of a coin is certified by a professional grader, the coin will then be encapsulated in a protective slab. This is not merely done as a way to prevent scratches, wear, or other kinds of damage to the coin -- although, of course, that is one obvious benefit of encapsulation.
The holder also makes identifying and displaying coins far easier, helping collectors organize and show off their collection in an appealing manner.
For this same reason, there are often different themes and designs used for the labels inserted into the slab. Beyond identifying the coin and its grade, different labels may emphasize the subject of the coin, its country of origin, or some other associated feature such as a key anniversary.
Finally, coin certification is often a matter of trust and confidence. The more assurances a potential buyer receives about the authenticity and quality of a coin, the more likely they are to be satisfied with their investment.
The Enduring History of Silver Coins as a Trade Currency
The advent of silver bullion coins like the Chinese Panda are a wise step toward a return to the historical role of precious metals as money.
Bullion has been used as a medium of exchange for thousands of years, even before the invention of state-issued coins around the 7th century B.C.E. Before the innovation of coins made such trade more convenient, ancient cultures used ingots (bars) of gold and silver as a way to facilitate commercial activity.
Over the centuries, the bimetallic standard of using gold and silver coins as a way to exchange value offered stability in an increasingly interconnected world order.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, and particularly after its eastern remnant, the Byzantine Empire, was conquered by the Ottomans in the 15th century, new silver coins sprang up to fill the void left by the Romans. The emergence of new international trade coins was one of the distinguishing features between the medieval period and the colonial era.
You might call these pre-modern silver bullion coins -- the precursors of today's Silver Eagles, Silver Pandas, Silver Maple Leafs, etc.
Chief among these early bullion coins made for trade was the legendary Maria Theresa thaler issued by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, controlled by the Habsburg monarchy.
Maria Theresa, the empress during the latter half of the 18th century (r. 1740-1780), is pictured on the silver thaler.
This large silver coin was not simply issued for use within Austria, Hungary, and other territories within the empire. They were struck with international use specifically in mind. The export of silver coins helped balance Austria-Hungary's trade deficit and played a key role in integrating trade between disparate regions of the globe.
Over time, the coins were being struck at mints around the world: In addition to regular production at Habsburg mints in Germany, Prague, and Vienna, restrikes also came from mints in Belgium, France, Italy, India, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. This worldwide production and diffusion continued through World War II.
Maria Theresa thalers were especially popular in the Middle East and North Africa, where there was no reliable source of silver coinage. Their recognizable design and well-known reputation for high quality made it an ideal conduit for exchange. Traders around the world trusted these coins, making them even more popular than the Spanish 8 reales by the middle of the 19th century.
For some perspective on what it meant to surpass the 8 reales in usage around the world, this Spanish silver dollar was accepted as legal tender in the United States until the 1850s.
These early coins that functioned as silver bullion helped make the argent metal an international currency of sorts.
The Chinese Silver Panda Carries On the Legacy of Silver Bullion
The link between the U.S. dollar and the gold standard was officially broken in 1971. 1970 was the last year that 40% silver coins were minted for circulation in the United States. (The purity had been reduced from 90% silver after 1964.)
These developments place us squarely within an unprecedented era of fiat currency. "Fiat" money is a term that means a currency only derives its value from a government decree, often through making it the only form of money that is accepted in the payment of taxes. Unsurprisingly, every national currency that exists today is a fiat currency. The world's paper currencies are no longer backed by any amount of precious metal.
As a result, the market for privately-minted silver exploded in the 1970s as prices rose. Government mints stepped into a leading role in the silver market during the 1980s.
Today, roughly half of the new silver supply that is mined each year gets consumed for industrial uses ranging from medicine to electronics to a whole host of other applications.
This dynamic between supply and demand for silver differs markedly from gold, which consistently sees supplies recycled each year. Nonetheless, both precious metals tend to resist the effects of inflation and preserve wealth over time. The same cannot be said of fiat currencies like the U.S. dollar.
In this way, private ownership of silver by the public is a smart way of protecting one's money (and its purchasing power) in the event of another economic crisis or global financial meltdown. Buying silver bullion coins like the Silver Panda has proven to be among the most popular and affordable methods of doing so.
Buy your 2017 30 Gram Chinese Silver Panda (NGC MS69 Early Releases) at a great price from Gainesville Coins!