Mike Sherman -
July 19, 2011
A 1991 Chinese Panda 10,000 Yuan coin brought an incredible $1,600,000 in an April 30 auction conducted by Taisei Auction Company in Tokyo. The 5 Kg (176.37 ounce) coin is one of only ten struck to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the first Panda gold coin.
The coin has a diameter of 150 mm (5.9 inches) and features the Temple of Heaven on the obverse and the designs of all previous Panda issues (1982-1991) on the reverse.
Accompanied by the original box and certificate of authenticity bearing certification No. 006, this piece eclipsed the $975,000 brought by another 10,000 Yuan piece of 1991, bearing Certification No. 001, sold in 2010.
The winning bidder, Mr. Michael Chow, is the CEO of Champion Auctions of Hong Kong, and their website notes a bit of the history of this piece:
"The People's Bank of China began production of Panda Gold and Silver coins in 1982. As the largest group of modern Chinese coins, pieces featuring the panda on the reverse have included many designs from renowned artists while the obverse image of the Beijing Tiantan Qinian Palace has never changed.
To commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Panda Gold in 1991, the People's Bank of China decided to create a 5 Kg Panda Gold with a limited mintage of only 10 pieces. The reverse side of each of the 10th Anniversary coins would celebrate the engravings of the Panda coins from 1982 – 1991. The final design features a lone panda enjoying bamboo surrounded by the 10 unique panda engravings from the past.
Following the decision to create an anniversary edition, a mint had to determine how best to forge a special piece that would honor the national symbol. With 90 years of producing coins and an experienced staff of designers and technicians, the Shenyang Mint was selected to make the 1991 Panda a coin for the ages. Even with advanced minting equipment, printing all 10 images on the reverse offered many challenges, such as machine pressure, control of the quantity of gold and quality control. After some false starts, the first 1991 China Panda 10,000 Yuan 5 Kg Gold was produced to great applause. Its 150 mm diameter made the 1991 Panda coin the largest coin of its time and has been dubbed the "King of Modern Chinese Coins."
At the time of the sale, gold spot was about $1,535 per ounce, so the melt value of this piece was approximately $270,000. Its $1,600,000 selling price was just under six times melt, a healthy numismatic premium to be sure!