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Key Date Pandas: the Asian Financial Crisis

Key Date Pandas: the Asian Financial Crisis
July 1, 2015

Historic Influences

The Panda series has existed and run alongside China’s recent modern history. Since the beginning of the series in 1982 China has certainly had its fair share of ups and downs. Economic markets have been heavily influenced by these ebbs and flows in Chinese socio-economic and political history, and needless to say Panda coins have been no exception. Whether it was the tragic culmination of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square which took place in June 1989, or the hand over of Hong Kong from the UK back to China in 1997, these events have certainly had their effect on Panda coin markets, both directly and indirectly. While the effect on supply and demand for Panda coins at the time of these events would no doubt have been noticeable, these influences are far-reaching and long-lived. They are still felt today, and are manifested in the market prices and surviving mintages for certain coins in this iconic series.

1997 Asian Financial Crisis

One event in particular which seems to have made a significant impact on the gold Panda coins market is the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. As a result of the economic instability in South East Asia sparked by the collapse of the Thai baht, Asian demand for Panda coins took a nosedive as potential buyers shied away from pouring their money into what might prove to be an unstable currency. As it turned out, although China was affected by the Asian Financial Crisis, the negative effect was no way near as deeply felt in China compared to other South East Asian economies such as those in South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia. However, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and in such an uncertain economic atmosphere many of the 1997 and 1998 Pandas were melted for their bullion value. Perceiving this low level of demand, the mints and distributors would have melted their stocks for the metal which could then be sold or used for more pressing matters. In that time of crisis, the creation of works of art such as Panda coins to satisfy a small foreign market and plummeting Asian demand would not have been high on the list of priorities for the Chinese government. The gold was needed elsewhere – mainly as a way of backing up their currency should a time arise when its stability was under threat.

Surviving the Melting Pot

So many of the 1997 and 1998 gold Pandas were melted. The 1997 gold Pandas are some of the rarest in the series, but the 1998 gold Pandas are often seen as key-date coins, with a great level of demand revolving around this area of the market as a result of the low surviving mintages in the aftermath of the crisis in 1997. A good example of this discrepancy between the official mintage and surviving mintage would be for the 1998 1/10 oz gold Panda, which has a tiny mintage of just 8,502 pieces. This is particularly small considering that the 1995 and 1996 mintages were 45,007 and 57,203 respectively. Although the reported mintage for 1997 was 46,628, a much smaller mintage has actually survived the melting pot. It wasn’t until the year 2000 as the economies of the region stabilised and recovered, that mintages picked up again for the 1/10 oz gold Panda, with a mintage of 44,511 in 2000 and 30,000 in 2001.

China 1998 1/10 oz Gold Panda Coin China 1998 1/10 oz Gold Panda Coin

1998 1/10 oz gold Panda; reverse and obverse

Immense Numismatic Value

These gold and silver Pandas – but particularly gold, and not just the small scale coins – dating from the late 1990s, are highly sought after and rare pieces. They are often the most elusive and valuable coins in a Panda collection, but their price should not deter potential investors. It is indicative of the immense numismatic value they have, particularly for BU coins at these specifications.