Proof pandas are usually more valuable than the BU panda coins as they were the ‘collectors edition,’ produced in lower numbers, marketed to a different type of buyer and as proof coins, are struck multiple times giving an almost 3D-like effect on the coin surface. They are stunning, a true sight to behold!
Most of these proofs have exactly the same design as the BU coins from the same year but are distinguished by a letter “P” inscribed on the reverse side of the coin. The only exceptions are the 1995 and 1996 1 oz gold proof pandas where the designs are different altogether. As such, the letter “P” was dropped and not deemed necessary on these two.
First released in 1986 as a five coin set – 1 oz (100 Yuan), 1/2 oz (50 Yuan), 1/4 oz (25 Yuan), 1/10 oz (10 Yuan), 1/20 oz (5 Yuan), they were issued for an additional six consecutive years. Always with a wooden box and certificate of authenticity. In 1993 and 1994, the 1 oz gold coins were not included and were instead replaced with bimetallic panda coins with a 25 Yuan face value.
In 1995 and 1996, two one ounce coins appeared (ironically as they weren’t around in 1993 and 1994). These two coins are highly coveted with actual mintages in the 500-600 range, more than half what the official mintage is as shown on the certificate of authenticity.
Proof silver panda coins were first released in 1983. Just one year after the first panda coin (gold) in 1982, this coin weighed 27 grams. Both 1984 and 1985 saw the release of silver proof panda coins with unique designs of course, but the same specifications – weight and mintage. They also came with a box and certificate of authenticity. The weight was changed to 1 oz in 1987 after skipping 1986. The 1 oz proof silver panda coin geared toward collectors and those appreciating the artistry became a standard. There were issued annually from 1989 to 1996. Interestingly there is also unique selection of colored proof silver pandas, including the 1997 and 1998 1 oz and ½ oz as well as a 1 oz coin from 1999. Apart from the beautiful color, these five coins are particularly special as they were actually made by the Swiss Mint rather than the Mints collectively referred to as the China Mint, the technology was specialist and not available within China thus the outsourcing!
There are a lot of special coins in this family of proof coins. The larger coins discussed in a separate article are all proofs and many of them have very high market values due to their rarity.