By Huang Ruiyong
If a collector can bring the best out of silver coins, he will not lose his final investment returns to collectors of gold coins. In terms of the metal, gold is more valuable than silver. But if we look into the details of investment returns, we will find that for high-end coins, investment returns are not that closely related to the metal: Year of the Child piedfort gold and silver coins and 85 copper pandas are good examples. Now, how can we bring the best out of small silver coins?
A guy asked me last year, "Mr. Huang, after reading your articles, I felt fascinated by the Ancient Inventions and Discovery gold coin series, Bronze Age gold coins and the Ancient Dragon Boat gold coin. Can you help me get them?"
My answer was: These are excellent gold coins. They are absolutely the cream of Chinese gold coins. But if we have limited dry powder, instead of collecting two or three sets of such rare coins, you will do better by getting hold of all the top small silver coins, such as the Year of the Child piedfort coin, Song Qingling (with signature), Chinese Olympics Committee and Winter Olympics piedfort silver coins, matte Year of the Child, matte Volleyball, matte Soccer, Xinjiang (Sinkiang), and Year of Peace. Why? Because among top collectors, it is far from enough to show off a set of Bronze Age gold coins (series 1-3), or the Peacock gold coin, Ying and Yang Philosophy gold coin, Dragon and Phoenix gold coin, or the first series of Three Kingdoms 1oz gold coin. But if you can bring together all the top small silver coins with the same amount of cash, you will be greeted with numerous thumbs-up.
In addition, to intermediate collectors and above, small silver coins offer plenty of varieties. The study of varieties not only represents the expertise in collection, but acts like a towering threshold, keeping out those collectors who are financially rich but lacking in collection knowledge.
Following are some examples.
There are major varieties and minor varieties among modern Chinese gold and silver coins. Major varieties are more straightforward, including: the varieties between Shanghai Mint and Shenyang Mint, varieties with or without “S”, with or without “P”, or the matte vs. proof varieties, or different fonts used for the year digits on the coin, or the difference between frosting and anti-frosting.
Minor varieties occur more often, almost with every silver coin from the PRC. They show up as: different proof effects (so-called BU and BU/proof versions), and different frosting effects (such as deep frosting and slight frosting), and so on.
The root cause of these minor varieties was that in their early days, Chinese mints did not enforce strict production processes like their foreign counterparts. Due to the different frequencies of die use and different first-strike effects, we often see the phenomenon “proof coins are not proof enough, and BU coins are not BU enough. “
Now let’s look at some specific examples.
92 Environmental Protection 1
92 Environmental Protection 2
Varieties of 92 Environmental Protection silver coin
As we all know, these are 92 Year of Environmental Protection silver coins. It is very obvious that in the red box, the anti-frosting effect of the flowing river next to the girl fetching water is very different.
There seems to be nothing particular about this coin, with a mintage of 60,000. But actually it is learned from the distributor Ocean Gold Coins that the actual mintage was only 5,000. Moreover, the market absorption of this coin is much better than the proof version, with a mintage of 20,000 and weighing 22 grams.
One of the advantages of collecting small silver coins is that if we keep digging, we often run into little surprises – many coins did not fulfill their release mintage because of the market conditions. Continuous discovery of such information is enormously positive for the whole small silver coin sector.
Take the 17th Winter Olympics silver coin issued in 1992 as another example:
94 Winter Olympics 1
94 Winter Olympics 2
Varieties of the 94 Winter Olympics silver coin
We can see that lines in the red box on the two silver coins are obviously different.
Below are two silver coins celebrating the 60th anniversary of the victory of the Long March. The image of Mao Zedong looks the same on the reverse of both coins, but on the obverse, we can see that国 in the phrase中华人民共和国 is positioned very differently.
60th Anniversary of Long March 1
60th Anniversary of Long March 2
There are two coins in this set. The other coin “Red Army Joined Forces” also has two varieties, with and without a dot in the character国.
Panda fans all know that the 95 silver panda coin from Shanghai Mint has 6 bamboo leaves more than that from Shenyang Mint. In fact, not only the 1oz silver panda, even the 95 1/2oz silver panda is very different between the Shenyang Mint and the Shanghai Mint.
Please take a look:
95 little panda from Shanghai Mint
95 little panda from Shenyang Mint
Two varieties side by side
Not only do we see the difference in design on the panda side, the year digits on the obverse are different, too.
Obverse of the 95 little panda from Shanghai Mint
Obverse of the 95 little panda from Shenyang Mint
Even the 95 1/2oz silver panda form the same Shenyang Ming has the normal variety and the “missing part” variety, as shown below (forgive me if the picture quality is not optimal):
Two varieties of the 95 little panda from Shenyang Mint
The proof version and the BU version of the 94 1oz silver Unicorn (the proof version has a P)
94 Unicorn with P
94 BU Unicorn
Proof (with mirror effect) and BU (frosted) versions of the WWF25 Anniversary Panda:
WWF25 Anniversary Panda (proof)
WWF25 Anniversary Panda (frosted)
These are all major varieties. Next we will examine minor varieties, for example:
98 Auspicious Matters 1
98 Auspicious Matters 2
98 Auspicious Matters 3
97 Auspicious Matters
WWF25 Anniversary Panda (frosted) 1
WWF25 Anniversary Panda (frosted) 2
As I mentioned just now, different coin varieties cannot be obtained with money alone. They come as the result of combined coin knowledge and coin affinity. The study of varieties can greatly promote the academic research of modern Chinese gold and silver coins, and it provides all collectors with a fair opportunity of collection.
When we collect small silver coins, do not overlook the collection of their accessories and documents. Look at the stamp holders issused jointly by the Gold Coins Co. and the China National Philatelic Corporation:
50th Anniversary of Anti-Japanese War stamp holder
50th Anniversary of Anti-Japanese War stamp holder 2
Silver coin holders issused jointly by the Gold Coins Co. and the China National Philatelic Corporation：
Women’s Soccer holder
Return of Hong Kong holder
We say that varieties and accessories should be treated seriously, but actually selecting a theme is more important. We can just collect what we like, ignoring noise from the onlookers.
Never dismiss small silver coins. Once we dive deep into a theme for our collection, we will notice how profound it can be.
99 Guanyin 2
As you can see, the 1oz BU Guanyin silver coins over the years have an enduring beauty. For the same reason, pandas, unicorns, sports coins and even the Beijing Coin Expo series are all great themes for collction.
Careful research will bring out many interesting stories. Take the Guanyin series for example. We know that Buddha Guanyin’s ashram is Mount Putuo, and so the obverse of the 1oz Guanyin silver coins mostly shows cultural and histical sites of Mount Putuo. However, for some unknown reason, the obverse of the 99 1oz Guanyin proof silver coin shows the Golden Summit of Mount Emei. Well, Mount Emei is Buddha Puxian’s ashram. Why is it matched with Buddha Guanyin? I don’t have the slightest clue.
The early small silver coins from the PRC have another classical feature. Because of the relatively low silver content (Year of the Child 80%, Chinese Olympics Committee 80%, and 82 World Cup 80%) and the highly polished mirror field, this group of silver coins from the 80s and early 90s send off two gorgeous colors with their patina: a yellowish white luster, or a faintly bluish luster on the white field. I believe many collectors fascinated with small silver coins have the same observation.
If we are really careful when collecting small silver coins, we may find many errors in the official catalogs. For example, the actual weight of the Chen Jiageng silver coin is 27 grams, with 90% silver content, but the official catalog lists its weight as 24 grams. The actual weight of the Song Qingling silver coin (with signature) is 30 grams, with 90% silver content, but the official catalog lists its weight as 30 grams. The actual weight of the China Empress Clipper silver coin is 26.67 grams, with 90% silver content, but the official catalog lists its weight as 24 grams.
This kind of collection and study is very interesting. It expands our knowledge as well as provides an opportunity for us to correct errors in official catalogs.
I would like to call special attention to sports coins. Gold and silver coins in this sector are always overlooked, except for one or two of them. But there are many excellent small sports silver coins. In addition to the well-known Chinese Olympics Committee and Winter Olympics piedfort silver coins, the Ping Pong coins, the Alpine Ski error coin, the 82 World Cup coins, the 84 Winter and Summer Olympics coins, the 17th Winter Olympics coins, the Women’s Soccer coins, and the 12th Asian Games coins are all very nice, well worth the attention from collectors.
Let’s admire the beauty of the coins from those times:
82 World Cup
82 World Cup 2
U. N. Decade of Women
U. N. Decade of Women 2
The Soccer World Cup silver coins above were designed by the artist Zhong Youqin. The masculine power of the soccer players is brought into full play on the coins. Besides, the character赛 has an irregularly simplified version on the coin, adding to the fun of collection.
The U. N. Decade of Women silver coin shown above is another classical one well worth collecting. With its mystifying mirror and fine frosting, it does not look like a silver coin. Rather, it is a piece of exquisite art. This coin has the emblem, the name of the country and coin value on the same side, which is extremely rare in gold and silver coins from the PRC.
Collectors with a deep pocket should naturally go for the top coins among the PRC silver coins. As far as I know, patterns aside, the Year of the Child piedfort silver coin is the hardest to come by among the officially issued small silver coins. This coin was distributed by Paramount. Even Prince Philip of England took part in the project. The Royal Mint and Spinks helped with striking and distribution of the piedfort silver coins from 28 countries, which were assembled and decorated in a classical fashion by Cartier. There are no more than 200 specimens of the Chinese Year of the Child piedfort silver coin around the world. It is the Mount Everest of small Chinese silver coins. It is well positioned to compete with the many big silver coins or even gold coins in days to come.
Silver coins 1
Silver coins 2
Silver coins 3
Silver coins 4
Other top coins will be listed in the star list of silver coins from the PRC that I will post in the next couple of days, for your reference.
In the history of milled coinage in China, silver coins were highly valued. Some classic milled coins from the Qing Dynasty and from the Republic of China, for example the Hubei Province coin, the Qing one tael coin with the character 中, the Jilin Changping coin and the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum coin, will not lose to most gold coins in their prestige among collectors and in investment value. We cited the 2 gram Marco Polo silver coin and the 1 gram Marco Polo god coin as the rare case where a silver coin was more expensive than a gold coin. But with the advance of collection expertise, the 1/2oz Year of the Child matte silver coin is now more expensive than the 1/2oz Year of the Child gold coin, and the price of the Song Qingling silver coin (with signature) is higher than the 8 gram Song Qingling gold coin. There is no doubt that there will be more and more silver coins with a higher price than gold coins. It all boils down to demand and supply.
To sum up:
Small silver coins can bring pleasure to the individual collector, and are also good for collection and study, leaving the collector a lot of room to grow. The threshold is not high, and the collector community is massive. There are low end coins as well as top rarities. As time goes by, the value of small silver coins from the PRC will be discovered by more and more collectors. The study of varieties, the selection of themes and the collection of accessories are all interesting and rewarding efforts.
March in late spring, grass growing up in the lower Yangtze Valley.
Trees are in full bloom with flowers, and flocks of oriole flutter around.
The small silver coin sector is greeting us like the wonderful spring time.
Seize the opportunity. Happy collecting.
Thanks to you all.