by Huang Ruiyong
Good evening, everyone. Today’s topic is: Stepping into the Magic Hall of Mini Gold Coins.
we are appreciating gold coins for their aesthetic beauty, or
evaluating them for collection, big coins have their splendor, and small
ones have their own appeal, too.
Mini gold coins, as opposed to
large size gold coins (those with a diameter over 50mm), refer to super
small gold coins with a diameter under 20mm, including 1 gram, 1/25oz,
1/20oz and 1/10oz gold coins.
This coin family is often
overlooked by collectors, probably because of their small size. But
there are many gorgeous coins among them. We need to appreciate them as
miniature engraving artworks, in a cheerful mood, with good eyesight or a
magnifier. The charm of this group of coins has to be enjoyed with both
our eyes and our heart. Now let’s examine some of them.
we have 1 gram gold coins. Up till now, the PRC issued only three 1 gram
gold coins: 1983 Marco Polo, 1990 Dragon and Phoenix and 1991 Panda.
These are among the smallest gold coins in the world. It is not an
exaggeration to claim that 1 gram gold coins from the PRC are
outstanding epitomes of the art of miniature engraving. When we gaze
into Marco Polo’s profound eyes, or watch the lovely and good-natured
panda munching on bamboo branches, we often forget that this masterpiece
is achieved on a space 10mm in diameter. Once we realize the physical
size, we would feel nothing but admiration towards this perfect
combination of human engraving and machine striking. We are lucky to
have this wonderful opportunity to fully appreciate the best of modern
One advantage of collecting all the three 1 gram
gold coins is that we can take them around. With an eye-friendly Carl
Zeiss magnifier, we can share with our friends at any moment this
elegant taste hard to find in the metropolis. They are unlike our
expensive gold coins, which have to be locked up in the safe or in a
safe deposit box. We cannot lay our hand on the latter whenever we want
them for appreciation, which is a spoiler to our enthusiasm. 1 gram gold
coins are simply wonderful.
Let’s talk about 1/25oz gold coins.
This size is only available after the set of 25 commemorative gold coins
was issued for the 25 year anniversary of panda gold coins. The
packaging of the set is much too luxurious and too heavy. With two such
sets in our arms, it is our physical strength that will be tested, not
our eyes. For those who are not familiar with panda gold coins, if they
buy this set of 25 gold coins when they start collecting, they will
gradually warm up to the panda designs of each year, and make progress
Now let’s turn to 1/20oz gold coins. In contrast
to the simple group of 1 gram gold coins, we suddenly run into a lot
more members in the 1/20oz gold coin family, so many more that we are
dazzled by them.
How should we go about collecting them? Let’s
get down to the details. We all know that the formal issue of 1/20oz
gold coins started with the 83 panda gold coins. 1982 was the first year
of panda gold coins. They followed the convention of leaving out
denomination on Krugerrand gold coins from South Africa. So the 1982
panda coins neither had denominations nor the 1/20oz size.
from 1983, BU panda gold coins were issued in the five fixed sizes of
1oz, 1/2oz, 1/4oz, 1/10oz and 1/20oz, which have been the norm up to
now. From 1983 to 2010, 28 BU 1/20oz panda gold coins were issued. If
one collects the complete set, the little pandas in various postures are
a lot of fun to watch.
If someone intends to collect the tough
1/20oz proof panda gold coins, the years range from 1986 to 1994, 9
coins in total. The problem is that proof gold coins all come in sets.
They cannot be purchased as individual pieces like BU panda gold coins.
So to collect all the nine 1/20oz proof panda gold coins (with P), one
has to buy all the proof gold sets. Collectors in China reaching this
level are very few.
Two other 1/20oz gold coins inseparable from
their sets both were issued in 1993: one is the Songshan gold coin in
the Famous Mountains gold coin set; the other is the 1/20oz gold coin in
the proof Guanyin gold coin set. As they are not individually
available, collectors devoted to 1/20oz gold coins can simply ignore
What 1/20oz gold coins are available for
collection, then? Please note that we are talking about individual
1/20oz gold coins not belonging to any set.
These coins are
small in number. You can count them on two hands, but they are
fascinating nevertheless. They include: 1993 1/20oz Guanyin gold coin
(with and without “S”), 1996 1/20oz Guanyin gold coin, 1997 1/20oz
Guanyin gold coin, 1994 1/20oz Unicorn gold coin, 1995 1/20oz Unicorn
gold coin, 1996 1/20oz Unicorn gold coin (with and without “P”), 1997
1/20oz Auspicious Matters gold coin, 9 in all. These nine coins are all
the 1/20oz gold coins excluding the 1/20oz gold coins in the panda sets
and in other sets. Once we have them all, they can be placed into the
pretty American Air-Tite capsules. We can bring them along, for showing
off, or to enjoy them privately. It is a lot of fun.
explore further. When we look into more details of these 9 coins, we are
taken by surprise: the 1993 1/20oz Guanyin gold coin has two varieties,
with and without “S”, like the 1/2oz gold coin for Mao Zedong’s 100th
anniversary. This is the charm of gold coins from the PRC. A lot of
information is missing from official catalogs, and we recover the
information during collection.
When we set out to look for them,
we will find that the 1/20oz Guanyin gold coin with “S” is much harder
to find than that without “S”. This in turn stimulates our interest in
exploring the ocean of gold coins.
The 1996 1/20oz Guanyin gold
coin is also rare because the China Gold Coin Co. placed an order with
Nanjing Mint to make chest buckles with it. The 1997 1/20oz Guanyin gold
coin has always been difficult to spot. The attached picture shows a
talisman with the coin on it which was custom made by Shanghai Mint and
consecrated by the reputable Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai.
is a series that came to the attention of many collections just in the
past year. We know that unicorn coins saw a lot of mishaps in China.
Unicorn gold and silver coins were minted in Shenyang Mint during 1994
and 1995, but they moved to Shanghai Mint in 1996, and ended at Shenzhen
Guobao Mint in misery in 1997. According to the plan, the 1997 Unicorn
was going to be issued much the same way as in 94—96, in five sizes of
1oz, 1/2oz, 1/4oz, 1/10oz and 1/20oz, five in all. But the market
crashed in 1997, and as a result, only 1/10oz gold unicorn was issued
that year. Other sizes remained as patterns. Among the 1/20oz size gold
Unicorns, the 1996 Unicorn Head (with “P”) is the most difficult to
obtain. It is a lot pricier than the Unicorn Head with out “P”.
collectors do not care about mini gold coins, or collect them without
much research. They may easily miss out a gem——1997 1/20oz Auspicious
Matters gold coin.
This coin, like its elder brother (1997
1/10oz Auspicious Matters gold coin), has the release mintage of 100000.
But it has been discovered that its actual mintage was only 8000. My
goodness: everyone bought these coins as gifts assuming they had a
mintage of 100000, in addition to those melted. In the past few years,
the 1997 1/20oz Auspicious Matters gold coin was simply buried among the
commonplace. In terms of market availability, the 1/20oz gold
Auspicious Matters is a lot less than the 1/10oz gold Auspicious
Matters. The mirror field and frosting are both gorgeous on this coin,
making it well worth collecting.
Despite the small size of these coins, it requires expertise to collect
them. If we can collect all the 9 standalone 1/20oz gold coins, it is a
As we all know, there is an important
difference between Chinese and foreign collectors: Chinese collectors
emphasize collecting series of coins, while foreign collectors may be
fascinated with just one coin out of a series.
We feel that
series of coins have an overwhelming splendor, especially when there are
multiple sets in a series, and each set is relatively difficult to
collect. We can use an analogy to explain this point.
that the Year of Children piefort gold coin is undoubtedly the Mount
Everest of small size gold coins from the PRC, and that the 1oz
Traditional Culture gold coin Set 1 is also one of the peaks of small
size MCC gold coins.
If we take any set out of the 5 Ancient
Inventions and Discoveries gold coin sets, it is easily dwarfed by the
Year of Children piefort gold coin or the 1oz Traditional Culture gold
coin Set 1. If we categorize the Year of Children piefort gold coin and
the 1oz Traditional Culture gold coin Set 1 as the top tier, each set in
the Ancient Inventions and Discoveries gold coin series will fall into
the second tier. Pitting any set in this series against the top tier
would be a lost cause. However, if all the 5 sets in the Ancient
Inventions and Discoveries gold coin series are combined, they can rival
the Year of Children piefort gold coin or the 1oz Traditional Culture
gold coin Set 1.
The same can be said of the 9 standalone 1/20oz
gold coins, as the 93 Guanyin with “S” is the most difficult to obtain.
Among the others, the 93 Guanyin without “S”, 97 Guanyin, 97 Auspicious
Matters and 96 Unicorn with “P” are all rare coins. Having a set of all
of them will bring about an immense sense of success.
from 1/20oz to 1/10oz, we find that although the size increases by only
4mm, from 14mm to 18mm, the coins look considerably bigger, and the
designers and engravers had much more room to work on.
1/10oz gold coin group, we run into more categories, and the themes are
richer and more colorful, too. For example, a well-known ancient
painting unearthed at Changsha, Man Riding a Dragon, appeared on the
1998 1/10oz gold coin in the Culture of Dragon series. This painting is
as famous as the “Kui and Phoenix” painting, reflecting the artistic
achievements of our ancestors in the Warring States period. The silk
paintings look simple and unsophisticated, but make lingering
impressions on their viewers.
Themes of 1/10oz gold coins
include pandas, lunars, Guanyin, unicorns, folk culture (Auspicious
Matters, Welcome the Spring), and traditional cultures, a rich variety
From the perspective of technology, coin alignment (from
98 color gold Tiger to color gold Rat), hologram (the Guanyin series),
color transfer printing, bimetal (Dragon and Phoenix, Panda) were all
used on 1/10oz gold coins.
For collection, we can look for
1/10oz coins of the same theme, or focus on 1/10oz gold coin sets.
Besides, we can also collect standalone 1/10oz gold coins. There are so
many to choose from, which present beautiful feasts to our eyes.
example, we can collect based on varieties. These include mint marks,
such as on 93 1/10oz Guanyin gold coins (with and without “S”); the
alignment of the reverse and obverse, such as on 05 Rooster colored gold
coin (medal alignment vs. coin alignment); different designs on the
coin, such as on the 2000 Dragon colored gold coin (辰 with a long stroke
and with a short stroke); and the 96 bimetal little panda
(anti-frosting big eye and anti-frosting small eye). Over time,
collection based on varieties will achieve great sophistication.
can also collect key dates or standalone coins. This process promotes
the advance of coin knowledge. Only through research while collecting,
can we understand the rule of “a tiny difference makes a huge impact on
price.” For example, for the same Welcome the Spring 1/10oz gold coin,
the second release is much rarer than the first release. Another example
is the 1/10oz BU Guanyin gold coin. The 1996 release is a lot less
valuable than the 93, 94 and 97 releases.
These findings will
force us to dive into coin knowledge. For example, we all know that the
second set of the Traditional Culture 1/10oz gold coins is far superior
to the first set of 1/10oz gold coins in the series. But why? After some
research, we will notice an interesting fact: in the history of gold
and silver coins released by the PRC, there were three years in which
some categories of coins had very low actual mintage.
1989. Due to the political turmoil of the year, the release of Dragon
and Phoenix gold and silver coins was postponed to 1990. At the same
time, the 1oz piefort silver Snake, 5oz silver Snake and the 12oz silver
Snake all had the lowest mintage in their series. Besides, 1oz platinum
and palladium Pandas of this year both had a small mintage and became
Next was 1995, which featured releases of a large
variety of coin categories. However, just because too many categories
were released, many of them have very low actual mintage or surviving
mintage, for example: 5oz gold Dragon Boat, 1/2oz gold Ancient Ships,
5oz Xu Beihong, 12oz and 20oz silver Unicorns, 5oz and 12oz silver
Pandas, 1oz Traditional Culture Set 1 gold coins, 2x1oz gold coins of
the 50th anniversary of the Anti-Japanese War, 1oz proof gold panda…
third period was 1997-1998. Many coins were canceled or changed. For
example, 5 sets of Traditional Culture hand been planned, but the series
stopped at Set 2. 6 sets of Ancient Inventions and Discoveries had been
planned, but the 6th set remained as patterns. 3 sets of the Culture of
the Yellow River had been planned, but Set 2 closed the series. The
dodecagon birds were totally re-invented, from the natural color
dodecagon coins to colored Bird of Paradise (Bird and Flowers) and
Hoopoe Bird. Many coins never got released, and remained as patterns,
such as 12oz 97 and 98 silver Auspicious Matters, 98 piefort Auspicious
Matters, 98 World Cup, 98 Children at Play, 97 bimetal large size Panda,
1/4oz gold coin and 1oz proof silver coin in the 2nd set of Welcome the
Spring, 97 Guanyin piefort silver coin…
With full understanding of the interesting facts in the years mentioned
above, we can now more easily track the flow and market availability of
some of the 1/10oz gold coins, and conduct a more logical analysis of
the turnover of many coins.
Let’s look at the breadth of
the 1/10oz gold coins in the context of modern Chinese gold and silver
coins. As recorded in the official catalogs, 114 coins were released
officially (including bimetal coins, but excluding the varieties of
panda coins from different mints, and varieties resulting from varying
details on the coin). There are a lot of hidden treasures among them,
some of which are favorites of top collectors, and others gems for the
masses. This sector is cool both for beginners and more advanced
collectors on their way up. For those with collection and investment in
mind at the same time, this sector’s future potential should never be
I missed the 1985 1/10oz Baoyuan Vault
Protector and 1990 1/10oz Five Fortunes gold medal during the discussion
of the 1/10oz gold coin sector. The former originated from ancient
vault protectors, and the latter from ancient exorcism coins. They are
in the same category as the 1998 1/10oz Tang Dynasty Vault Protector
gold coin. These are all modern inheritors of the Chinese numismatic
I have been compiling a star list for gold and silver
coins from the PRC since 2007, in an effort to accurately describe the
rarity of the important precious metal coins. They are listed in the
independent categories of large size gold coins (5oz and above), small
size gold coins (2oz and under), silver coins, platinum and palladium
coins and panda coins. I have been fine tuning the list, and included
the details of the list in my book Ode to Grace in a Prosperous Time –
Collection, Investment and Appreciation of Modern Chinese Precious Metal
Coins and Medals, published by the Shanghai Classics Publishing House.
Here is the star list of the mini gold coins (good for April, 2010):
Four stars: 1997 1/10oz Traditional Culture gold coin Set 2
and a half stars: 1993 1/20oz BU Guanyin gold coin (with “S”), 1998
1/10oz colored gold Tiger, 1998 1/10oz Welcome the Spring gold coin Set 2
stars: 1993 1/10oz BU Guanyin gold coin (with and without “S”), 1994
bimetal Dragon and Phoenix, 1995 1/10oz Guanyin gold coin set, 1996
1/20oz gold Unicorn (with “P”), 1997 1/10oz gold Unicorn, 1997 1/20oz
Two and a half stars: 1993 1/20oz BU Guanyin gold
coin (without “S”), 1997 1/10oz gold Guanyin, 1998 1/10oz gold Culture
of Dragon, 2005 1/10oz colored gold Rooster (medal alignment)
stars: 1994 1/10oz gold Guanyin, 94-96 1/10oz gold Unicorn, 1995 1/10oz
Traditional Culture Set 1, 1997 1/20oz Auspicious Matters, 2002 1/10oz
colored gold Horse, 2006 1/10oz colored gold Dog
One star: 1983 1 gram Marco Polo, 1990 1 gram gold Dragon and Phoenix, 1997 1/10oz colored Auspicious Matters
may occur despite our best efforts, and the ranking list above should
have some room for improvement. Moreover, the ranking of modern Chinese
gold and silver coins does not have to be static. It can be tuned
dynamically. For example, some gold coins with a large mintage were
ignored by collectors, and so many coin dealers just had them melted
into gold for sale. The unintended consequence is that rarity of these
coins was enhanced continuously. This case is especially noticeable when
the international gold price spikes. As a result, the ranking list
needs to be adjusted as time goes on. Likewise, the China Rich List by
Rupert Hoogewerf was updated repeatedly before achieving accuracy. A
good ranking list should have the following features:
1. Attracts a large audience
2. Updated dynamically on a regular basis
3. Plays a significant role in the history of scholarship
4. Serves as a valid guide to collection
chirp, to seek response from companions.” Hopefully the star list can
bring together the many friends who love modern Chinese gold and silver
coins with passion. Let a hundred schools of thought contend, and let a
hundred flowers bloom together, so that we can keep exploring and
sharing our findings, and elevate the collection of modern Chinese coins
to a new level.
The star list will be expanded with modern
Chinese precious metal medals and coin varieties. Everyone is welcome to
explore them with me.
The Labor Day golden week holiday is just
around the corner. My hearty thanks to you all who spent this enjoyable
evening with me.
A graceful hobby in a prosperous time; immense pleasure from coin collection.
Wish everyone a happy holiday, loving, hunting for, playing with and making money from coin collection.