Saturday, May 18, 2013

Research Article: Explore the Actual Mintage and Restrikes of Precious Metal Coins from the PRC

By Huang Ruiyong

Generally speaking, actual mintage is a number in contrast to planned mintage. Just as the name suggests, actual mintage is the actual number of a coin or medal actually minted. In the case of modern Chinese precious metal coins, actual mintage is highly significant, because it reflects very vividly the release history of modern Chinese precious metal coins. As we all know, the primary function of the early modern Chinese precious metal coins was to bring back foreign exchange, while promoting Chinese politics and culture worldwide. Except for coins for important political events, many coins before Year 2000 were initiated by overseas distributors, who came to the People's Bank of China for approval and announcing the release. Then they would seek out Shanghai Mint, Shenyang Mint or Shenzhen Guobao Mint for production before distributing the coins. For example, the Historical Figures series gold and silver coins were distributed by MDM in Germany; 8 gram lunars and dodecagonal Birds gold and silver coins were distributed by the Hong Kong Peking Coin Company Limited; the Guilin Scenery gold and silver coins were distributed by Ocean Gold Coins in Hong Kong; the Ancient Inventions and Discoveries series were distributed by PandaAmerica; the early Guanyin series gold and silver coins were distributed by Chien Hsiung Liu Co. in the US; the Unicorn series were distributed by Assets Marketing Co; the Silk Road series gold and silver coins were distributed by ING in Belgium… Fortunately, after Year 2000, distribution of Chinese precious metal coins was consolidated. Almost all the products have been distributed by the China Gold Coin Co., to the Kaiyuan Retail Center in Beijing, Shenzhen Retail Center, Hong Kong Great Wall Coins Investments Ltd., as well as MDM in Germany and PandaAmerica.

In the early years, the distributors proposed different product specs and planned mintage for precious metal coins because their capacity and channels varied. Under normal circumstances, the distributor would generally avoid producing the full planned mintage, because 1. They wanted to test market reaction to the coin; 2. They had to put together a large amount of money for the material and manufacturing cost. The distributor would ask for termination or suspension of production of a certain coin if the following occurred:

1.   The market did not react favorably to the coin;
2.   The distributor's business operations and cash flow were disrupted;
3.   Management team change at the People's Bank of China, the China Gold Coin Co. (or China Mint Company) or the distributor.

When this happened, the concept of actual mintage, which is on every collector's mind, would come into the focus.

With this explanation of actual mintage (original actual mintage), we all see that actual mintage has a big impact on the assessment of the rarity of a certain coin, because it is the essence of collection that rarity determines the price. But we may be concerned with two more questions at the same time:

1.   How are the data of actual mintage of various precious metal coins obtained?
2.   How do we treat the rumor widespread on the web of restrikes by Shanghai Mint of some types during 2001 to 2005?

Here are my answers to the two questions above:

1.   The data on actual mintage has to be verified by using materials from many sources. This is a dynamic verification process. So far, no institutions or individuals have been able to come up with accurate actual mintage numbers of all the precious metal coins from the PRC. This problem resulted from the overwhelming power of the distributors before 2000, who could directly influence the entire process of project approval, announcement, production and sales. Moreover, domestic supervisory and production organizations did not maintain complete, systematic records. In this light, in order to obtain a clear understanding of actual mintage, the following needs to be investigated:

Historical distribution records of the these companies: China Mint Company, China Gold Coin Co., China Coins Limited;

Historical production records of these organizations: Shanghai Mint, Shenyang Mint, Guobao Mint, Swiss Faude & Huguenin, Swiss Pamp Mint, Swiss Vacambi Mint, and Perth Mint of Australia;

All the sales records of distributors and retailers, including: Hong Kong Great Wall Coins Investments Ltd., Peking Coin Company Limited, PandaAmerica, MDM of Germany, Japanese Taisei Coins Corporation, ING of Belgium and so on.

This is a very arduous and complex process, which must be treated with absolute seriousness. Through the collaboration of both official and civilian efforts, the issue of actual mintage is expected to be worked out for the most part.

2.   Restrikes of some coins by Shanghai Mint after Year 2000 are described as follows:

According to records in the Yearbook of Shanghai Mint (2002-2003), Yearbook of Shanghai Mint (2004), Yearbook of Shanghai Mint (2005) and Yearbook of Shanghai Mint (2006), all the restrikes of coins before Year 2000 are listed below, in Table 1, 2 and 3:

(The tables are translated, merged and formated in this link:

OK. Let me explain the restrikes from Tables 1 to 3.

First of all, restrikes are not unique to China. Other countries in the world also make restrikes, but they all exercise extreme caution when doing so. Here is an example. When Hong Kong issued lunar gold coins years ago, wild speculations followed because of the limited mintage, and the price skyrocketed. The British Authority in Hong Kong immediately decided to restrike the balance in the planned mintage, which contributed to the stabilization of the price.

Now let's take a look at the explanations from the currency issuing authorities on the restrikes of precious metal coins. The following quotations are from an administrator of the Gold and Silver Currency Division of the People Bank of China:

A.   For precious metal coins issued in the years of China Mint Company (i.e. before 1987), China Gold Coin Co. cannot apply for restrikes even if the planned mintage was not fulfilled, because these were different projects managed by two organizations, unless the precious metal coins had a theme that carried over from China Mint Company to China Gold Coin Co. (such as Historical Figures gold and silver coins). That is to say, independent themes before 1987, such as the 1983 Marco Polo gold and silver coins, the 1986 Year of Peace gold and silver coins will be excluded from restrike applications from China Gold Coin Co.

B.   For precious metal coins issued by the People's Bank of China and distributed by China Gold Coin Co., sufficient reasons must be provided for restrikes, to be approved by the Gold and Silver Currency Division of the People's Bank of China. Moreover, if the quantity of the requested restrikes is too small (below 5,000 pieces in one application), the proposal for restrikes will most likely be rejected. (Comment: this information will make collectors happy who follow the natural law of collection, because many types with a small mintage will not be restruck. The original actual mintage becomes an excellent reference).

C.   Starting last year, all the newly approved precious metal coins will not be announced by the People's Bank of China if less than 70% of the planned mintage is met, and certainly will not be approved for production. If the newly approved precious metal coins reach 70% of the planned mintage, the balance can be restruck, but the approved restrike window is one year. (Comment: this information will make collectors feel certain about the release mintage of new coins.)

We cannot talk about restrikes without mentioning the other important term: melting. Melting is exactly the opposite to restriking. What are the historical records of melting in official books? 2007 was the 20th anniversary of the founding of China Gold Coin Co. In the book "History of China Gold Coin Co." written by the editorial committee of the book, cases of past handling of precious metal coin and medal inventories by the China Gold Coin Co. are clearly laid out:

The first time occurred on October 20, 1995. China Gold Coin Co. called an official meeting to focus on the inventories of gold and silver commemorative coins. The meeting decided that: the production facilities would check large size panda silver coins (including 5 oz and 12 oz ones) minted before 1993. Twenty specimens would be preserved. Any surplus over that would be melted.

The second time was the 2002 official reply from the Gold and Silver Currency Division of the People's Bank of China on the melting of some of the commemorative gold and silver coin and medal inventories. (Document No. 20 in 2002 by the Division). This official reply required China Gold Coin Co. to melt some of the gold and silver coin inventories, all the gold and silver medals and all the patterns of unreleased gold and silver coins. Shanghai Mint and Shenyang Mint were asked to monitor the melting of the gold and silver coin and medal inventories. Between these two mints, Shenyang Mint was responsible for monitoring the melting of: 111,593 gold coins and medals, 251,564 silver coins and medals, and 3,909 bi-metal coins, which contained 794 kilograms of gold and 7,358 kilograms of silver. Shanghai Mint was responsible for monitoring the melting of: 108,814 gold coins and medals, 188,275 silver coins and medals, and 16 bi-metal coins, which contained 916 kilograms of gold and 6,228 kilograms of silver. (Comment: this happened exactly as China Gold Coin Co. was implementing a policy of quality products with strict control of quantity. The scope of this move was totally unexpected. We may say that with this large scale melting, China Gold Coin Co. depleted most of its inventories.)

Now let's go back to the restrikes in Tables 1 to 3:

A.   In 2003, the kilo gold Tang Dynasty Vault Protector was restruck. The kilo silver Tang Dynasty Vault Protector was restruck in 2003 and 2004. The Tang Dynasty Vault Protector coins were distributed by Hong Kong Peking Coin Company Limited (later on renamed as Hong Kong China Coin Company Limited). When the coins were first marketed in 1998, the coin market was very slow. The distributor later on requested restrikes to make up for their loss. Peking Coin Company Limited was a long-time business partner of China Gold Coin Co. The 8 gram lunars distributed by them were a huge success. Afterwards, the company made their name with lunar coins. The restrikes of the Tang Dynasty Vault Protector coins were a special case of a market compensation contract. If restrikes could be used to make profits, Peking Coin Company Limited would have taken advantage of their strong public relation skills and asked Shenyang Mint to mint 8 gram gold Rat at full speed.

B.   The 1999 Water Spraying Guanyin coins are gold gilt silver coins. According to informed sources at Shanghai Mint, the condition of the coins in the warehouse was horrible because of bad storage environment. When China Gold Coin Co. came to pick up the order, the condition of the coins was considered below the standards of fiat currency. Shanghai Mint melted all the inventory, and then re-minted the same number of coins as melted.

C.   We may notice that the Historical Figures silver coins were continuously restruck. This is why we find brand new complete sets of Historical Figures silver coins at Lugong and Madian markets. There was a big story behind this set, as those were no ordinary restrike orders. The original distributor of this set was MDM in Germany. In the catalog of precious metal coins and medals by Mr. Ge Zukang, the actual mintage was very different from the planned mintage. But later on, MDM got in contact with a Hong Kong businessman by way of a coin dealer at the Lugong Market, and obtained the approval for restrikes through China Gold Coin Co. after many twists and turns. The quantity of the restrikes was very surprising. This restrike plan stirred up a lot of noise (the People's Bank of China was not aware of these restrikes at first). For this reason, managers at China Gold Coin Co. responsible for the project were moved to other positions in order to cool down complaints. This set of coins will have more restrikes as it was an international project with the contract already in place.

D.   The Silk Road silver coins were restruck in 2004 and 2005. The distributor of this set was ING in Belgium. It was another international project, similar to the Historical Figures silver coins. As the contract was already in place, there was no option but to restrike the coins.

E.   Two specimens of the 1987 12 oz gold Panda, the 1991 12 oz gold Panda and the 1996 20 oz Unicorn were restruck in 2004. These were normal restrikes, as they were needed for China Gold Coin Co. to showcase the coins.

With all this knowledge, we now have a better understanding of the actual mintage and restrikes, instead of seeing restrikes as fearful threats. We now know that theoretically, all the precious metal coins are likely to be restruck in the future if the actual mintage falls short of the planned mintage. But in fact the possibility of restrikes will diminish, to the degree of being negligible, because the Banking Law of the People's Republic of China and the Regulations on Renminbi of People's Republic of China will be further refined. As fiat currency, the approval, production and sales of precious metal coins will be further regulated. Restrikes will have a political impact. As collector and researchers, we need to understand the reason for restrikes of some individual coins. Also, after learning about restrikes of these coins, we should know that occasional restrikes of such coins cannot be viewed as the harbinger for restriking all the precious metal coins, just as we do not rush to get rid of all our color coin collections when we occasionally find a lot of color paint peeling off on one color coin.

Finally, precious metal coins from the PRC usually have a smaller actual mintage than the planned mintage. With early coins, the actual mintage was far lower than the planned mintage, such as the 1/2 oz gold Ancient Maritime Ships and the 1 oz gold Sun Yat-Sen. We often see the actual mintage exceeded the planned mintage by a few or a few dozen specimens. Don't panic. The extra specimens were patterns. For example, the 5 oz gold Huangdi Mausoleum had a planned mintage of 99, but the actual mintage was 100. The extra specimen was a pattern. Another example is the 5 oz Longmen, which had a planned mintage of 288. But the actual mintage was 292. Again the extra 4 specimens were patterns. Among the precious metal coins from the PRC, there were a couple of cases where the actual mintage was more than the planned mintage by 10%, but this is very rare.


Actual mintage is an important parameter in the collection of precious metal coins from the PRC. It reflects their history at the same time. The dynamic change of the actual mintage of a certain type is closely related to restrikes. For new collectors, they can start on their journey of value collection and value investment by getting to know the planned mintage of the precious metal coins. Here is an example. In 1989, China issued a palladium panda coin. This was the only palladium panda coin in the whole world in the 20th century. The planned mintage was 3,000. However, because of the political events of that year, the actually mintage was only 1,367. When the price of palladium shot up a few years ago, the distributor, Mr. Lim Beng Haw, melted a lot from his inventory, leaving the coin all the more rare. Even if the new collector does not know about the actual mintage and melting, he or she can determine that the coin is well worth collecting based merely on the planned mintage and the fact that it was the only palladium panda coin in the 20th century. For each and every coin issued by PRC before the 21st century, the information on their approval, production and distribution is far from complete, which demands great efforts for us to research them carefully and continuously. We all have to pitch in and collect valid information from all channels, before finally establishing a systematic and complete academic theory on precious metal coins from the PRC.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic article. Thanks for laying out the process simply. I found a few precious metal coins in Denver some years back and now I know what I should do with them. Thanks again.