Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dandan's Comments on Chinese Coins (2)

The Grotto Series
Someone asked about the Grotto series. I did not mean to write about it, but then changed my mind.

First, why didn’t I want to write about it? The main reason is that it is much too expensive. Not many people know me on this KDS forum, but I have been positive on the Grotto Series, even enthusiastic about it, because the theme is highly cultural, and the 2oz Dunhuang Grotto silver coin won an international prize. Their mintage is also relatively low. There is no reason to be negative about it except for one thing: they are expensive, very expensive.

Four sets have been issued in the Grotto Series, which are Dunhuang, Longmen, Majishan and Yungang. Dunhuang is the king of the Grotto Series, not only because it is the first in the series, but also because the silver coin won an international prize. The Dunhuang gold coin is very popular, to the extent that you need to pay one thousand Yuan to get an original box for the gold coin, a price higher than some silver coins. I quite like the half ounce gold Dunhuang coin. I feel that both the design and the workmanship are first class. Although the mintage of the 2oz silver coin is 30,000, it is beautifully made, well worthy of the international prize it received. The Dunhuang set was not born into a welcoming world. For a long time, it did not experience any dramatic price increase. But this was not a bad thing. Its high mintage drove it off the radar screen of reckless speculators, thus missing their overzealous hype. After a long time of sleeping, this set rose like a star in the last couple of years, rewarding enormously those who dared to collect it when the market was down. For those who like collecting, a coin would be OK even if it remains a sleeper for 10 years after the purchase, as long as they like it and feel that it is valuable. The sudden price upswing after ten years is only a small reward for their patience. Not getting lost in immediate profits has brought about abundant rewards to these collectors. The 2oz silver coin could barely make 500 Yuan back then, and now it has broken the 10,000 Yuan threshold. Play with coins in the mindset of a collector, and you will be rewarded enormously.

Next we will talk about Longmen. Longmen was issued one year after Dunhuang. When Longmen is mentioned, our first thought is the kilo Longmen silver coin, because it was the first kilo silver coin in the Grotto Series, although the mintage was as high as 8,000. This mintage is high among kilo silver coins, but as the first kilo coin in the Grotto Series, it has been more expensive than some silver coins with a 4,000 or 5,000 mintage. The Buddha’s head on the Longmen coins are so classical that all the gold, silver and circulating coins picked the design, because people are used to seeing it, equating the huge Buddha with the Longmen Grotto.

Next we will take up Maijishan. The three coins in the Maijishan set are relatively overlooked in the Grotto Series. Majishan’s overall release mintage is not high, with a standard gold and silver set plus a 5oz gold coin. Its overall mintage is the lowest among the Grotto Series. But the Maijishan Grotto is little known in real life. We all talk about the enormous Dunhuang and Longmen Grottoes, about how Monk Wang at Dunhuang Grotto sold national treasures cheap to foreigners, and all the plundering that took place in those years. In comparison, Maijishan has few stories. Although the 2oz silver coin witnessed significant price increase in the last few years, sales volume was not that impressive, at most lukewarm.

Finally, let’s talk about the Yungang set. As the last set in the Grotto Series, coincided with the hot coin market in the last couple of years, Yungang has been the darling of the times, an absolute tide rider. The Yungang set included not only the gold/silver set, but also a kilo silver coin, and, last but not least, a kilo gold coin. The mintage fluctuated. The mintage of the half ounce gold coin was boosted to 10,000, but at the same time, the mintage of the 2oz silver coin was reduced from the 30,000 pieces of the Dunhuang set to 20,000 pieces. The second (and also last) kilo silver coin in the Grotto Series was released at the same time, but the mintage was brought down to 3,800. My favorite among the Yungang coins is the kilo silver coin. Although many like the gold/silver set, if I have to choose among the two, I would go with the silver coin. After all, the 2oz silver coins in the Grotto Series are highly favored by everyone. Starting from the 2oz silver coin of the Dunhuang set, Grotto silver coins have been no brainers for collection. I am against the gold/silver set not because of the design or the workmanship, let alone the mintage. The reason was rampant short-term speculation. Only a few months ago, the gold/silver Yungang set moved as high as 27,000 Yuan, and what about it now? Yungang was born into a rising tide, and its theme is wonderful both for investment and for collection. Just because of these, however, too many speculators stepped in, which sowed elements of uncertainty for the set. The biggest problem with Yungang is that it was released not too long ago, and its collectors are still few. Short-term hoarding by speculators is a highly risky factor. After all speculators step in just to make a profit, through flipping. Flipping means continuous selling. They have no loyalty whatsoever to the collection item. The continuous growth is credited to the highly favorable market condition. Otherwise such speculation would end up badly. As for the Yungang kilo silver coin, it has benefited enormously from its low mintage of only 3,800, the lowest among the kilo coins in recent years, and also the lowest in the Grotto Series. The other kilo silver coin from the Longmen set has a mintage of 8,000. So it is not surprising that the Yungang kilo silver coin rose from more than 20,000 Yuan to close to 50,000 Yuan in only two years. It is too bad that this coin is beyond common investors and collectors as it is much too expensive.

Collection index: 9
Investment index: 8

Dunhuang 2oz silver coin

Dunhuang 1/2oz gold coin

Longmen kilo silver coin 

Longmen 5oz gold coin

Maijishan 2oz silver coin

Maijishan 1/2oz gold coin

Yungang 2oz silver coin

Yungang kilo silver coin

 Yungang kilo gold coin

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