According to a report by Chinese news agency Xinhua, China has been sharply increasing its output of gold and silver coins to meet seemingly ever-increasing popular demand for precious metals as people buy to protect against perceived rising inflation. Indeed it has more than doubled the maximum issuance for 2011 for some popular gold coin sizes from its previously announced levels.
China produces gold and silver Panda coins. The Peoples Bank of China (PBOC) has announced that in view of the rising demand for the coins, the number of one ounce gold Pandas will be raised from the previously announced 300,000 units to 500,000 this year. The smaller coins in the series will have their maximum circulation numbers increased from 200,000 coins to 600,000 for each series. This is a huge increase from the previously announced levels for 2011 which in turn were sharply higher than in earlier years.
And showing the big pick up in demand for silver in China, the PBOC says that it is doubling the maximum issuance of one ounce silver Panda coins from 3 million to 6 million. To emphasise this growth in demand the issuance in 2010 was 1.5 million.
The Panda coins are particularly popular with collectors as the design generally changes each year. Gold Pandas are minted in 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/10 and 1.20 troy oz. of 999 fine gold and carry. Larger Panda coins have been issued in some years, weighing 5 and 12 oz. These popular coins They are technically legal tender in China and currently carry face values of 500, 200, 100, 50 and 25 Yuan respectively. They are issued in Prooflike Brilliant Uncirculated quality with a different design each year. A freeze of the design was announced with the 2001 issues-and thus the 2002 Pandas were identical to 2001. But collectors spoke up in behalf of annual changes, and China reverted to its original policy.
There are several mints in China that produce the gold Pandas, including but not limited to: Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Shenyang. Unlike coins made by U.S. and European mints that carry mintmarks to distinguish their origin, Chinese mints usually do not employ mintmarks. In certain years there are minor variations-in the size of the date, style of the temple, etc.–in the coin design that allow the originating mint to be determined.
The silver Pandas are minted in three main sizes – 1 ounce, ½ ounce and ¼ ounce weights with face values of 10, 5 and 3 Yuan – but there are also larger sizes – one kilogram, 12 ounces and five ounces – available with face values of 300, 100 and 50 Yuan respectively.
The big rises in the maximum issuance for the smaller gold coins and the series of silver Pandas is yet another indication that not only is demand exploding for precious metals among the Chinese growing middle class, but also confirmation that the government is encouraging its citizens to buy precious metals. In itself this helps underpin precious metals prices. China, conscious of the potential for unrest among its 1.4 billion population is unlikely to want to see its peoples’ investments collapse and with its enormous foreign currency reserves has the wherewithal to give precious metals prices a boost should it wish to do so. Indeed it wouldn’t even need to mobilise its trillions of dollars to do this, but just to announce officially that it is planning to increase its official gold holdings – which most observers believe it is doing anyway!