Shown is a set of five 99.9% pure, gold panda coins, produced by the China Mint in 1990. These coins were released in a set together, and each set was originally sold in a box featuring a red interior. All of the coins feature the same panda image on the reverse, and the same image of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests on the obverse. All of the coins are proof in quality, as shown by the ‘P’ mark, located on the right hand side of the reverse face. In all, 5,000 such sets of panda coins were released in 1990.
Although all of the coins in the set bear the same imagery on either side, the coins differ in diameter, weight and face value. The first coin in the set has the diameter of 32 millimeters, the second is 27 millimeters, the third is 22 millimeters, the fourth is 18 millimeters, and the fifth is 14 millimeters. Likewise, the weight of the first is one ounce, the weight of the second is 1/2 ounce, the weight of the third is 1/4 ounce, the weight of the fourth is 1/10 ounce, and the weight of the fifth is 1/20 ounce. The coins bear the following denominations: 100 yuan, 50 yuan, 25 yuan, 10 yuan and 5 yuan, respectively.
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, featured on the obverse of each coin, is a completely wooden structure set atop three great marble slabs. The steps that lead to the Hall are built into the marble. The Hall of Prayer, along with the other structures in the Temple of Heaven were commissioned by the Yongle Emperor, a man with strong vision, intense religious leaning and an interest in art and architecture. The Temple of Heaven was established as a place where emperors would go to pray for a strong harvest. It was in use for this purpose until 1911, when dynastic rule in China ended. Above the hall, one can see the characters symbolizing, “The People’s Republic of China.” Below it is the year of issue, 1990. On the reverse face of each coin is a burly-looking panda, standing with his chest displayed and his body stretched out behind him. Beside the panda are several stalks of bamboo, which comprise 99% of the panda’s diet in the wild. Although the panda is technically a carnivore and can eat grubs and worms, it will always prefer bamboo. The panda is a protected species in China. Though numbers are rising because of this designation, deforestation has left a dramatic dent in the species. It is estimated that up to 3,000 pandas remain in the wild. This beautiful and elusive creature is China’s national animal. Above the panda, on each coin, are the specifications of the coin’s metallic properties. Part of the inscription reads, “contains 99.9% pure gold.” The rest of the description varies on each coin, naming the respective weights (1oz Au, 1/2oz Au, 1/4oz Au, 1/10oz Au and 1/20oz Au.). Below the panda’s front paws on each coin, one can read the denominations: 100 yuan, 50 yuan, 25 yuan, 10 yuan or 5 yuan.