The Panda Paucity Index is an attempt to determine which Pandas are actually scarcest in the marketplace. It does this through auction records. Numismatic researchers have long turned to auction records for estimating coin populations. Previous published research efforts have used sales at major numismatic auction houses like Heritage, Stack’s, Superior Stamp & Coin, Bowers and Merena, etc. to track the frequency that a specific coin is offered for sale. This permits researchers to work witha random sample of extant coins.
While prevalence in auctions is not absolute proof of how many coins of a certain date exist, it is a good indicator of how difficult it will be to find one; the definition of scarcity. If a date only turns up once every four months, on average, than a collector should recognize that this date may take some searching and patience to acquire.
For Pandas, traditionally valued for little more than their intrinsic value, there is hardly any formal auction record to speak of — except in the 21st century world of eCommerce. Online auctions take place 24/7 and—for coins like Pandas—are the most widespread, public marketplaces on earth.
Based on over 3,000 online auctions we have created the Panda Paucity (or Paw-City, as we like to joke) Index. The PPI is a ranking from 1 to 100 to show how often a coin is offered for sale at auction. In this index 1 represents the hardest-to-find Panda and 100 the most common. We believe this index is an easy to use and effective way to compare relative scarcities of Panda dates.
In the process of creating the PPI, we have used our judgment to weed out fakes, scams and damaged coins, as well as contacting sellers to clarify details.
One factor to consider is that the more expensive a coin, the more often it will be offered for sale at auction. This is because the high premium the coin commands is an incentive to owners to cash in on the price difference over melt value. So, when considering dates like the 1982 or 1995, remember that the number of existing coins of these dates may be more limited than the auction record suggests and the PPI number a bit inflated. Even so, the frequency which a coin is offered for sale is useful knowledge to anyone looking to buy, or sell, that date.
The chart illustrates the price action of different classes of gold Pandas over the last two years. Those years which have been offered for sale the fewest times have appreciated the most—whether their scarcity was publicly recognized, or not. The common date Pandas have fulfilled their mission as bullion coins and closely tracked the price of gold. By contrast, the 1982-84 Pandas, which possess the lowest official mintages but have been auctioned relatively frequently, have underperformed. They have maintained their premiums but have not greatly appreciated.
While these results are not what we expected to find, we believe that their validity is confirmed by the price action of the coins themselves. Without any publicity, the scarcer dates have moved up the most in price.
Finally, remember that compared to an American Eagle, or a South African Krugerrand (there were nearly 3x the quantity of Krugerrands issued in just 1978 as the total number of Pandas coined in 25 years), no Panda is truly common. This makes hunting for these coins an exciting numismatic adventure mixing fun, beauty and investment potential.
Note: The Panda Paucity Index has been expanded and made current in the Gold and Silver Panda Coin Buyer's Guide. The Buyer's Guide includes numerical estimates of the populations of 1982-2005 1 oz. and smaller Panda gold coins.