New Gold & Silver Coins Show Off China's First Aircraft Carrier

The People's Bank of China has announced the release (effective December 28th, 2012) of gold and silver commemorative coins celebrating the country's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. The two gold and two silver coins range in denominations from 10 to 2,000 yuan ($1.60 to $320), the latter with an actual market value of roughly $8,000.

The obverse design, identical for all four coins, depicts the national emblem of the People's Republic of China along with the date of 2012 in Arabic numerals. Each denomination displays on its reverse a different view of the aircraft carrier Liaoning and the date of the carrier's commissioning: September 25th, 2012.

The gold coins are composed of .999 fine gold. The 100-yuan coin weighs 1/4 of an ounce and is 22mm (just under an inch) in diameter. The 2,000-yuan coin tips the scales at 5 full ounces and is 60mm (almost 2.5 inches) in diameter. The smaller coin features a dynamic reverse design showing one of the Liaoning's J-15 “Flying Shark” fighter jets immediately after take-off from the carrier's unusual ski-jump shaped flight deck.

The silver coins are composed of .999 fine silver, with the 10-yuan coin weighing 1 ounce and measuring 40mm in diameter. The 300-yuan coin weighs a massive 1 kilogram (just under 2 lbs.) and is 100mm in diameter – a full four inches wide! This very large coin displays the aircraft carrier Liaoning with the Chinese Navy crest, an olive branch and a dove representing peace.

Officially legal tender but fated to be collectible coins, these commemorative pieces are limited in quantity based on their denomination: only 50,000 10-yuan silver, 3,000 300-yuan silver, 20,000 100-yuan gold and 2,000 2,000-yuan gold coins will be minted by the Shenyang Mint Limited with total distribution by the China Gold Coin Corporation.

Western observers and collectors may find China's rather blatant display of her navy's military power somewhat unusual and off-putting, especially compared to the popular Chinese Panda series of bullion coins first issued in the early 1980s.

It should be stated, however, that China's population has breathlessly been following the progress of the Liaoning (formerly the Ukrainian aircraft carrier Varyag) from second-hand fixer-upper to pride of the nation's blue-water fleet. What better way to crystallize that pride than with lustrous, valuable, collectible commemorative coins! (via WSJ China Realtime Report and Chinese Defence Forum)