Before the establishment of the PRC in 1949, China had been represented at the Olympics under the flag of the Republic of China (ROC). However the flag of the PRC was raised for the first time at the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympics in Finland. The PRC sent a delegation of 40 to attend, but due to transportation issues mainly concerning the lack of an available jet aircraft to fly the team over to Finland in time for the competition, only one of the athletes, the swimmer Wu Chuanyu 吴传玉, arrived in time to take part in his event.
Due to its extended period of social and political upheaval in the second half of the 20th Century, the PRC was not represented at any Summer Olympic Games held between 1956 and 1980 inclusively. The first Olympics attended by the PRC since the Cultural Revolution was the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. It was in this year when the PRC truly opened its Olympic medal account with a total of 32 medals (15 golds, 8 silvers, and 9 bronzes), and earning them fourth place in the medal table. China’s first Olympic gold medalist was the 50m pistol shooter Xu Haifeng 许海峰, who earned this landmark achievement at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games.
Coins have been issued by the People’s Bank of China to commemorate the Olympics in 1984, 1988, 1992, and 1996. However, no coins were issued for the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics. The first time China hosted the Olympics was in 2008, and it seems that the China Mint more than made up for the lack of Olympic coins in 2000 and 2004 by issuing three sets in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Games over a three-year period in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
1984 Los Angeles Olympics
From the 1984 series, issued to commemorate the 23rd Olympic Games held in Los Angeles, California, USA, the athletes Zhu Jianhua 朱建华 and Lang Ping 郎平 were picked as models on which the artisans at the China Mint were to base their designs of the two coins which make up the 1984 Summer Olympics series.
¼ oz Silver Coin – Zhu Jianhua 朱建华
The 1984 23rd Summer Olympics ¼ oz silver coin features Shanghai’s Zhu Jianhua, a high jumper recording a personal best of 2.39m. He was born on 29th May 1963 and is 1.93m tall. At the time of competing he weighed 70 kg. While Xu Haifeng was the first gold medalist for the PRC, Zhu Jianhua holds the accolade for being the first male PRC athlete to win an athletics medal: a bronze in 1984.
The coin itself is a proof piece with a fineness of 92.5%. It had a planned mintage of 10,000, although it has an actual mintage of 10,100. The face value is 5 yuan, it measures 27 mm in diameter and was struck at the Shanghai Mint.
½ oz Silver Coin – Lang Ping 郎平
Also commemorating the 1984 Los Angeles Games is the 1984 23rd Summer Olympics ½ oz silver coin featuring the women’s volleyball champion Langping. Playing the position of outside hitter – an ‘all-round’ position typified by strong defensive players who have the ability to strike the ball hard and fast, and often expected to make the best of awkward situations – she bears the nickname “Iron Hammer”. She was an integral part and one of the strongest players of the Chinese women’s volleyball team.
Born in Beijing on 10th December 1960, after her playing career she moved on to coaching. She coached the USA volleyball team from 2005 until the end of the Beijing Olympics of 2008 in which the USA team, under her leadership, won a silver medal (losing out to Brazil in the final). During the same competition, her USA team faced and beat the Chinese women’s team of her home country 3-2 in a widely publicised match attended by both the then Presidents Hu Jintao and George W Bush. She resigned from the USA team in 2008, citing family reasons, and now coaches China’s women’s team. Despite what may be seen as a slightly controversial period coaching the USA team, she is revered in China for being one of China’s first world champions. Her achievements are seen as particularly significant since she was one of the first gold medalists at the Olympics in a sport that wasn’t considered to be a Chinese speciality (like Ping Pong).
Frosted and Mirrored
There are two varieties of this ½ oz silver coin – a mirrored finish and a rarer frosted finish.
Both types are of proof quality with a fineness of 92.5%. They both bear a denomination of 10 yuan, measure 36 mm in diameter, and were struck at the Shanghai Mint.
The mirrored finish coin had a planned mintage of 6,000, although an actual mintage of 4,500 is recorded. In 1988 Paramount, the US company, sent a request to the Shanghai Mint to mint a frosted version of this coin type, but keeping the 1984 date. The mintage for the frosted version is a mere 1,000.
Collectors should take care when handling and preserving this coin, as the high point of the relief is the abdomen of the athlete – an area which is easily scratched.