Errors and Varieties: 1988 15th Winter Olympic Games

This article looks once again at another of the several error strikes that either managed to make it out of the minting process undetected, or were detected too late to be altered. The coin under the spotlight here is the 1988 15th Winter Olympic Games silver coin. It is perhaps one of the best known of the error strikes of modern Chinese precious metal coins.

1988 Olympics

The coin was issued as part of a 6-coin set commemorating the Olympic Games of 1988. Five of the coins issued celebrate the 24th Summer Olympics, held in Seoul, South Korea. They are a ½ oz gold piece, a 5 oz silver piece, and three 27 g silver pieces. The sixth coin of the 1988 Olympic set – and the focal coin for this article – is the only one of the 6 to celebrate the 1988 15th Winter Olympics which were held in Calgary, Canada, between the 13th and 28th February of that year. As of February 1988 they held the record for the most expensive games – summer or winter – to have been held, at a cost of 829 million CAD. That record was, however, quickly smashed.

The 15th Winter Olympics were won by the then USSR with 29 medals in total (11 gold, 9 silver, and 9 bronze). Many may remember these games in 1988 for the debut of the Jamaican bobsled team – a source of inspiration for the film Cool Runnings – and the valiant but futile efforts of Eddie “The Eagle”, the British ski-jumper.

Specifications, Features, and the Error

The 1988 15th Winter Olympic Games silver coin is a 27 g silver proof quality piece with a fineness of 90%. It has a denomination of 5 yuan, a planned mintage of 10,000, but an actual mintage of 10,502. It has a diameter of 38.6 mm and was struck at the Shenyang Mint.

The reverse face features the National Emblem of China, the Chinese Olympic logo of the flag of the PRC with the five Olympic rings alongside the inscription of the Chinese Olympic Committee: 中国奥林匹克委员会”. The year, 1988, appears below.

1988-27-gram-silver-15th-winter-olympic-games-coin-rev 1988-27-gram-silver-15th-winter-olympic-games-coin-obv

The obverse face features a rendering of a male downhill skier appearing in front of a snow flake motif. To the left of the skier is the face value of the coin, 5 yuan, while below is an inscription. This is where to look for the error, which is hard to spot unless you know the ordinal numbers of the Olympic Games. The inscription reads: “16届冬季奥林匹克运动会纪念” (Commemorating the 16th Winter Olympic Games). However, and rather critically, 1988 was the 15th – not the 16th – Winter Olympics! This mistake evidently went unnoticed by both the designers and verifiers during the production process.

2 Varieties

The Shenyang Mint at the time was experimenting with the use of the then relatively new frosted finish technique. A very small number of these coins, representing just a tiny fraction of the total mintage, have a frosted finish rather than the standard mirrored finish. These frosted coins are extremely rare and valuable. 35 standard pieces were conferred to a German team for the application of the frosting. 10 of the 35 were destroyed in the process, 15 were kept in Germany, and the remaining 10 were returned to the Shenyang Mint. These frosted variations of the 1988 15th Winter Olympic Games 27 g silver coin hold a particularly special place in the history of modern Chinese coins. One such example is part of the collection held at the Shanghai Finance University’s coin museum.

Our coin store is unfortunately not in a position to be able to offer up one of these frosted coins for sale (at this time!), however, we can offer a mirrored finish variety in excellent condition, graded at PCGS PR69 DCAM, and for a very affordable price with free shipping. The China Mint has increased the scrutiny of its verification process as time has progressed, so it is becoming quite rare to see error strikes such as this – so don’t miss out on this opportunity to acquire one of these curious and intriguing pieces.