1979 International Year of the Child Chinese Coins
The International Year of Child (IYC) Coin series was one of the first coin series made in the history of modern Chinese Coins. Released in 1980, it was issued to commemorate 1979, the UNESCO proclaimed International Year of the Child. Thirty-five countries in total released coins to commemorate the IYC, but the Chinese IYC coins were particularly special as China was one of the twelve countries that released gold commemorative coins and was also one of a handful that also released gold piedfort coins. There are five IYC coins in total, with three silver varieties and two gold varieties, all sharing the same design.
The first proposal for the IYC coins was submitted to the State Council of the People's Republic of China in May 1979 and was a conjoint effort by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, People's Bank of China and the All-China Women's Federation. The proposal called for two commemorative gold coins: a regular gold coin with 27mm diameter, 17.17g in weight, 90% purity and a 450 Yuan denomination; and a piedfort gold coin with 27mm diameter, 34.34g in weight, 90% purity and a 900 Yuan denomination. The proposal also called for three silver coins: normal and matte silver coins with 36 mm, 17.17g weight, 80% purity, and 35 Yuan denomination, and a silver piedfort which has the same specifications, except double the weight. After the proposal was approved, People's Bank of China entrusted the task of the design and production of the IYC coins to Shanghai Mint, who assigned the designing to the then 38 year old Chen Jian, a well-known artist and coin designer.
In the original draft that Chen submitted, the obverse of the coin features the words "People's Republic of China", the PRC coat of arms, and the year "1979", while the reverse features a girl kneeling down watering a flower. In particular, the watering of the flower is a metaphor used to convey that children are our future, and need to be protected and cultivated. Upon examining the design, the president of All-China Women's Federation, Ms Chen Mu Hua, suggested the inclusion of a boy would ensure political correctness. The final design was therefore modified to include a boy holding a garden spade.
In March 1980 the IYC coins were issued and distributed for sale by the Paramount International Coins Co. The issued coins have all the same attributes as specified in the first proposal, except the denomination of the IYC Gold Piedfort which was changed to 450 Yuan. With the IYC coins being the first commemorative coins issued in Modern China with an international theme, the PRC government at the time deemed the issuing of this set of coins especially important. In particular, both the Chinese Ambassador of USA, Mr Chai Ze Min and ex-USA Secretary of States, Dr Henry Kissinger were invited to the First Day of Issue ceremony of the IYC coins, and were arranged to shake hands in front of the media - a gesture symbolizing Sino-US friendship after two decades of broken relations.