Launching in February, the South African Mint continued its move away from relying on the Krugerrand to fill its bullion needs with the release of the first in a series of five silver coins called simply, ‘Big Five’. Generally believed to be the five most dangerous animals in Africa for hunting on foot, the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape Buffalo are all quite capable of killing humans. The last of those. the Cape Buffalo, appears to be the only animal on Earth with a bigger attitude problem than my cat.
Originally meant to be issued on a monthly basis from February, we guess the schedule was a little over ambitious as we’re only now seeing the second one. What this means for the remaining three is unknown at present, but the SA Mint is no stranger to high volume, so is certainly capable of this relatively limited volume programme. As you can see from the images scattered all around this article, the second coin goes with Panthera Leo – the lion.
The Lion is hardly uncommon on commemorative coins, but surprisingly, few of them are great designs. The depiction on this coin however, is a fine one, showing a great grasp of both perspective and anatomy. It’s extra impressive for a bullion coin. Like the elephant coin, the obverse has that half mirrored design that replicates when placed next to another coin, which brings us neatly on to the proof version.
No differences in design for the proof, but a quite unique capsule holds two of them side by side to show off the effect. We have mixed feelings about this issue. There is nothing to differentiate between the two coins in the set, so we’re effectively being asked to buy two, with all the resulting cost implications that entails. At the end of the day, it’s beautifully presented and a cool idea, but you’ll have to decide if almost €250 is a price you’re willing to pay for it. Perhaps each coin could’ve had a different finish on the reverse face – just leaving the obverse with the mirrored portrait to stay the same.
The bullion coin is also quite pricey and a little above the encapsulated low volume competition. It’s presented in a blistercard, which is very well done, but again, at €35, it’s best to look on these as a cheap collectable, rather than a straight bullion coin. The mintage is only 15,000 pieces (the proof 1,000 sets) and they’re both available to order now, but not shipping until the beginning of August. A very nice issue and a series shaping up to be one of the best of the year.