One of the most eagerly awaited of the various annually changing silver bullion coins for some years has been the Perth Mint’s perenially popular Lunar Series, now ten coins through its second cycle. The Lunar market is exceptionally diverse and well liked so it should’ve come as no surprise that other mints would look to emulate that success. Treasures of Oz did a fine job with their Tokelau Lunar range, now sadly defunct only a few coins in, and their are some smaller ranges around filling in the gaps. In 2014, one of the industries biggest players decided it wanted a slice of the pie, the Royal Mint.
The mints flagship Britannia bullion range had enjoyed semi-regularly changing designs, but that stopped in 2014 when they decided to open the mintage up and fix on Philip Nathan’s iconic artwork. To plug the semi-numismatic bullion coin gap, the mint employed British-Chinese artist Wuon-Gean Ho to design a coin range called Shengxiao Lunars. The 2014 Year of the Horse coin was the first.
Available in gold and silver, just a single size is available in each, that being the ever in demand one-ounce format. For the 2015 Year of the Sheep, the mint did produce 5,000 ¼ ounce gold coins, but that hasn’t reappeared and can’t be considered a regular part of the range. A 1/10 ounce coin in a similar finish is available every year, but sold as a boxed numismatic like the proof range and thus priced accordingly. To all intents and purposes, the one-ounce format is the bullion range.
Designs are certainly different to the Perth Mint range. Wuon-Gean has produced some fine, if controversial stylistic designs, a long way from Perths more realistic approach, so collectors usually find themselves leaning one way or the other. The Shengxiao Lunars have smaller mintages and a tighter, more traditional proof range, Perth catering to a huge variety of bullion sizes and an oversized variety of specials. Currently six coins in, this is a fine range, different to the competition, but cohesive as a set. However, for the 2019 coin the lead artist has been changed to Harry Brockway. His style is less stylistic and leans a little more to the Perth Mint style than Wuon-Gean’s work. Early buzz has that it’s equally divisive.
One worth keeping an eye out for is the 2014 Year of the Horse ‘mule’. In 2014 the mint accidently struck 38,000 coins with the crenellated Britannia obverse and 17,000 Britannia coins with the lunar obverse. These are selling for decent premiums above the normal coins and make an interesting addition for the committed collector. The Britannia in our image above is an annual special loosely related, having a lunar privy mark struck into the edge at approximately 45º intervals. Made for a US dealer, they’re fairly easy to pick up.