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.
DESIGN: Depicts a leaping horse under which is a depiction of the Uffington Horse in Oxfordshire. At the top is the inscription YEAR OF THE HORSE 2014 and the Chinese character for horse.
DESIGN: Wuon-Gean has depicted two rhesus monkeys in her composition, part of the ‘Old World’ family of monkeys originating in Europe, Africa and Asia. Wuon-Gean explains: “Rhesus monkeys and humans shared a common ancestor about 25 million years ago. They are extremely intelligent, sociable and family oriented, and are equally good at climbing and swimming.”
DESIGN: “The dog I have depicted is a mixed breed, like a West Highland White Terrier crossed with a Jack Russell. I wanted to show the energy and exuberance of a more compact dog. Bouncy, full of life and very playful, terriers have a quick intelligence, lots of loyalty and big personalities,” said Wuon-Gean.
The background design behind the leaping terrier on the coin design is biometric nose print of a greyhound belonging to Wuon Gean’s friend. “In a similar way to fingerprints in people, dogs each have their own unique nose prints. The nose print ties into the British regard for dogs as individuals and refers to the tradition of dog portraiture. The pixelated nature of the nose print is a contemporary take on the digitised information that surrounds us in the twenty-first century.”said Wuon Gean.
DESIGN: The pig is the sixth design in the series, and is the twelfth and final sign of the Chinese zodiac, appearing once every 12 years. Harry Brockway, the coin’s designer, has ensured qualities of people born in the Year of the Pig are evident in his design.
Behind the sow, who is lying comfortably with her children who are feeding, is a countryside landscape at night, featuring a traditional country home. This design shows the generosity, compassion and diligence associated with people born in the Year of the Pig, and defines their relationships with those close to them. The country home signifies the trait of feeling calm, through the drowsy night sky and smoke emanating from the warm fire within the home
The Rat is considered the first animal in the actual lunar cycle, so the Royal Mint have seemingly taken the opportunity to abandon the divisive ‘stylistic’ approach of the first few coins in their series to start afresh with a more realistic approach. Ironically, the Perth Mint has taken the same route, perhaps a reflection of the increasing awareness of the natural world brought about by the intense climate debate.
In our view, the new style is beautiful and a clear improvement, just as the Perth Mint coins are.
|NAME||SHENGXIAO LUNAR GOLD||SHENGXIAO LUNAR GOLD ¼||SHENGXIAO LUNAR SILVER|
|DENOMINATION||£100 UKP||£25 UKP||£2 UKP|
|COMPOSITION||0.9999 gold||0.9999 gold||0.999 silver|
|WEIGHT||31.21 grams||7.78 grams||31.21 grams|
|DIAMETER||32.69 mm||22.00 mm||38.61 mm|
|TUBE / BOX||10 / 100||TBC||25 / 500|