The Lunar market seems to have cooled somewhat over the last couple of years, a good thing given the ridiculaous numbers issued annually just half a decade ago, Fortunately, the mints have taken the opportunity to heart by a noticeable increase in quality. The Perth Mints iconic Lunar Series reached its third go around last year and introduced a vastly better look, as did the Royal Mint. In our view, the best new introduction of the last few years has been CIT’s superb fully dimensional coins, part of a three issue range that also includes a five-gram silver foil banknote and a 0.5 gram minigold.
Fully dimensional coins are those that not only take on the shape of the subject, i.e. one that moves away from the usual geometric formats, but also does so on both faces. These are cutting edge numismatics, combining shapes previously only possible using casting, with the quality and detail inherent in a high-end strike. In conjunction with the German mint B.H.Mayer, CIT developed a technique called ‘smartminting’ that makes this possible to an insanely high degree of quality.
The Mongolian-issued dimensional range is, at the time of writing, just three issues old, but has clearly attained a place in the market as one of the most admired of their genre. CIT did issue silver coins for two years before the 2019 range, but we’d consider this the start of the tightly integrated three-issue range that has become an annual fixture in the numismatic calendar. With smartminting having recieved an ‘upgrade’ in 2020, next years dimensional coin could be one well worth waiting for.
The Year of the Pig covered by this issue is actually the year 4717 in the Chinese calendar and finished on 05 February 2019. It’s also known more specifically as the Year of the Brown Earth Pig. CIT chose to call it a ‘Jolly Pig’, which is fair enough, as it looks like it’s found a bag of its favourite cream buns. As the first issue, it had to set a high bar, and it has done that with ease. Fully dimensional (both sides) and richly decorated with a floral motif in the Asian-style, it’s a brilliant way to mark the lunar year in coin form and our favourite of the year.
For this first year, a follow up was produced for the Beijing International Coin Exposition in 2018. A lower mintage of 888 instead of 999, and the only real difference was the use of gilding in place of antiquing. Equally excellent, it suits the motif well.
The coin note is a typical one from CIT, packed with the fine, line-art that typifies modern banknotes. The Jolly Pig motif is carried on with a reproduction of the dimensional coin as the centrepiece. These notes come sealed in plastic,
The minigold is one of CIT’s standard 11.0 mm diameter strikes, not the more expansive 13.92mm ones. Again, the dimensional coin design is reproduced as the main attraction. Despite a small diameter, the producers technology has allowed a quite extraordinary level of detail for the size. These ones come encapsulated and there’s an optional box, newly revised in a style like those used by the Austrian Mint, but with a nice gold CIT logo on the lid.
The Year of the Mouse (or the Rat as some mints have chosen to use) covered by this issue is the year 4718 in the Chinese calendar and finished on 25th January 2020. It’s also known more specifically as the Year of the White Metal Mouse, appropriately enough, like silver. CIT chose to call this one the ‘Witty Mouse’.
Easily maintaining the standard of the first in the series, it carries on with the floral decoration in the same style. Despite being the second issue, the mouse is actually the first creature of the 12 in the lunar cycle. There was no sign of a gilded mouse for the Beijing show sadly, and we’re not expecting to see one given how much time has passed. Shame.
The coin note has few changes from the design and layout of the Year of the Pig note. Indeed, the only real change aside from the obvious textual ones, is the change in animal image.
The minigold also remains conceptually identical, with the dimensional coin design used again, although the border is a little simpler, possibly just to show difference from the first issue.
The Year of the Ox is a beefier design than previously, but doesn’t up the weight. Another gorgeous piece, it has changed the lighter and more numerous floral decoration for one large, almost ‘tribal tattoo’ peony on the animals back, although it is split down the middle into two halves.
Year 4719, and wrapping up on 12 February 2021, the Year of the White Metal Ox also doesn’t get the plated yellow metal offering. Appropriately enough given the design, CIT have chosen the moniker ‘Year of the Mighty OX’ for this years entrant.
The same subtle changes in colour and text, along with the depiction of the Ox mark out the extent of the differences this year. The coin note range is clearly going to be tightly knot style-wise.
Another border change on the minigold, continuing the trend towards simplification, and the dimensional reproduction is back. No changes to the obverse.