British Gold Lunar Bullion Series
Lunar-themed coin programs are incredibly popular in the 21st century. The concept of design coins around the 12-year cycle of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, also known as the Zodiac, evolved at the Perth Mint when the latter introduced the very first Lunar Series in 1996. Today, notable sovereign mints including the Royal Canadian Mint and Royal Mint of England offer their own lunar collections for investors and collectors.
While the Perth Mint’s collection remains the most diverse series out there, it is not the only series to introduce stunning new designs with the changing years of the Zodiac. The Royal Mint of England introduced in its own lunar-themed series in 2014 and continues that collection today with a focus on the production of coins in 1 oz silver or 1 oz gold. Learn all about the British Gold Lunar Series of coins below!
The Shengxiao Collection
The Royal Mint separates its collection of British Gold Lunar Series coins from those of other mints with the use of traditional Chinese Mandarin terminology in the naming of its collection. The Royal Mint’s lunar series is known as the Shengxiao Collection, with the latter term simply the Mandarin word used to refer to the Zodiac. Whether you call it the Shengxiao or the Zodiac, this 12-year calendar cycle focuses on the animals of the Chinese Lunar Calendar and the meaning of each sign to those born during its time.
British Gold Lunar Series coins debuted in the Shengxiao Collection in 2014 with the Year of the Horse design. The connection between the United Kingdom and China runs much deeper than one might expect, making it no surprise the Royal Mint issues a coin series in honor of Chinese culture and the thousands of British-Chinese citizens. The United Kingdom exercised governing control over the city of Hong Kong for much of the 20th century before returning control of the city to the People’s Republic of China. Additionally, the United Kingdom is home to the oldest Chinese community in Western Europe. Many of these individuals arrived in the UK as early as the first decade of the 19thcentury.
The Designer of British Gold Lunar Series Coins
While some other lunar-themed collections have used different designers each year or run long enough that new designers have joined the team, to date the British Gold Lunar Series coins have been the brainchild of one artist working for the Royal Mint. Wuon-Gean Ho is of British-Chinese descent and was born in the United Kingdom. Raised in Oxford, her parents had moved to London in the 1960s from Malaysia and Singapore. Wuon-Gean Ho holds a degree in the History of Art from Cambridge University and studied traditional woodblock printmaking in Japan on scholarship in the city of Kyoto.
She returned to the UK to begin working in printing after she completed her studies in Japan and was commissioned by the Royal Mint in 2014 to create the first designs for the Shengxiao Collection. She has created all works for the collection available to date.
Designs of the British Gold Lunar Series Coins
From the very first release, a great amount of care and attention to detail have gone into the Shengxiao Collection from the Royal Mint. Wuon-Gean Ho carefully studies the animal species to be featured each year and works out several prints before deciding upon the right animal and design for the release. Her works include:
- 2014 Year of the Horse: the reverse of the Year of the Horse design includes the image of a wild horse on the run. The powerful steed runs toward the viewer with all four legs in the air as it gallops at full pace. Its long, stylized tail whooshes behind its figure as it races along. There are engravings of the date mark, “Year of the Horse,” and the coin’s weight, metal content, and purity.
- 2015 Year of the Sheep: for the reverse of these coins, there is a beautifully stylized pairing of sheep looking back at one another in the foreground. The sheep closest to the viewer has stylized swirls on its body representing its thick wool. Both have swooping horns on their head. Engravings include “Year of the Sheep” and the Chinese symbol for sheep, along with the date mark, weight, metal content, and purity.
- 2016 Year of the Monkey: on the reverse of this year’s issue is perhaps one of the more playful designs to feature in the collection. This side of the coin depicts a monkey in the foreground readying itself to leap from one branch to the next. Its tail and forearms are extended while its legs prepare to push off and propel it through the air to the next tree. Look closely and you’ll see another monkey leaping around in the background. The coin maintains the same engravings featured in other releases to date.
- 2017 Year of the Rooster: the reverse field of the Year of the Rooster British Gold Lunar Coins includes the design of a single rooster standing amidst a field of rose flowers. The rooster is beckoning the morning sun and appears with brilliant plumage.
- 2018 Year of the Dog: another playful entry in the Shengxiao Series from the Royal Mint of England, the Year of the Dog design features a small terrier racing through a stylized field that fills the view of the background field. This was the first coin to incorporate a background that had more of a matte appearance offsetting against the mirrored design element for the Year of the Dog.
- 2019 Year of the Pig: the Year of the Pig design is one of the more detailed releases in the entire collection. The primary design in the foreground depicts a sow laying on her side as four little piglets feed from the mom. In the background, the soft rolling hills of the English countryside give way to a small cottage on the horizon with smoke rising from the chimney as the moon and stars shine bright overhead in the night sky.
- 2020 Year of the Rat: With the start of a new 12-year cycle in the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the Year of the Rat comes around once again. This is the first time the Year of the Rat has featured in the British Shengxiao Series at the Royal Mint. The design on the reverse face of the coin includes a small rat amidst foliage. It has stopped and lifted its head to sniff about and see if it can detect any danger in the surrounding area. The field has the inscriptions of the issue, date mark, and weight, purity, and metal content. You will also find the Chinese symbol for the rat. This is notably the first design in the series not from Wuon-Gean Ho. PJ Lynch created this image for the Royal Mint of England.
While the reverse design of the coins changes from one year to the next to match the animal featured on the calendar, the obverse of all British Gold Lunar Series coins features the right-profile portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. To date, only two designs have been used depicting Her Majesty. The 2014 and 2015 issues of the coin had Ian Rank-Broadley’s fourth-generation effigy of the Queen from 1998 featured on the obverse. All coins issued after 2016 have Jody Clark’s definitive fifth-generation portrait that captures Her Majesty at the age of 89.
All coins in the British Gold Lunar Series collection have .9999 pure gold content and are considered legal tender coinage in the United Kingdom. Coins are issued a face value in Pound Sterling based upon their weight.
Each individual design she creates in the British Gold Lunar Series reflects not only the traits of the animal found on the Chinese Lunar Calendar in a given year and is also a living embodiment of Chinese traditions during the New Year’s celebration. Chinese culture traditionally sees people exchange gifts and tokens at New Years. In many cases, the gifts or tokens are actual money in red envelopes which embody good wishes for the recipient’s health, wealth, and prosperity. As such, the British Gold Lunar Series coins embrace that cultural tradition in an ideal manner.
Buy British Gold Lunar Series Coins
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