The Perth Mint first started their lunar series in 1999 with the lunar rabbit. Since then, they have issued a coin bearing the corresponding Chinese lunar animal every year. Currently we’re halfway through their second series of lunar coins. Hugely popular and very beautiful, these coins are favourites with both collectors and investors. The detail of the animals on the reverse is incredible and the matte & shiny finish makes for a really attractive design which stands out. These coins can fetch a tidy sum, even when the spot price drops they still command a high premium. I’ve seen a complete set (1999-2010) of 1 Oz silver lunar coins going for over £1,000.
In 2014, possibly due to the popularity and success of the Australian lunar series, the Royal Mint started their own series of lunar coins with a year of the horse bullion coin and has since minted a year of the sheep and a year of the monkey. While the horse itself was a fine depiction of a horse mid canter, the entire coin is shiny with no variation in its surface to highlight the foreground or add detail. The second coin of the series has a sheep, rather than a goat which was featured on the Australian coin that year (the sheep and goat are used interchangeably as are the mouse and rat) and is a very simple design featuring two sheep’s heads with a blank background (I believe the proof version has a little background detail). At first I thought this to be a very lacklustre attempt, especially when compared with the Australian version. I have, however, developed an appreciation for its bold simplicity and the fact that it really does have a brilliant finish. The maximum mintage of 188,888 also adds to the collectability of this particular coin. The 2016 monkey coin is, again, not up to much compared with its Australian counterpart in terms of the reverse design. Although there was more background detail, the lack of frosting or variations in texture gives the coin a rather bland look. It does, of course, feature the most recent portrait of the Queen on the obverse while the Australian versions still use the fourth portrait.
I’m of the opinion that the UK lunar series is a poor competitor for the Australian series. Numismatists will appreciate the designs and the quality of the minting of the Australian coins which are far superior to their British counterparts. The advantages of the UK coins are their CGT exemption for UK investors and the fact that there have, so far, only been three issued, so one could collect the entire series without breaking the bank or spending ages searching for missing pieces. I’m pretty sure that a whole set will fetch a pretty penny come 2025.