On solar date Feb. 5, 2019, a new lunar year dawns. It is the start of Year of the Pig [YoP], or the Year of the Boar [YoB], or the Year of the Swine [YoS], or whatever your preferred porcine fancy might be. Specifically, it is the Year of the Earth Pig year. In continuous Huángdi reckoning, it is Year 4717.
For the past 12 months or more, mints around the world have been busy, anxious to cash in on the world’s largest numismatic program. The first lunar coins for the YoP were announced in February 2018 at Berlin’s World Money Fair by MDM Münzhandelsgesellschaft mbH. By August 2018, new issues were coming thick and fast. Many of the early releases were from Pacific countries.
That said, the trend noted in the last four years of some declines in mintage numbers and lunar coin varieties continues into YoP. The perception that the lunar coin market became saturated a year or two back persists. A couple of smaller mints ceased production of lunar coins in the past 24 months, while reduced mintages and/or changes in design styles have occurred in several major mints. These include Britain’s Royal Mint, the Royal Canadian Mint, the Royal Australian Mint, China Gold, and Singapore Mint. Yet any seeming vacuum in this crowded market is being filled by new players trying their hand. Low-mintage boutique strikings continue to appear.
The YoP coins described here are but a sample of those on the market. Lunar issues of major mints are included but not all from the numerous minor players.
For each coin type, the diameter, weight, metal composition, and mintage are summarized in parenthesis. The metal is cited as Cu-Ni for cupronickel, Al-Bz for aluminum bronze, Æ for bronze, Cu for copper, Ag for silver, and Au for gold – plus the millennial finesses for Ag and Au.
At the time of writing, gold was selling in New York for approximately U.S.$1,222/oz, with silver at U.S.$14/oz. A late surge in prices then took gold to $1,290 and silver to $15.65.
The pig is the last animal of the Chinese zodiac. The current 12-year lunar cycle concludes this year.
In the main, people born in a YoP have attractive personalities. They are diligent, compassionate, and generous.
These individuals, whom I will call Pigs for short, are commonly highly focused and, having determined a particular goal, will devote all their energy to achieving it. They have a great sense of responsibility and will finish whatever they have started. No matter the difficulties Pigs encounter, they proceed in straightforward and careful manner. They remain calm, rarely asking for assistance but not hesitating to lend a helping hand to others.
Unfortunately, their good nature can make them naive and prone to being conned by others. In this respect, they are not helped by their somewhat casual attitude to money.
Earth Pigs are something of social butterflies. Their friends come from all walks of life. But they are not the most romantic of people and may need to work on this aspect of their relationships.
Among the issues announced by MDM in Berlin was the eighth coin produced for the Laotian lunar series: a 2,000 kip proof (55 mm, 62.2 g .999 Ag, 2,888). The selectively gold-plated reverse bears appropriate YoP inscriptions in both Chinese and English and contains an inset ring of Burmese jade.
For the ninth year, MDM has struck a 5-ounce silver Cook Islands’ proof $25 (65 mm, 155.5 g .999 Ag, 888) and 5-ounce proof $200 (65 mm, 155.5 g .999 Au, 25). The reverses of both coins contain a mother-of-pearl inlay in which the lunar Earth Pig is engraved in appropriate pink.
Fiji continues its lunar series of partially gilded $10 proofs containing an embedded pink pearl (40 mm, 31.1 g .999 Ag, 8,888). The coins have been struck by MDM.
The tiny Pacific island nation of Tokelau announced its YoP coins in early July 2018, to be released by Treasures of Oz (www.treasuresofoz.net) in August. The silver $5s (65 mm, 31.1 g .999 Ag, 500) are the fourth issue in the country’s mirror lunar series.
The proof coin features a finely sculptured pig set against a highly polished field while its mirror image has a frosted table. The coins were struck by Det Norske Myntverket.
Downie’s annual Niuean lunar coin was issued in late July: a selectively 24-karat gold-plated proof $8 (65 mm, 155.5175 g [5-ounce] .999 Ag, 500) struck in high relief. It was designed in house by the Downies Product Development team and struck by Produits Artistiques Métaux Précieux. Each coin is edge-numbered.
From Helvetic Mint comes a 20x10 mm, 2.5 g .999 fine silver dollar in the shape of a piggy embellished with a four-leaf clover. The coin has a “satinated” or “smooth antique finish” and a mintage of 500.
Mennica Polska has contributed a second lunar dollar (38.61 mm, 17.50 g .999 Ag, 999). Its design symbolizes peace, prosperity, and harmony in the coming year. A cute piggy perches on a golden bag of money. Below are seven gilded auspicious gold coins.
As last year, New Zealand Mint has produced two Niuean $2s (40.00 mm, 31.1g .999 Ag, 10,000). One depicts a dark brown boar sporting brightly colored floral motifs. The other features Mickey Mouse with a floral pig – the second issue of a Disney-licensed NZM lunar coin collection.
And for the second year in a row, NZM has weighed in with a 150x70 mm, 5.0 g .999 fine silver colored foil. The back is engraved with the image of Mickey Mouse and lunar pig. The face bears the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. The denomination is 20 cents (New Zealand). Mintage is 50,000.
Australia – Perth
The Perth Mint remains a major player in the lunar coin market. Its YoP coins are the 12th issue of Perth’s Series II. A summary is given here. Full details can be found on Perth’s website: www.perthmint.com.au.
The reverse of all .9999 fine gold issues shows a Pet Pig amid stylized rocks and an auspicious peony flower. All .9999 fine silver coins show a large sow and four piglets under stylized foliage.
Three gold proofs consist of: $15 (18.60 mm, 3.111 g, 8,000), $25 (22.60 mm, 7.777 g, 8,000) and $100 (39.34 mm, 31.107 g, 6,000).
Four silver proofs are $0.50 (36.60 mm, 15.553 g, 9,000), $1 (45.60 mm, 31.107 g, 8,500), $2 (55.60 mm, 62.213 g, 2,000) and $30 (100.60 mm, 1 kilo, 500).
The $100 gold and $1 silver proofs are available also with colored reverses.
Perth’s gold lunar bullion is in its 23rd year while the silver bullion marks its 20th. The gold consists of: $5 (1.555 g), $15 (3.111 g), $25 (7.777 g), $50 (15.553 g), $100 (31.107 g), $200 (62.213 g), $1,000 (311.066 g) and $3,000 (1000.100 g). The sole gold coin with a limited mintage is the $100 (30,000).
The silver coins are: 50 cents (15.553 g), $1 (31.107 g), $2 (62.213 g), $8 (155.533 g), $10 (311.066 g), $30 (1,000.10 g), and $300 (10,001.00 g). All have unlimited mintages apart from the $1 (300,000) and $300 (100).
Gilded, colored, bullion, and proof versions of the silver dollar are available individually and as a packaged set with a mintage of 1,500. The coin also comes as a high relief striking on a 6 mm thick flan (32.60 mm, 31.107 g .9999 Ag, 7,500). And a high-relief gold $100 is struck on a 5 mm thick flan (27.30 mm, 31.107 g .9999 Au, 388).
As was the case last year, Perth Mint released a colored BU lunar YoP 25 cents (25.50 mm, 7.777 g .9999 Ag, 1500) for a major coin bourse held in Sydney in October.
Perth has also produced its 12th 1 kilo silver $30 in which a gem forms one of the lunar animal’s eyes (100.60 mm, 1000.100 g .9999 Ag, 500). This year, a golden citrine lights up the piggy’s smile.
A cute piglet poses on the reverse of the Palau $5s struck by BH Mayer. Three 35.00 mm, 1 oz .999 Ag versions are available in ultra-high relief: colored proof (500); gilded edge (1,000); and gilded proof (500).
Macau’s 12th group of colorized lunar proofs follow previous years: 250 patacas (21.96 mm, 7.78 g .9999 Au, 5,000), 100 patacas (65 mm, 155.5 g .999 Ag, 2000), and 20 patacas (40.70 mm, 31.10 g .999 Ag, 8,000).
The common obverse shows an extremely content pig snuffling among some splendid hydrangea blooms. The latter signify abundance and prosperity. On the reverse is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Macau: the “Na Tcha Temple” Building dating from 1888.
Once again Mongolia’s lunar issues come courtesy of Liechtenstein’s Coin Invest Trust. First up is a 1,000 togrog (33 mm, 1 oz .999 Ag, 999) “Jolly Silver Pig.” Smartminting® has allowed this critter to be rendered in three dimensions and embellished with floral ornamentation. A gilded version is also available.
There is a conventional 1,000 togrog (11 mm, 0.5 g, .9999 Au, 5,000) round and, as last year, a Mongolbank [Bank of Mongolia] metallic, 70x150 mm, 100 togrog YoP note containing 5 g silver. The back of the note shows a further “Jolly Silver Pig” decorated with flowers. Mintage is 5,000.
Australia – RAM
The YoP sees the 12th issue of lunar coins from the Royal Australian Mint. Three main proof versions are available: a $5 (40.00 mm, 1 oz .9999 fine Ag, 3500), a $30 (99.95 mm, 1 kg .9999 Ag, 100), and a $25 (21.69 mm, 1/4 oz .9999 Au, 1,000).
These coins’ common reverse design differs markedly from that of the previous years. It features a playful pig rolling joyously among auspicious hydrangeas. The gold bears a $25 denomination as “2” and “5” are considered auspicious YoP numbers.
In addition, the RAM has produced a set of three BU dollars (25.00 mm, 9.00 g Al-Bz, 20,000) depicting different portraits of the playful pig among the flowers. Each is accompanied by auspicious coins that represent Fu (Happiness), Lu (Wealth), and Shou (Longevity) as indicated by the changing Chinese characters on these coins. Designer is Bronwyn King.
And the RAM has struck its eighth lunar BU tetradecagonal 50 cents (31.15 mm, 15.37 g Cu-Ni, unlimited).
Canada – Royal Canadian Mint
The RCM has produced its tenth distinctively shaped scalloped lotus $15 proof designed by Three Degrees Creative Group (38 mm, 26.7 g .9999 Ag, 15,888). The reverse features a profile portrait of a smiling pig surrounded by a semi-circle of auspicious blossoms.
The same Three Degrees design features on the reverse of a scalloped proof $2,500 (120 mm, 1 kilo .9999 Au, 10) on which the Chinese character for pig occurs in a red enamel box.
Canadian artist Aries Cheung has contributed a stylized Lunar Pig smiling under a rain cloud. It comes as both a silver $15 proof (38 mm, 31.39 g .9999 Ag, 15,088) and a gold $150 proof (28.0 mm, 11.84 g .750 Au, 1,500).
All coins are available from www.mint.ca/store/.
For The Republic of Cameroon, Mennica Polska has produced a pierced 500 CFA francs proof (27.00 mm, 8.80 g .925 Ag, 999). The reverse design shows a flying black piglet with the legend “Everything is possible”. The coin comes supplied with a leather suspension cord.
Great Britain – Royal Mint
This year, Britain’s Royal Mint lunar coins present a unique British take on the Chinese tradition. The common reverse design is by wood engraver and stonemason Harry Brockway. It shows a mother sow suckling her litter. In the background stands a thatched cottage alongside a small copse back-dropped by a star-lit sky.
Four .9999 fine gold coins consist of: £10 BU (16.50 mm, 3.13 g, 1,088), £100 proof (32.69 mm, 31.21 g, 888), £500 proof (50 mm, 156.30 g, 38), £1000 proof (100 mm, 1005.0 g, 8). The three .999 fine silver are: £2 proof (38.61 mm, 31.21 g, 3,888), £10 proof (65.00 mm, 156.30 g, 288), £500 proof (100 mm, 1005.0 g, 38). Several mintages differ from previous years.
As was the case last year, Brockway’s design is also available as two bullion issues: a £2 (38.61 mm, 31.21 g .999 Ag) and a £100 (32.69 mm, 31.21 g .9999 Au). Mintages are 138,888 and 8,888, respectively.
The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has issued its fourth lunar proof coin series, once again struck by the Singapore Mint in ultra-high relief: a 500 ngultrum (40.70 mm, 31.10 g .999 Ag, 10,000), a 1,000 ngultrum (65.00 mm, 155.5 g .999 Ag, 1,000), and a 1,000 ngultrum (21.96 mm, 7.776 g .9999 Au, 2,000).
All three have a common design featuring a stylized boar, its legs and ears portrayed as swirling clouds and the nose shaped like an auspicious “Ruyi.” The reverse features the Dochula Pass located on the way from Thimphu to Punakha.
Once again The Perth Mint has produced four partially colored proof rectangular lunar dollars for Tuvalu (47.60 x27.60 mm, 31.107 g .9999 Ag, 3000). The designs by Ing Ing Jong depict a Vietnamese Pot-bellied, a New Zealand Kunekune, a Gloucestershire Old Spot, and a Tamworth. The last two come from England.
And Perth has supplied Tuvalu with another colorized baby lunar animal 50 cents (36.60 mm, 15.553 g .9999 Ag, 7,500). The reverse design by Natasha Muhl shows a piglet inspecting festive decorations.
The same coin was offered by Perth at the Beijing International Coin Exposition in a slightly different packaging.
But there’s more! In late November, Perth released two colorized Wealth & Wisdom Tuvaluan lunar dollars (40.60 mm, 31.107 g .9999 Ag, 1,500). For Wealth, coin designer Lucas Bowers presents a standard issue domestic pig performing on a Chinese cash alongside a stash of gold coins. The Wisdom dollar shows a similar beastie bestriding traditional symbols of knowledge and learning.
For the third year, Rwanda has issued two BU lunar coins: 50 francs (40.0 mm, 31.1 g .999 Ag) and 100 francs (40.0 mm, 31.1 g .999 Au, 188). A silver proof with a mintage of 1,000 is also available. The reverse bears a stylized pig constructed from mosaic tiles.
France – Monnaie de Paris
For 2019, Monnaie de Paris has again released three Année du Cochon coins. These are the second issue of its second lunar series: a 10 euro (37.00 mm, 22.2 g .900 Ag, 2,500), a 20 euro (22.00 mm, 31.104 g .999 Ag, 2,500) and a 50 euro (22.00 mm, 7.78 g .999 Au, 888). All coins are proof. The 20 euro is stuck in ultra-high relief such that the engraving is 15 times the usual height.
The common reverse depicts a pig seemingly leaping out of the coin through two circular friezes that display traditional Chinese art motifs including those of the lunar cycle. The pig character is prominently displayed upon the lunar animal’s shoulder.
On the reverse, all 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac are illustrated on a traditional temple screen alongside a door – the one the pig has seemingly used to leap through the coin.
The coins were available online at www.monnaiedeparis.fr.
A commemorative coin to mark YoP was scheduled by the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus for late 2018, but nothing had been announced at the time of going to press.
The Singapore Mint continues production of its Chinese lunar coin Series IV. The 10 coins and their designs were announced in mid-November. This year, a conventional lunar pig on the reverse is back-dropped by the landscape of Pulau Ubin, Singapore’s second largest offshore island.
The denominations, sizes, and shapes are the same as for the two previous Series IV issues including the use of high-relief striking. Several mintages are reduced from those of last year, but a range of four different combination sets remains available.
Three proof .9999 fine gold coins consist of a round $200 (60.00 mm, 155.518 g, 100), an octagonal $100 (40.00 mm, 31.104 g, 1,000), and a round $20 (21.96 mm, 7.776 g, 1,500).
Three proof .999 fine silver coins are a round $20 (65.00 mm, 155.518 g, 500), a scalloped and selectively colored $5 (45.00 mm, 31.104 g, 12,000), and an octagonal $5 (45.00 mm, 31.104 g, 12,000). A selectively colored $2 round (27.00 mm, 7.776 g .999 Ag, 20,000) is described as “proof-like.” This description also applies to the finish of an ultra-high-relief rectangular $80 (114.50x60.50 mm, 1,000.00 g, 200).
Last but by no means least is the ever-popular “proof-like” nickel-plated zinc round $2 (40.70 mm, 20.00 g, 50,000).
Seventeen proof coins have been released by The People’s Bank of China to celebrate YoP: 10 gold and seven silver rounds, rectangles, auspicious fans and propitious plum blossoms, including colored folk-themed issues. The denominations, weights, and sizes are the same as last year, but a number of mintages have been reduced. All coins have been struck by the Shenyang and Shenzhen Guobao Mints.
The national emblem of the People’s Republic of China on the obverse is accompanied by auspicious lotus and fish to invoke a further year of plenty. The reverse of all uncolored coins features a domestic pig taking its ease in the foreground while watched over by a spiritual heavenly pig. The colored reverses show a traditional folk pig design with auspicious flowers in the background.
The .999 Au coins consist of rounds: ¥100,000 (180 mm, 10 kg, 18), ¥20,000 (110 mm, 2 kg, 50); ¥5,000 (80 mm, 500 g, 2,000); ¥50 (18 mm, 3 g, 180,000); rectangle: ¥2,000 (64 x 40 mm, 150 g, 1,500); fan-shaped: ¥150 (10 g, 20,000); and scalloped plum blossoms: ¥10,000 (100 mm, 1kg, 118), ¥200 (27 mm, 15 g, 8,000).
The. 999 Ag coins include rounds: ¥300 (100 mm, 1 kg, 10,000) and ¥10 (40 mm, 30 g, 300,000); rectangle: ¥50 (80 x 50 mm, 150 g, 20,000); fan-shaped: ¥10 (30 g, 60,000); and scalloped plum blossom: ¥10 (40 mm, 30 g, 60,000).
Four selectively colored rounds show a Chinese traditional folk pig disporting among auspicious blossoms. The .999 Au consist of a ¥2000 (60 mm, 150 g, 2,000) and a ¥50 (18 mm, 3 g, 180,000); the .999 Ag coins are ¥50 (70 mm, 150 g, 30,000) and ¥10 (40 mm, 30 g, 300,000).
All coins are legal tender of the People’s Republic of China. If your local dealer cannot supply any of the above, try China Great Wall Coins, www.chinacoin.com.hk, or email Mrs. Anita Chau: firstname.lastname@example.org.
But there’s more!
This is my 15th year of compiling details of lunar coin issues from around the globe. I could not continue to do so without the assistance of numerous world mints and dealerships. Their staff are owed sincere thanks for their patience and their time.
Of course, there are far more lunar coins available to collectors than reported here. Among those on offer, I have spotted a number of regular lunar issues that have been selectively plated with ruthenium.
Numerous replica and medallic coin-like lunar issues abound, as do unauthorized lunar issues that seek to exploit trusting collectors. These items are commonly offered via the Internet. Some are plated. Some are underweight. Always remember, caveat emptor! Buy solely from reputable sources.
Otherwise, numismatists across the globe can welcome the Year of the Earth Pig with the cry common to small Chinese children demanding their new year lai see packets of coins: “Live long and prosper, now give me the money!”
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