Silver Lunar Series I (1999-2010)
Starting in 1999, the Perth Mint began minting a series of silver coins based on the Chinese zodiac, known as the Shengxiao in China. This coin collection cycled through the 12 years of the Chinese Lunar cycle, eventually ending in 2010. The coins proved popular, so the Perth Mint is in the middle of a second minting: the Australian Silver Lunar Series II. In this article, we focus on the original series from 1999-2010.
The word “Shengxiao” literally means “circle of animals” and, like the western zodiacal chart, represents 12 figures which symbolizes certain traits. Unlike the Greek zodiacal figures, which correspond (roughly) to the 12 months of the year, each animal in the Chinese zodiac corresponds to a year in a 12-year mathematical cycle. Therefore, every single person born during a certain year is said to have been born in the Year of (Insert Animal).
The animals associated with the 12-year cycle are the rat, dragon, and monkey (the 1st trine); the ox, snake, and rooster (the 2nd trine); the tiger, horse, and dog (the 3rd trine); and the rabbit, goat, and pig (the 4th trine). People born in specific years are considered to have stereotypical traits of those animals, which are a mixture of good and bad. Certain animals are considered auspicious, though. The Shengxiao is popular in China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and other Asian countries.
Thus, Chinese astrology is the theme of the Silver Lunar Series 1. Below is a quick look at the coins from each year.
1999 Rabbit Coins – The Rabbit Coins were a collection of five different .999 fine silver. On the reverse, each coin features an engraving of a rabbit on its haunches holding blades of tall grass. The obverse has a picture of Queen Elizabeth II and the denomination. The design was engraved by Jovan Radanovich. The five sizes of the Rabbit coins are 1 kilo, 10 ounces, 2 ounces, 1 ounce, and 1/2 ounce.
2000 Dragon Coins – The 2000 series featured the Year of the Dragon, which proved to be a popular year. Coins in this collection have a low mintage of 29,110 coins. The effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse was designed by Ian Rank-Broadley. The design for the traditional Chinese dragon on the reverse was wrought by Tony Dean. The Chinese dragon is much different than European dragons. China’s dragon is a long, scaled, serpentine creature with four legs and the hold a ball which is called the “pearl of wisdom”. Once again, five sizes of coin were minted in 2000: a 1 kilo, 10 ounces, 2 ounces, 1 ounce, and 1/2 ounce of .999 fine silver.
2001 Snake Coins – The 2001 series was the Year of the Snake. This striking coin featured a coiled snake with 5 eggs, including one hatchling that is emerging from an egg. Both the snake and the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II were designed by Ian Rank-Broadley. Again, the five standard weights of coins from this series were minted in 2001. Only 3,013 of these coins were minted.
2002 Horse Coins – 2002 was the Year of the Horse. On these coins, a beautiful striding horse is shown. The horse design was engraved by Travis Farley, while the Queen Elizabeth design remained the same from previous years. 4,338 coins were in this mintage. Also, 5000 special edition versions of the 2002 Australia 1 kilo Silver Horse were produced with a “Diamond Eye”. These are now particularly expensive coins, selling for about $2,500 apiece.
2003 Goat Coins – 2003 was the Year of the Goat, sometimes referred to as Year of the Sheep. The engraving on this coin includes a nanny goat and kid on a rock. The familiar Queen is found on the obverse of the coin. Only 6,974 of these coins were minted.
2004 Monkey Coins – The 2004 coins featured the Year of the Monkey. The monkey is a figure of cleverness and mischief in China, owing to the stories of the Monkey God, Sun Wukong, in Chinese storybooks. The monkey on the 2004 silver coins was designed by Sarah Anderson. It sits in a tree and holds a tree branch in its hand. Only 5,095 of these coins were minted.
2005 Rooster Coins – The 2005 coins depicted the Year of the Rooster. In this depiction, the rooster stands in front of a flower, while the Sun rising behind him. This engraving is described as a collaborative design. Only 3,800 of these coins were minted, in the standard 5 weights.
2006 Dog Coins – 2006 was the Year of the Dog. To depict this character, the Perth Mint minted a German Shepard, ironically. The design was collaborate. For the 1-kilo coinage, only 4,145 coins were minted. A beautiful colorized version of the half-kilo coin was released. It is called the 2006 Australia 1/2 kilo Silver Year of the Dog Colorized coin for collectors and investors interested in researching it.
2007 Pig Coins – 2007 was the Year of the Pig. This mintage, which had 3,061 kilo coins, features the zodiacal pig standing in a bed of flowers. Two special coins should be mentioned in this year. First is the 2007 Australia 1 oz Silver Year of the Pig BU Colorized Edition, which has a colorized pig on the reverse. Second is the 2007 Australia 1 kilo Silver Year of the Pig Proof, with a minting of only 100 coins. This is a particularly shiny pig coin.
2008 Rat Coins – The 2008 coins depicted the Year of the Mouse. Though the Perth Mint preferred to call it the Mouse year, more common depictions translate to Year of the Rat. The kilo series had a mintage of 3,344, while the design was collaborative once again.
2009 Ox Coins – This year features the 2009 Silver Lunar Ox Coins. This series once again had the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Queen Elizabeth II on its obverse, while showing the ox figure on the reverse. For the kilo mintage, only 1,877 coins were created.
2010 Tiger Coins – The final year of the Lunar I Series featured the Year of the Tiger. This collaborative design shows the 2010 Silver Lunar Year of the Tiger standing proudly on a rock. Again, the Queen Elizabeth effigy remained on the obverse.
Collectors are apt to notice this series wound-down after the Lunar II Series began in 2008. In the same year, Perth Mint was producing a newer, more dramatic series which has proven popular, and which still continues to this day. That series is called the Australian Silver Lunar Series II.
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