With the rising prominence of China’s economy and the spread of Chinese culture by immigrants moving to all corners of the globe, the impact has been felt in industries that include precious metal coins and bars. The Perth Mint of Australia was the first to capitalize on the popularity of Chinese culture, developing a Lunar Series coin program in 1996 that honored the 12-year cycle of the Zodiac. Following the massive success of the original program, the Perth Mint launched a Lunar Series II in 2008, with equal success.
As mentioned above, the first Lunar Series coins from the Perth Mint were released in 1996 with the Year of the Mouse. The coin program’s launch was timed to coincide with the appearance of the first animal in the Zodiac. The 12-year cycle of the Zodiac consists of a specific order of animals representing various characteristics and behavioral traits that those born under the sign of each animal are believed to possess.
The original Lunar Series from the Perth Mint included a gold bullion coin, as well as a silver, and featured simplistic designs of each animal. The program ran from 1996 to 2007, concluding with the 12th animal in the cycle, the Year of the Pig. Just in time for the Zodiac to restart at the Year of the Mouse in 2008, the Perth Mint unveiled an all-new Lunar Series II set of gold and silver bullion coins for investors and collectors.
Unlike the Lunar Series I, this time the Perth Mint offered the coins in a variety of versions. In addition to gold bullion and proof versions of the coin, special commemorative coins were struck, high-relief proofs, and even colorized designs that added visual brilliance to each of the coins produced by the Perth Mint.
The design of Perth Mint Gold Lunar series coins has advanced significantly between Lunar Series I coins and the latest Lunar Series II coins. For example, the original 1996 1 oz Gold Year of the Mouse (Rat) coin from the Perth Mint featured a blank, matte background on the reverse with a central image of a rat. Engravings were simplistic, and the outside of the coin was surrounded by a beaded design that completed a full circle.
By contrast, the 2008 1 oz Gold Year of the Mouse (Rat) coin featured an all-new design that focused on the mouse in the middle of the design, with elements of its natural habitat visible behind it. The beaded circle around the edge was gone, and an engraving of “Year of the Mouse” was added along the bottom. Additionally, inside each of the engravings was a deeply-mirrored, clear background field that contrasted nicely with the matte-like background of the rest of the coin.
To be clear, none of the Lunar Series II coins have featured the same design elements of the Lunar Series I coins. Each of the animals is represented with a refreshed design on the reverse, as well as an applicable engraving identifying the specific animal (such as “Year of the Horse”).
On the obverse side of the coins, the design features have remained the same since 1996. Ian Rank-Broadley’s right-profile portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, used on so many of the Perth Mint’s coins, has featured on the obverse side from day one. Surrounding Her Majesty’s effigy are the engravings of “Elizabeth II,” “Australia,” the coin’s weight, purity, and metal content, the year of minting, and the face value of the coins. A small “IRB” is visible near the Queen’s neck as a nod to the designer.
Regardless of the series that your Perth Mint Gold Lunar Coin comes from, there are a number of similarities that exist across the versions and series. First and foremost, all coins are struck using .9999 pure gold and carry status as legal tender coins in the nation of Australia. When it comes to the bullion version of these coins, the Perth Mint has always struck the Lunar Series I and Lunar Series II in the following weights:
On occasion, the Perth Mint has struck higher weight coins in 2 oz, 10 oz, and 1 Kilogram. Generally speaking though, this is reserved for special-edition coins and/or proof coins. Production of these higher weight coins does not take place regularly.
The face value of each of the coins is listed in Australian Dollars (AUD), and starts at $100 for the 1 oz coin. Each of the fractional-weight coins has a face value representative of its fractional value. As such, the values for the fractional weights are $50 (½ oz), $25 (¼ oz), $10 (1/10 oz), and $5 (1/20 oz).
The Perth Mint Gold Lunar coins in proof were restricted in production to a much greater degree than the bullion version. Beginning with the Lunar Series II, the mint expanded the program to include proof coins. The proof coins are only struck in 1 oz, ¼ oz, and 1/10 oz weights. Mintage was typically limited on the proof coins in each year to 3,000 1 oz coins, 5,000 ¼ oz coins, and 5,000 1/10 oz coins. An additional 1,000 coins were struck in each weight for use in a 3-coin set released only in proof.
Finally, starting in 2012 with the Year of the Dragon, the Perth Mint introduced a gold proof coin in Lunar Series II with a colorized design set on the reverse side. Now the specific animal represented in a given year was colorized to match real-world expectations for that creatures color. These coins were not available in a 3-coin set like the standard proof coins, but did feature the same weights (1 oz, ¼ oz, and 1/10 oz) and same mintage limitations.
The origins of the Zodiac in ancient Chinese culture are similar to those of the ten heavenly stems and twelve earthly branches. Legend has it that the gods ordered that animals be used as representatives of the signs of each year. In response to this order, the Jade Emperor called a meeting of the animals of the world. A so-called Great Race ensued in which all of the animals of the world raced to answer the call.
In the end, the first 12 animals to arrive where selected to represent different years on the lunar calendar. The order in which the animals arrived following the Jade Emperor’s call for a meeting determined their placement on the Zodiac. For example, the mouse finished first and represents the first year in the 12-year cycle.
During British colonial rule of Australia, vast resources of gold and silver were discovered on the continent, particularly in the Outback and western stretches of the continent. In order to profit from this discovery and export the precious metals around the globe, the Royal Mint of London established a mint system in the country to process, refine, and distribute the gold and silver throughout the empire.
The Sydney Mint was the first facility in the system to open, in 1855, and the first to close in 1926. The Melbourne Mint was the second to open, in 1872, and closed in 1967. The Perth Mint was the third and final Royal Mint facility to open in Australia, commencing operations in 1899. Today it enjoys status as the oldest operating facility in Australia and the South Pacific.
During its time as a Royal Mint facility, the Perth Mint produced gold and sovereigns and half-sovereigns for use as currency inside of Australia and throughout the British Empire. Among its many feats, as of 2000, the Perth Mint has refined and produced 3.25% of mankind’s total gold production. As of 1970, the facility is a state-owned entity of the government in Western Australia. While it is not affiliated with the Royal Australian Mint, the federal government’s official facility, its coins are considered legal tender under the Currency Act of 1965.
Many of these coins were limited to strict mintages by the Perth Mint, just adding to their collectability.
All Perth Mint Gold Lunar Series coins from JM Bullion can be purchased with a variety of payment methods. We proudly accept Visa and MasterCard credit/debit cards, paper checks, PayPal fund transfers, and bank wire transfers. There is a different processing period for each, with PayPal and bank wire payments offering immediate processing, while paper checks can take as long as six business days. Those paying via bank wire or paper check enjoy a 4% discount on the purchase price of their Perth Mint Gold Lunar Series coins.
JM Bullion also offers free standard shipping and insurance on your purchase over $199. If you’d like expedited shipping, it is available for an extra fee. All packages are shipped in discreet boxes through the US Postal Service or UPS. If your package is lost or damaged during shipping, we’ll work to provide you with replacement products (if possible) or a refund of your purchase price.
For those with questions about Perth Mint Gold Lunar Series coins, payment methods, or our shipping and handling policies, we encourage you to reach out to a JM Bullion associate directly. You can reach us on the phone at 800-276-6508, connect with us online using our live web chat feature, or submit your questions to us in an email.