There is no mint more famous for its lunar-themed programs and designs than the Perth Mint of Western Australia. Founded in 1899, the mint has established itself in the late-20th and early-21st centuries as one of the leading mints around the world to produce gold, silver, and platinum bullion coins. Since 1996, it has led the way in the production of lunar-themed coins with an ever-expanding portfolio of lunar designs that now spans three separate collections and three types of precious metals. If you haven’t heard of the Lunar Series coins from Perth Mint, below you’ll get a crash course in the stunning coins in this series.
There are a handful of commonalities you will find across all of the Lunar Series silver coins for sale from the Perth Mint. First and foremost, the 1 oz silver and 1 Kilo silver coins have been a standard in the collection since the 1996 debut of the first series. These coins are typically the most popular among investors. The 1 oz coin almost always features a mintage cap to create a bit of rarity in the coin and control the number that are eventually produced. For example, the 2020 Lunar Mouse in the latest lunar series has a cap of just 300,000 coins.
However, the 1 Kilo coin and other weights, such as 2 oz and 5 oz silver coins, are produced with no mintage caps set so investors can purchase the coins throughout the calendar year that matches the date mark. When a so-called “unlimited mintage” is set in this series, the Perth Mint indicates it will strike that coin as long as demand exists, but only through the end of the calendar year matching the date mark on the coin. In the case of that same 2020 Lunar Mouse, the mint will produce the coins as long as there is demand, but only through December 31, 2020.
The other major commonality you will find in this series is the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. Her Majesty is always featured on the obverse side of Australian denominations, but her effigy is regularly updated to reflect her age as she resides on the throne as the Queen of England and the Commonwealth. Dating back to the 1996 release of the Lunar Series I coins, the Queen has featured in three different reliefs on Lunar Series silver from the Perth Mint:
The Ian Rank-Broadley design was unique in the series in that it was the only one the Perth Mint insisted on using for continuity in the program even after a new portrait was available. The Broadley design was developed in 1998 and came to Australian coins in 1999, with the Perth Mint swapping out the Maklouf relief after three years of the 12-year Lunar Series I collection. However, when the new portrait from Clark came to Australian coins in 2018, the Perth Mint opted to use the Broadley design one last time in 2019 for the conclusion of the Lunar Series II collection.
The series that started a trend, the Lunar Series I collection launched from the Perth Mint in 1996. One of the many factors that set the Perth Mint collections of lunar designs apart from other mints is the strict adherence to the actual cycle of the Zodiac. All mints issue their designs to align with the animal present on the Zodiac in a given date mark. For example, 2020 is the Year of the Mouse and all lunar collections are featuring distinctive mouse or rat designs. However, the Zodiac has a specific cycle that starts with the Year of the Mouse and concludes with the Year of the Pig before resetting to the Year of the Mouse. Only the Perth Mint launches a new program at the same time as the Year of the Mouse with regularity.
Throughout the Lunar Series I program, the Perth Mint primarily offered a handful of fractional-ounce coins and 1 oz coins. In the silver series, the issuance of fractional-ounce coins was largely limited to 1/2 oz silver with other weights added as demand dictated. Proof coins were as far as the series went in terms of collectible options at this point in time.
It was the introduction of the Lunar Series II program that really saw expansion begin to occur in the lunar designs at the Perth Mint. It had already introduced the idea of separate designs in each year for its gold and silver coins. For example, the Year of the Dog design in the Lunar Series II collection depicted German shepherd with its young pup on the reverse of the silver coins, while the reverse of the gold coins depicted just one Labrador retriever in its design element.
The Perth Mint also began to build on the variety of coin weights available in its lunar programs with the introduction of the Lunar Series II coins. This included:
Another interesting factor regarding the Lunar Series II collection was the impact of a broader transition at the Perth Mint to produce silver coins with greater purity. From the introduction of the Australian Silver Kookaburra in 1990, all annual-issue silver bullion coins from the mint were struck with .999 pure silver content. In 2016 though, the Perth Mint introduced its first-ever .9999 pure silver bullion coin. In 2017, the Australian Silver Koala and Silver Kookaburra followed suit by increasing the silver purity to .9999. In that same year, the Lunar Series II coins shifted from .999 pure silver to .9999 pure silver. So, Lunar Series II coins dated 2008 to 2016 have .999 pure silver, while the final three releases in 2017, 2018, and 2019 all have .9999 pure silver content.
With so much success stemming from its Lunar Series I and II programs, it was inevitable that the Perth Mint would continue to meet the demand for lunar-themed silver bullion by introducing a third version of the series. Released in conjunction with the start of the 12-year cycle of the Zodiac, the new Lunar Series III program from the Perth Mint continues the traditions of the Lunar Series I and Lunar Series II collections, while also adding its own twists. The most notable addition to the Lunar Series III program was the debut of a platinum bullion coin in the Lunar Series for the first time ever.
You will find as you shop the Lunar Series III coins from 2020 onward that the Perth Mint issues the coins in the same order that the preceding collections featured the animals of the Zodiac. The 2020 Lunar Series III coin debuted with the Year of the Mouse image and will follow the same 12-year cycle as the other offerings.
Over the course of time, the Perth Mint has responded to the popularity of the series by introducing a variety of different options for investors. Though not originally available with the Lunar Series I release, the lunar silver coins from Perth Mint grew starting with the Lunar Series II collection to include a number of different bullion coins and collectible proofs. The list of options is too extensive to list, but it is possible to highlight some of the popular options:
The Perth Mint was founded as part of the Royal Mint of England system in 1899, just two years before Australia’s federation movement in 1901. The mint was set to join the Sydney Mint and Melbourne Mint in the colonial mint system on the continent, but would go on to fulfill a different role for the seven decades. The mint would produce sovereigns for Australia as part of the Commonwealth for decades until the founding of the Royal Australian Mint in 1965. Since that time, it has operated as an official bullion mint that is wholly owned by the state of Western Australia. It is the nation’s oldest operating mint and one of the most respected in the world.
If you’re a fan of the lunar silver from Australia, JM Bullion has you covered. You can reach out to us with any questions at 800-276-6508, chat with us live online, or simply send us an email with your inquiries.