The British Gold Lunar coins are one of the most recent newly issued gold bullion coins on the market after having been introduced in 2014. The coins show an annually changing image of the Chinese zodiac animal for the corresponding year of issuance on their reverse side. The first issue 2014 was dedicated to the Chinese Year of the Horse and the most recent 2018 edition to the Year of the Dog. The coins are minted by Britain's renowned Royal Mint that also produces the British Gold Sovereigns, British Gold Britannias and Queen's Beasts gold coins.
The British Lunar gold coins are minted out of 99.99% pure gold. Buyers can choose between coins with a brilliant uncirculated finish as well as proof coins. However, the mintage of proof coins is severely limited and even brilliant uncirculated coins are minted in relatively low numbers compared to most other gold bullion coins. Four different denominations of the coins between 1/10 oz and 1 kg are currently being offered. The two largest denominations of 5 oz and 1 kg only exist as proof coins though.
The British Gold Lunar series, also known as the Shengxiào Collection, is scheduled to end in 2025. At that time, a total of 12 coins representing the 12 Chinese zodiac animals will have been issued. The series is the first ever British legal tender Lunar bullion coin series and Silver Lunar coins are also available. The British government guarantees the purity and weight of the coins that are eligible to be included in Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA's). The coins are also exempt from the UK Capital Gains Tax and VAT free.
|Weight||Face Value||Purity||Diameter x Thickness|
|1 kg||£ 1000||99.99%||100 x ?? mm|
|5 oz||£ 500||99.99%||65 x ?? mm|
|1 oz||£ 100||99.99%||32.69 x 2.7 mm|
|1/4 oz||£ 25||99.99%||22 x 1.2 mm|
|1/10 oz||£ 10||99.99%||16.5 x 1.2 mm|
The coin's obverse side depicts a portrait of the British monarch Queen Elizabeth II. The 2014 and 2015 coin shows Ian Rank-Broadley's portrait of her majesty. Since 2016, the obverse displays the newest effigy of the Queen by Jody Clark. In both versions, her majesty is shown in profile wearing a royal tiara. Along the edge of the coin are engraved her majesty's title, the Latin abbreviation of “Reg Fid Def” and the coin’s denomination.
The design of the reverse side of the British Lunar Gold coins changes every year and always depicts the Chinese zodiac animal for the corresponding year of issuance. The current 2018 edition shows a playful terrier on the reverse in front of a textured background (representing an imprint of the dog's nose). In 2017, a Marsh Daisy Rooster appeared on the coin amidst ten marsh daisy (a.k.a. sea-thrift) flowers. The choice of ten marsh daisy flowers on the "Year of the Rooster" coin was done on purpose as the rooster is the tenth animal in the Chinese zodiac.
The British Shēngxiào Lunar coin series began in 2014. That first year's "Year of the Horse" coin depicts a galloping horse in front of the carving of the famous Uffington Horse, that is carved into the chalk hills of Oxfordshire. The Uffington White Horse is a 110 m long prehistoric hill carving that presumably dates to the Iron Age or late Bronze Age. The 2015 "Year of the Sheep" coin depicts two Swaledale sheep that are meant to symbolise family and friendship. Two rhesus monkeys on a tree appear on the 2016 "Year of the Monkey" coins.
A dedication to the corresponding year in the Chinese zodiac along with the Chinese hanzi character for the zodiac animal also appear on the coin's reverse. The coin's weight, purity and year of issuance is inscribed as well.
The Royal Mint launched the British Shengxiào Lunar Gold Series in 2014 with the "Year of the Horse" gold coins. The second issue of the series in 2015 celebrates the "Year of the Sheep", the 2016 edition the "Year of the Monkey", the 2017 edition the "Year of the Rooster" and the 2018 edition the "Year of the Dog". Starting with the 2016 issue, Ian Rank-Broadley's depiction of the Queen on the obverse side was replaced by Jody Clark's new version. The 2018 coins introduced a new guilloché background design on the obverse side. Altogether, the series will ultimately consist of 12 editions, corresponding to the 12 Chinese zodiac signs. The zodiac animal images on the coins are designed by the British-Chinese artist Wuon-Gean Ho. She is a respected artist and printmaker with a degree from Cambridge University.
Compared to other gold bullion coins, mintage of the British Lunar Gold coins is quite limited and has even declined in 2016. The 1 oz denomination is by far the most common. 1/4 oz Lunar Gold coins were only minted in 2015 and 5 oz and 1 kg coins are only minted as proof coins.
Only 38 five-ounce proof coins will be struck in gold in 2016. The 1 oz gold proof coin will be minted 888 times. The mintage of the brilliant uncirculated 1/10 oz gold coin has gone down from 2,888 pieces in 2015 to 1,888 coins in 2016.
For the 2016 "Year of the Monkey" edition, a 1 kg gold coin (only with proof finish) was added to the series with a total mintage of only 8 such coins.
The frequent appearance of the number 8 in the annual mintage numbers is not a coincidence. In China, the number 8 represents prosperity.
British Silver Lunar coins are struck out of 99.9% fine silver since 2014. The reverse side of the coins changes each year, always depicting the Chinese zodiac animal for that year of issuance. The same depicted design also appears on that year's gold version of the coins. The Royal Mint currently issues the coins in the three denominations of 1 oz (both brilliant uncirculated and proof coins), 5 oz (only proof coins) and 1 kg (only proof coins). Gilded Silver Lunar coins also exist. Annual mintages of the silver version of the British Shengxiao Lunar coins far exceed those of the gold version. This coin series is scheduled to end in 2025.
The British Silver Lunar page gives more information about the coins and allows you to compare current prices.