British Silver Lunar Coins

silver coin icon United Kingdom flag icon Silver Lunar coins - newly issued since 2014 in limited mintages

The British Silver Lunar coins are one of the most recent newly issued silver 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 Silver Britannias and Queen's Beasts silver coins.

The British Lunar silver coins are minted out of 99.9% fine silver. Buyers can choose between coins with a brilliant uncirculated finish as well as proof coins. However, the mintage of proof coins is quite limited and even brilliant uncirculated 1 oz coins are minted in relatively low numbers compared to most other silver bullion coins. The coins are currently offered in the three denominations of 1 oz, 5 oz and 1 kg. The two largest sizes of 5 oz and 1 kg only exist as proof coins though.

The British Silver 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 Gold Lunar coins are also available. The coins that are fully guaranteed by the British government have the status of legal tender in the UK which makes them exempt from the payment of Capital Gains Tax (CGT) there.

reverse side of the latest issue of the brilliant uncirculated 1 oz British Silver Lunar coins
obverse side of the latest issue of the brilliant uncirculated 1 oz British Silver Lunar coins

Coin Specifications

Weight Face Value Purity Diameter x Thickness
1 kg £ 500 99.9% 100 x ?? mm
5 oz £ 10 99.9% 65 x ?? mm
1 oz £ 2 99.9% 38.61 x 3.00 mm

All British Silver Lunar Coin Designs

Design

The obverse side of the silver coins 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 “D. G. Reg. F. D.” and the coin’s denomination.

The design of the reverse side of the British Silver Lunar 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.

History

The Royal Mint launched the British Shengxiào Lunar Series in gold and silver in 2014 with the "Year of the Horse" 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.

The coins were originally available in the denominations of 1 oz (brilliant uncirculated and proof) and 5 oz (only proof). From 2014 to 2016, a limited mintage of 1 oz proof coins were also available as a part of a collectible Stamp & Coin Cover in collaboration with Britain's Royal Mail. For the 2016 "Year of the Monkey" edition, a 1 kg silver coin (only with proof finish) was added to the series.

There are also 1 oz proof British Lunar coins out of 99.9% silver plated with 99.99% gold. These gold-plated silver coins are identical in size and face value to the 'regular' 1 oz silver coins mentioned above. Only 4,888 such gold-plated proof coins were made in 2015.

Mintages

Compared to the mintage of the gold version of the coins, brilliant uncirculated 1 oz British Silver Lunar coins are produced in much more abundant numbers. Annual mintage has declined though from 300,000 coins in 2014 down to 138,888 coins in 2016 and 2017. The 1 oz coins are also produced with a proof finish in strictly limited (and lately declining) numbers. The 5 oz and 1 kg coins are also just minted as proof coins and mintage numbers of these larger coins have declined as well.

The frequent appearance of the number 8 in the annual mintage numbers is not a coincidence. In China, the number 8 represents prosperity.

reverse side of the latest issue of the brilliant uncirculated 1 oz British Gold Lunar coins
obverse side of the latest issue of the brilliant uncirculated 1 oz British Gold Lunar coins

British Gold Lunar Coins

British Gold Lunar coins are struck out of 99.99% fine gold since 2014. The first inaugural issue was dedicated to the Chinese Year of the Horse and each year since then, the coins displayed that year's Chinese zodiac animal on their reverse. Buyers can choose between the denominations of 1/10 oz, 1 oz, 5 oz and 1 kg with the two largest sizes only available as proof coins. Annual mintage numbers of the gold version of the British Lunar coins are quite limited. This coin series by Britain's Royal Mint is also known as the Shengxiào Collection. It is scheduled to end in 2025. By that time, coins depicting all 12 Chinese zodiac animals will have been issued.

The British Gold Lunar page gives more information about the coins and allows you to compare current prices.

Special British Silver Lunar Sets

2014 British Silver Lunar Philatelic Numismatic Cover

Silver Lunar Philatelic Numismatic Cover

total silver weight: 1 oz

In the three years between 2014 and 2016, the Royal Mint in cooperation with Britain's Royal Mail released a limited edition of 1 oz proof Silver Lunar coins as a part of a collectible Stamp & Coin Cover. The 2014 - 2016 Philatelic Numismatic Covers included an artist-designed special ‘Firework’ stamp, illustrated label and unique cancellation mark along with the 99.9% fine 1 oz proof British Silver Lunar coin. A total of 2,014 such proof coins with PNC cover were minted and sold that first year, followed by 2,015 units the next year and 2,016 the year after. All three editions were immensely popular with coin and stamp collectors alike and sold out rapidly. The special souvenirs were packaged in red gifting envelopes that featured the Mandarin and Cantonese characters conveying a ‘Happy New Year’.