Australian Lunar Series

Buying the Australian Lunar Series of silver coins is much the same process as buying other silver bullion coins from the numerous mints of the world. The Perth Mint possesses a website that includes an online store with credit card ordering accepted, and enough pages of marvelous coins to keep any collector slavering with eagerness for months. The most cost effective method of buying the coins is frequently said to be in sets.

It should be noted, however, that even Australian buyers may be well served by purchasing their coins from overseas and having them shipped into Australia rather than buying them locally. This is because the Australian government levies an extremely costly “goods and services” tax, which can add close to 10% to the total price of the coins ordered, in addition to whatever shipping or transportation costs are involved.

The Australian Silver Lunar Series coins are an excellent investment, both for later resale as a collectible and for their bullion value (and, perhaps, simply to admire them as tiny works of art as well). They can be bought from official distributors or secondary market websites such as APMEX.

Information About The Australian Silver Lunar Series

One of the more colorful calendrical traditions in the world is the cycle of twelve years which make up the Chinese zodiac and astrological cycle. Each year of this cycle is associated with a different animal, and regardless of one’s opinion of astrology in general, there is no doubt that the concept lends itself well to numismatic design, especially for annually released bullion coins and the like.

The current Chinese zodiac was established by various astronomers, astrologers, fortunetellers, and sorcerers during the Han Dynasty, which flourished some two thousand years ago and was deeply concerned with Feng Shui and other such matters. The exact origins of the calendar are lost in the vagueness of time, and even the reason why the animals which symbolize the twelve months of the zodiac are arranged in the order they are is uncertain.

The most plausible reason for why the Rat begins the cycle of animals is that rats are most active at midnight, which is the Chinese beginning of the zodiacal day. Additionally, the characters used to describe rats, due to the different number of toes on their front and hind feet, can be interpreted as meaning “new start”, so it is quite likely that a linguistic accident prompted the Chinese to place these animals at the start of their zodiacal cycle.

There is no particularly dramatic history associated with the Perth Mint’s production of the Australian Lunar Series, based on the Chinese zodiacal progression, other than that it makes an interesting set of collectible bullion coins that has been very popular with the public, both due to high production values and the interest of the basic concept.

The decision to mint a set of Chinese coins, despite the fact that they have little to do with Australia, was apparently made to produce a bullion coin that was salable in the Chinese market, as well as to the numerous Chinese who have immigrated to Australia in recent years. However, due to the interest and great beauty of the designs that were produced, collectors from all over the world and from every conceivable culture collect these coins avidly, along with the many other exquisite coins the Mint produces.

Lunar Series I

In keeping with the Chinese lunar calendar, the Australian mint issues their Australian Silver Lunar Series in series of 12 coins, completing the cycle before beginning a new series of similar coins. The Lunar Series I cycle of a dozen coins ran from 1999 to 2010, and began a few years into the cycle with the Year of the Hare, overlapping with the Year of the Rat ten years into the minting run.

Thus, since the Lunar Series II began correctly in 2008, the Year of the Rat (or, as it is called in the second series, the Year of the Mouse), the Lunar Series I and Lunar Series II overlap in production for the period of 2008, 2009, and 2010.

The Lunar Series I coins are arranged as follows, beginning in 1999: Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig, Rat, Ox, and Tiger. Although the most typical mintage consists of standard sized 1 troy ounce silver bullion coins, there are a large number of variations for both Lunar Series sets, as noted below in a separate section. These variations include size, color, and decoration, such as gilding, inserted jewels, and the like.

The obverse of the Australian Lunar Series I coins shows Queen Elizabeth II in profile, with the legend “Elizabeth II Australia – 1 Dollar [Year]” wreathed about her effigy. The most interesting part of the coins, however, is to be found on the reverse, where highly detailed, naturalistic depictions of the years’ astrological animals are to be found. The Year of the Hare, for example, shows a hare sitting upright on its haunches beside several sprigs of vegetation; the Year of the Goat depicts a mother goat and kid; and the Year of the Tiger shows a proud hunting cat standing on a bit of rugged ground, gazing towards the viewer intently.

The reverse of the Australian Lunar Series I coins is very sparing of verbiage, including only the year, the single Chinese character naming the animal shown, and the words “1 Oz 999 Silver”. This is one way that the Lunar Series II can be easily distinguished, since the full name of the year (for example, “Year of the Mouse”) is spelled out in English.

Lunar Series II

The Australian Silver Lunar Series II is a set of coins which began in 2008 and is still continuing with its fourth annual release in 2011. This series is even more beautifully made than the first, with highly detailed background scenes shown with each animal.

The 2008 coin, the Year of the Mouse, shows two mice on straw, with a pair of ribbed squash in the background. 2009, the Year of the Ox, shows a cow and calf in a grassy field with a background of mountains. 2010, the Year of the Tiger, depicts a tiger lounging on sloping ground under a bush, while 2011, the Year of the Rabbit, shows a pair of very appealing rabbits apparently amid bamboo.

As an interesting detail, all of the Australian Silver Lunar Series II coins thus far issued except for the tiger show two animals – perhaps a symbolic reference to the second series. The positioning of the words has also been changed. The obverse shows Elizabeth II as well as the words “Elizabeth II Australia – 1 Oz 999 Silver [Year] 1 Dollar”. The reverse now contains only the appropriate Chinese character, the legend “Year of the [Animal]”, and a tiny P mintmark for the Perth Mint.

Variations on Australian Lunar Series Coins

The Australian Lunar Series coins have a huge number of extremely collectible variations, including 1 kilogram versions; colored versions; coins with the figure of the animal gilded; proofs; “gemstone editions” with precious stones inset into the animals’ eyes; and various other intriguing variants which are all sure to be more valuable than the plain bullion coins in the future.

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