World Coins

Lunar animal coins mark 2015 year of the goat

The Chinese Lunar calendar dates back to 2,600 B.C. but has only become a source of worldwide celebration within the last 40 years, as evidenced by the number of different nations that have been issuing commemorative coins since the 1970s.

Some of these with 2015 issues include Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Macao, Ghana, Niue, Laos, Cook Islands, Fiji, Tokelau, Rwanda, Belarus, Palau, and China. 

The Year of the Yang begins on Feb. 19, 2015. In China, “yang” is a broad-based term that can be translated as “sheep,” “goat” or “ram.” 

Legend has it that the animal of one’s birth year influences personality. Those born in the Year of the Yang (2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, 1931) are thought to be clever, faithful, kind, charming, artistic, and family-oriented. On the downside, an old saying predicts that only one out of 10 people born in a Year of the Yang will find happiness. 

Genuine lunar year commemorative coins issued by China tend to be very expensive. For the buyer who doesn’t wish to spend hundreds of dollars, official Chinese medals from the Shanghai and Shenyang Mints are a numismatic compromise. 

The Shanghai Mint’s annual series celebrating the Chinese zodiac includes huge (90 millimeters in diameter) bronze or copper medals struck in high relief. For 2015, one version shows three grazing goats near a river on one side, and a pattern of flowers on the other. The design also includes Chinese characters that herald the beginning of spring after a dark cold winter. 

Palau is home to only about 21,000 people, of whom 70 percent are of mixed race. Many of those have Japanese, Filipino, Chinese and Korean ancestry. This may be one reason that the tiny island nation issues Chinese lunar year coins each year. Palau’s 2015 Proof $5 Year of the Goat issue is notable for several reasons. It is a double-thickness 1-ounce silver piedfort coin, is struck in high relief, has a Matte Finish, and looks like a ringed-bimetallic piece initially, but isn’t. The reverse design of this pure silver coin is bordered by a band of selective gold plating.

The 2015 Tokelau Year of the Goat commemorative coin is also a Proof 1-ounce pure silver $5 piece that makes use of color and different silver finishes to highlight the belled mother goat and her kid. 

The mother and the background grass are mint-colorized, while the kid and the foreground scenery have a Frosted Cameo appearance. Tokelau also issued four more Proof variants: gilded, Antique Finish, Matte Proof, and Reverse Proof.

Australia went all out for the Year of Yang, with silver issues in denominations ranging from 50 cents (half ounce) all the way up to $300 (10 kilos). In addition to multiple goat designs, the program offers coins that are piedfort, high relief, gilded, and colored. Finally, there are copper-nickel and gold goat coins, too.

Like Australia, Canada has issued multiple designs and variants for its 2015 Lunar Year series. The four different designs are being issued in silver and gold versions with denominations ranging from $5 to $2,500. 

Canada’s Lunar Year $15 issue is traditionally available in either a round or scalloped edge. However, despite having identical denominations, the scalloped edge coin contains three-quarters of an ounce of pure silver while the round edge version contains a full ounce of silver.

Sometimes, the world coin collector develops an interest in the animals depicted on Lunar Year coins and decides to pursue those. In the case of sheep and goats, there are many non-lunar-year issues from which to choose.

An Angora goat graces a 500,000-lira coin issued by Turkey in 2002. These goats are the source of mohair fleece, and for enterprising people, making yarn and fabric from mohair can comprise a home business. 

Perhaps this is why the coin bears a quote from Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladesh-born Nobel Peace Prize winner and father of the micro-credit loan. It translates as, “Why not a world without unemployment?”

A handsome sheep coin was issued by Cyprus in 1963, one of its first coins after obtaining independence from Great Britain, and one of its first decimal issues. It shows the entire animal looking as if it is jumping, something mouflon do effortlessly. The wild mouflon sheep of Cyprus is thought to be one of the two ancestors for all modern domestic sheep breeds.

A coin that features both a sheep and a goat has to make the list here. The 1970 Somali FAO 5-shilling coin also has a cow in the vignette. Its inscription GROW MORE FOOD is the theme of a world coin campaign by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to encourage food production.

Keep reading about world coins:

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Italian medal design influences German coin

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