Coins for the new lunar year: Celebrating the Year of the Rooster

Topical Topics: The king of the barnyard struts across lunar cycle coins
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 01/30/17
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World coins that depict the animals of the 12-year ancient Chinese lunar calendar comprise some of the most popular coin series ever, with appeal to coin collectors and noncollectors alike.

These coins are especially popular in China and throughout Asia, where they are often given as gifts to celebrate the Chinese New Year, celebrated this year on Jan. 28. They are also widely collected outside Asia.

Over the years, Chinese lunar calendar animal coins have also become so numerous that it is believed to be the largest ongoing conglomerate coin program ever, with countless mints around the world producing interesting and innovative new issues each year.

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The Chinese zodiac calendar started around 2600 B.C. and, according to legend, originated when Buddha called on every animal to attend to him before he departed for the next life; only 12 animals did so. They were honored for their allegiance with a place in the famous zodiac calendar. 

The Year of the Rooster, the 10th animal in the calendar, begins during 2017.

People born in Rooster years are said to be confident, hard-working, resourceful, outspoken, social, and honest. Famous people who are roosters include Beyonce Knowles, Groucho Marx, and Eric Clapton.

This Year of the Rooster runs from Jan. 28, 2017, to Feb. 15, 2018, but rooster-themed coins began to be issued in 2016. 

Other than the Chinese coins, many other Lunar-themed pieces are produced, many of them in or on behalf of countries that comprise the British Commonwealth, which all feature obverses having an effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.

Prolific Perth Mint

One of the largest Lunar coin programs is issued by the Perth Mint in Australia. Each September, this mint releases first the bullion version of its Lunar silver and gold coins (currently in series II, which began in 2008). Then a month later, the mint issues Proof versions of these coins, and in subsequent months a wide range of other coins and various versions of the main issues are released.

This year’s silver coin features a reverse design with a rooster, a hen, and three chicks standing near bamboo foliage and flowers, while the gold coin shows a single rooster strutting proudly amid bamboo and leaves. 

The bullion coins are issued in sizes from 1-ounce to a kilogram in silver and from a tenth-ounce to 10 ounces in gold. These coins are minted to demand except for the 1-ounce silver version, which is limited to 300,000 coins, and the 1-ounce gold piece, which is limited to 30,000 pieces.

The silver 1-ounce piece sold out after 10 weeks of availability, while the 1-ounce gold coin sold out two weeks later.

Two especially popular products are the three-coin silver Proof set that includes a 2-ounce coin having a mintage of 1,000 coins that is sold only in the set, and the four-coin silver type set, which includes bullion, gilded, colored, and Proof versions of the 1-ounce coin.

Some other highlights of Perth’s wide-ranging Lunar program include the Wealth and Wisdom colored two-coin set issued in December for Tuvalu, and the opal coin issued in January. The 2017 coin is the second coin of the opal series that began with the 2016 Year of the Monkey coin.

Another Aussie-made issue

Another popular Lunar-themed series comes from the Treasures of Oz mint in Australia, a private mint that issues various coins, including Chinese zodiac issues under the authority of Tokelau.

The Tokelau Lunar series, which the mint calls type sets, began in 2013 with Year of the Snake coins, and for the subsequent four years, various versions of such coins were produced, such as Reverse Proof, Proof, gilded, and colored.

For 2017, a six-coin commemorative coin set for the Chinese market that is not like the previous Lunar series was produced, and the future of the Tokelau Lunar type set series is uncertain at this point.

For the rest of the world, the only 2017 Tokelau Lunar coin available is the mirror rooster, which has two images of a rooster facing each other; one has a Proof finish, while the other is in Reverse Proof. The coin weighs one ounce but has a 65-millimeter diameter.

The mirror series began with the 2016 Year of the Monkey coins.

Low-mintage alternatives

Two of the more popular ongoing series aimed at those who can afford to spend several hundred dollars on each coin are the Proof Niue 5-ounce silver gilded coins produced by PAMP Suisse and the Proof Cook Islands 5-ounce silver coins with a large insert made of mother of pearl that is done in a different color each year.

The Niue pieces have a mintage of 500 coins, and the serial number of each is etched on the edge. The coins have a 65-millimeter diameter and feature selective gilding on the reverse. The 2017 Rooster coin of this series features a reverse dominated by a large gilded rooster, and a hen and three chicks that are nongilded.

The Cook Islands coins have a mintage of 888 pieces (8 being a lucky number in Asia) and a 65-millimeter diameter. The reverse design features a refined and intricate depiction of a large rooster in red on real mother of pearl.

Other Lunar silver bullion coins note the Chinese calendar simply with a privy mark denoting the particular Lunar animal for that year. For example, one variant of the Somalia Elephant coin for 2017 has a rooster’s head privy mark and is being released in the U.S. exclusively by American Precious Metals Exchange, with a mintage of 15,000 coins. Other coins of this type include Lunar privy coins from Perth’s Kookaburra silver coin series. 

Other Year of the Rooster coins are issued in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Some coins feature various inserts, such as the popular Laos 2-ounce coins (struck by the Singapore Mint) that feature a gilded image of the animal surrounded by a ring of Burmese jade. The Chinese Mint also issues a wide variety of such coins each year, such as the fan-shaped issues and others.

A good strategy for collecting Lunar coins is to pick a particular series that appeals to you and stick with it each year, so that you end up with a complete 12-coin set. 

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