We’ve all heard of the zodiac, and have probably on more than one occasion checked our daily horoscope in the hope it will reveal what the future holds. When I sat down to write this blog I was buoyant in the revelation that my day was going to be “filled with love and joy”.
But perhaps lesser known in Western culture is the Chinese Lunar Calendar and the 12 animals that represent it.
The Chinese Lunar Calendar
More commonly known as the Chinese Zodiac, it is believed the Chinese Lunar Calendar begun around 2600 B.C. and is related to the worship of animals in Chinese culture. Legend has it before departing to the next life, Buddha asked every animal on the plant to comfort him and the twelve animals (including the dragon, tiger and rat) that responded are now honoured in the lunar calendar that spans 12 years – one animal for every year.
Much like the Western Zodiac, your lunar animal sign depends when you’re born. And people born in specific lunar years are believed to have certain personality traits and characteristics related to their animal.
Turns out I was born in the Year of the Sheep – so I’m creative, compassionate and friendly. I’d say that’s fairly accurate, though I’m not sure I agree that I like to spend my money on fashionable things… you win some you lose some!
The incredible popularity of Lunar Coins
For over 40 years mints from around the world have celebrated Chinese New Year with Lunar Coins. These issues have turned in to something of an international phenomenon, to the point where the lunar theme is the largest ongoing coin programme on the planet.
Most prestigious mints have a lunar series, including Australia, Canada, and of course our own Royal Mint. With each selling millions of ounces of gold and silver coins each year inscribed with the year’s relevant lunar animal.
Collectors will snap these coins up for a variety of reasons. Some collect their own lunar animal, because they like the personal connection, others will collect a particular specification because it’s especially limited. Personally, I find they also make great birthday gifts for obvious reasons – my friends love them.
The Year of the Rat
The 25th January 2020 will mark the Chinese New Year, and with it the next lunar animal will be celebrated – the Rat.
The Rat is in fact the first animal in the Chinese Zodiac, and people who are born under the sign of the Rat are thought to be intelligent and quick-witted with rich imaginations.
If this sounds like you the odds are you’re born under the sign of the Rat. And this year your lunar animal will be celebrated on lunar coins around the world.
What’s more, The Royal Mint has just released their brand new Year of the Rat range, including what’s perhaps the most sought-after specification of all – the 1oz Silver Proof Coin.
Apparently Rats are known for taking good advantage of opportunities presented to them – so what are you waiting for, make sure you snap up your lunar coin today!
If you’re interested…
You can own the BRAND NEW Royal Mint Lunar Coin TODAY – the 1oz Silver Proof Year of the Rat coin.
This coin is sure to be the most sought-after yet because not only is the 1oz Silver Proof a key specification for collectors, it’s also got the lowest edition limit yet!
Last month we heard through the whispers of the forest that the UK’s favourite orange-eyed and purple-prickled creature is returning!
And now the critters have informed us that he will be emerging from the deep dark wood on 17th October!
Our woodland sources also confirm he will be proudly featuring on a BRAND NEW 50p coin.
So if you want to be kept up to date, and be the first to know when the new Gruffalo 50p is available on 17th October, and what coins are available, just register your interest below.
Whilst we’re counting down til’ launch, let’s have a look at what happened the last time The Gruffalo was spotted in the wild…
On the 23rd March The Gruffalo celebrated its 20th birthday, and to mark this landmark publication anniversary a brand new UK 50p was released. This was the first time ever the popular children’s book character had appeared on UK coinage.
Since its first publication in 1999 Julia Donaldson’s famous monster has become a firm family favourite. Alongside the charming illustrations by Axel Scheffler, the now iconic story has been translated into 76 languages, sold over 13 million copies and graced TV screens in 2009 as an animation, the same year it was voted the UK’s favourite bedtime story.
To say the release was popular is an understatement, as fans and collectors alike were quick to snap up the coin. Collectors were so quick in fact that the silver and gold proof versions – with edition limits of 25,000 and 600 respectively – completely sold out at The Royal Mint within 12 hours of release.
This made it the fastest selling 50p to date!
No doubt the question on everyone’s lips now is what will happen when The Gruffalo returns? Will we see history repeat itself?
There’s only one way to find out – register your interest below!
While I was watching “Civilisations” on the Beeb last week they mentioned how the introduction of the Trade Dollar was the first step in globalisation – this got me thinking, so I made a cup of tea and looked into the history of the Trade Dollar and it truly is a fascinating tale.
Way back in the 16th Century, the first trading currency came to be because of the popularity of the silver Spanish dollar (better known as pieces of eight – yes those!) in China and they created the “Dragon Dollar” or “Silver Dragon” which were not only used in China, but also became the preferred currency for trade with their neighbours.
In the 19th Century, the Chinese were defeated in the First Opium War and forced to open their ports to foreign trade. The British merchants from The East India Company were now able to take advantage of the silk, porcelain spice and tea trade in the Orient.
The Rise of the British Trade Dollar
Now, with so many routes to trade it made sense for each country’s traders to mint their own coins, from their own supplies of silver. BUT these new silver trade coins all had to be minted to the same specification as the famous Spanish Dollar weighing in at approximately 27g and minted in 0.900 silver. The trade dollar was truly born and trading was made easier for the world – hence the movement of goods (and people) became more prevalent and “globalisation” started.
Our British Trade Dollar was first minted from 1895 and designed by George William De Saulles – a British coin with an eastern feel, it was exclusively for use in the Far East. For the first time on a coin, it showed a helmet-wearing Britannia holding a trident and the British shield with a merchant ship in the background.
Although The East India Company had been trading since the early 1600s, the introduction of the British Trade Dollar secured them as the single most powerful economic force of its time – tea, silks, spices and so much more travelling across the world on their ships not only for Britain, but also the rest of the Empire and Commonwealth. Without the original version of this coin we would be waiting for a cup of tea for a very long time!
A 21st Century spin on a 19th Century coin
This year, The East India Company is launching a coin that has been faithfully inspired by the original British Trade Dollar – The East India Company 2018 Trade Dollar 1oz Silver Proof Coin features Britannia surrounded by an oriental pattern. The obverse for the first time, displays the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II surrounded by an arabesque cartouche.
A Faithful nod in these modern times to the coin that started it all.
If you’re interested:
You can own the 2018 East India Company 1oz Silver Proof Trade Dollar, but you’ll have to be quick as just 2,500 have been issued worldwide! Click here to secure yours now >>