February 12, 2021, marks the start of Chinese New Year celebrations throughout Asia and the beginning of the Year of the Ox. In China, there is an ancient tradition known as the zodiac lunar calendar based on moon phases, which is useful in agriculture. The calendar is divided into twelve annual cycles in which each year is based on a particular animal.
According to legend, to determine which order the animals would rule, they were all invited to join a race to the Heavenly Gate by the Jade Emperor. The rat got there first by getting a ride on the ox across the river and then beat the ox to reach the emperor. Thus, the ox is the second animal in the cycle.
The hardworking, methodical, and patient ox (an animal like a cow or water buffalo) is said to have certain character traits, including being industrious, diligent, strong, kind, reliable, independent, and stubborn, to name a few. In China, the ox is one of the most highly respected animals because of these traits.
Previous ox years include 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, and each 12th preceding year. Some of the most famous people born in ox years include President Barrack Obama, former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, aviation legend Charles Lindberg, and actor George Clooney.
During the Chinese New Year festival, people in Asia typically give each other gifts. Zodiac coins depicting animals of that year's lunar cycle are naturally a perfect gift for the occasion.
In 1999 the Perth Mint in Western Australia, a global leader in bullion and numismatic coins, made numismatic history when it launched a series of silver and gold zodiac coins in different sizes and finishes celebrating the animals of the Chinese lunar calendar. That year the Perth Mint began its first 12-coin lunar series, known as Series I. In 2020, starting with the year of the rat, the Mint began Series III of their lunar coin series.
Many other mints worldwide also issue lunar-themed coins each year, including some like France, Canada and Rwanda, that are not in Asia or Australasia (which includes Australia, New Zealand, and neighboring countries).
The first mint to issue such coins was the Singapore Mint in 1984. Today, lunar coins are believed to be some of the most extensive ongoing coin series globally, featuring exciting new issues each year.
Each year in early September, the Perth Mint announces the following year's lunar coins designs. For 2021 the Mint tasked artist Ing Ing Jong, who has designed many coins for the Mint, with creating their year of the ox coin design.
The reverse of the 2021 coin depicts a stylized image of an ox on the right, and a young calf on the left, with a village among the mountains in the background. A cherry tree is also included above the animals, as well as the Chinese character for ox, and below it the inscription, "OX 2021." The traditional "P" mintmark for the Perth Mint also appears on this face of the coin.
The obverse bears Jody Clark's iconic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II plus inscriptions that state the coin’s issuing country, weight, fineness, and monetary denomination. Jody Clark has also designed the effigy of Her Majesty that is currently used on many commonwealth issues.
ModernCoinMart will be carrying the 1 oz silver proof version of this coin, both ungraded and graded by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). Later in the fall, we will also have the bullion version that bears the same iconic design. The proof is limited to a maximum mintage of 7,500, including 1,000 that are part of the three-coin silver proof set (along with a 1/2 oz and 2 oz coin).
The Royal Australian Mint, which has issued all Australian circulating coinage and commemorative issues since 1965, also produces lunar themed coins. The Mint launched a series of silver and gold dome-shaped coins in 2020 when the lunar cycle once again began with the year of the rat. While the 2021 $5 AUS silver ox proof coin has a maximum mintage of 7,500 coins, only 2,000 pieces will be available outside Australia! We will be stocking the coin in Original Government Packaging and graded by NGC.
This year's design depicts an ox in an active and busy stance on the left side of the reverse, with willow branches to its right representing humility, one of the ox's defining characteristics. In the upper-right of the reverse, between the tree branches, are the inscriptions "YEAR OF THE OX," the Chinese character for the ox, and the coin's weight and fineness.
Like all Australian coins, the obverse features Jody Clark's effigy of Queen Elizabeth II wearing her crown and diadem plus inscriptions for the country, monarch, and denomination, all within a circle. Outside the circle are small images of all 12 zodiac animals that exist in the lunar calendar. This design is also available as a stunning frosted ingot from the Royal Australian Mint!
The Royal Mint began its own lunar commemorative coin series, known as the Sh?ngxiào collection, in 2014. The series blends traditional British design and craftsmanship, with elements of centuries-old Chinese culture and tradition.
The Royal Mint's year of the ox silver coins, including a £1 1 oz silver proof with a maximum mintage of 3,998 coins, were designed by Harry Brockway. Brockway also created the design for the Mint’s 2019 year of the pig coins. The Royal Mint’s 2021 ox coin portrays a tranquil, but robust ox grazing in a meadow with bluebells in the background. The reverse also features the Chinese symbol for the ox above the depiction of the animal.
Many more year of the ox coins will be issued in the coming months, including those already announced by Laos, Cook Islands, New Zealand, and other countries.
Author Name: Louis Golino
Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst,” and in August 2021 the column received the NLG award for best column on modern U.S. coins. He has also received other awards for his writing. He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and and other publications. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.