https://www.moderncoinmart.com/silver/great-britain-silver-coins/great-britain-silver-lunar-coins/The Royal Mint has released the newest addition to the Queen's Beasts series and the latest addition to the Lunar Calendar series featuring the Chinese Zodiac.
On September 26, the Royal Mint unleashed the latest range of silver and gold bullion coins in its highly celebrated Queen’s Beast series, which depict the legendary Unicorn of Scotland.
This is the fourth coin in the bullion part of the series, but it was already released in Proof examples in June, which were very well received by collectors. The 1 oz. proof sold out very quickly at the Mint, for example. Some of the proof coins are still in stock at MCM.
The Queen’s Beast series, which includes the previously-released Lion of England, Griffin of Edward III, and Red Dragon of Wales, and will span ten different designs altogether, has already established itself as one of the most widely collected modern coin series from any world mint. Though the coins are quintessentially British because they depict some of the most iconic and well-known British symbols, they have acquired a global following as both a bullion investment series and as collectible coins.
A fifth beast design will be launched later this year with other versions of other beasts coming too. [And MCM will soon have available glass-top display cases for your Queen’s Beast collection.]
The series, which was inspired by a set of very tall, large statutes by James Woodford of the ten mythical creatures that have stood guard during the hundreds of years of the British monarchy, is designed to symbolize the various strands of royal heraldry and ancestry of the United Kingdom. The statutes, which look a bit like totem poles, were created for the coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 in Westminster Abbey and today reside in a museum in Quebec, Canada.
Heraldic symbols trace their original to early medieval Europe, where they were used to establish identity in battle with shields that contained various symbols and designs. These shields are known as coats of arms, or royal arms. And the coat of arms of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, depicts an English lion and a Scottish unicorn grasping each side of a heraldic shield, symbolizing that the UK consists of England and Scotland. These classic British royal symbols are seen in everyday life in Britain such as on passports, city badges, and sports insignia, and they are an integral part of British culture.
The Queen’s Beasts coin designs are the work of Royal Mint designer Jody Clark, whose work won a coin design competition in order to be selected as the artist for the whole series. Clark designed both sides of these coins: the obverse with the fifth effigy of Queen Elizabeth II that appears on all UK coins, and the reverse designs of the beasts holding shields.
Clark said of the unicorn design and how he wanted to make it more dynamic: “Although the unicorn is not real, it shares the same appearance as a horse, so I could draw on reality a little. It has been represented many ties in heraldry, so I revisited sculpture and heraldic design for inspiration. I was interested to find that are certain rules to bear in mind – for example the unicorn always has a cloven hoof. I wanted to add some movement to my design, and for the unicorn to be doing more than just supporting the shield. I showed the beast leaping over the shield a little, and there is movement in the chain, making the design more dynamic.”
Clark also said that depicting all these beasts was a challenging undertaking, especially since he was trying to strike the right balance between being accurate (such as by adding those cloven hooves to the unicorn) in how they are represented while also making them look stylized. He added that people may not realize he intentionally has the different beasts looking in different directions. For example, with his lion design he creates the sense that one is looking up at the beast. Finally, he stressed that he wanted his beasts to look strong, adding: “I think heraldry comes from battles, your arms in battles – to see who’s on your side, so I wanted it to look aggressive and strong.”
Anyone who has seen these impressive coins would agree that the beasts look strong and imposing, as intended by Clark. And these designs are a major part of the appeal of the coins.
There are three coins being released now in the Unicorn of Scotland bullion range, including a 2-oz. silver coin with a 5-pound denomination that comes either in single coins or rolls of 10 coins; a 1/4-ounce gold version with a 25-pound denomination that comes either individually or in tubes of 25 coins; and a 1-oz. gold coins with a 100-pound denomination that comes either in single coins or rolls of ten. Each coin has a fineness of .9999.
MCM will as usual also carry MS69 and MS70 graded examples of these coins.
Year of the Dog coins
The Royal Mint also launched in September the fifth design it is 12-coin series of lunar calendar silver and gold coins in different sizes, which MCM will also carry.
This series, which is designed by British-Chinese artists Wuon-Gean Ho, is intended to celebrate the UK’s diverse multi-cultural society, to provide a British angle to the ancient Chinese lunar tradition in which each year is represented by a different animal.
For the 2018 Year of the Dog the artist chose to depict a terrier, noting: “The dog I have depicted is a mixed breed, like a West Highland White Terrier crossed with a Jack Russell. I wanted to show the energy and exuberance of a more compact dog.
The background to the reverse design of the terrier is a biometric nose pattern of a greyhound that belongs to a friend of the artist. She said of this pattern: “Dogs each have their own nose print. The nose print ties into the British regard for dogs as individuals and refers to the tradition of dog portraiture. The pixelated nature of the nose print is a contemporary take on the digitized information that surrounds us in the twenty-first century.”
The 2017 Year of the Rooster 5 oz. silver coin from this series is still in stock.
||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.|