British mint coins a collector's item for the coming lunar year
The Royal Mint, UK's official coin manufacturer, has launched its second legal tender lunar coin to woo wealthyChinese collectors, riding on high sales of its first lunar coin a year ago.
To coincide with 2015, the Year of the Sheep, the new coin features the animal, the second of the Chinese zodiac.
Fergus Feeney, the mint's program director, says it will continue with the coins every year to cover all 12 animals. The series is among the top five commemorative coins for the mint, he says.
"The lunar coins are one of our most important commemorative coins not just in terms of revenue, but it is buildinga foundation for the future and serving our customers."
The mint decided to launch the series after the success of its commemorative coins for the London Olympics in 2012, for which China was the largest market, even bigger than the domestic market in the UK. To reach out to its Chinesebuyers, the mint has also established an account on weibo, the Chinese answer to Twitter.
Such popularity has encouraged the mint to produce a China-focused coin, hence the Year of the Horsecommemorative coin launched at the end of last year. Feeney says the horse coins achieved tremendous sales,which encouraged his team to work on the Year-of-the-Sheep coin with great enthusiasm.
Many of the lunar coins are sold to Chinese living in the UK, as well as coin collectors in China. In China, the RoyalMint sells coins through local partners, one of which is China Gold Coin, with which it has had ties for more than 10 years.
The sheep coin, like the horse coin, is designed by Wuon-Gean Ho, a British Chinese artist whose understanding ofChinese and British cultures allowed her to create a design attractive to both Chinese and international coincollectors.
The coin's foreground features two sheep facing each other, their heads curled close to their bodies, and eyes full ofenergy. Their wool is presented in neat curly patterns and their horns are big and strong.
The sheep in the design are of the Swaledale breed, a hardy animal named after a Yorkshire valley and well suited tothe often harsh British climate.
Swaledales are known for their smooth, curled horns, seen on both ewes and rams, which contrast with the swirls ofthe sheep's wool coat, Ho says.
The background of the face of the coin features a woodland, with a few trees clearly visible. The trees are in theshape of the Chinese character yang, which means sheep. In the middle of the face of the coin is also a distinctlyinscribed yang character.
Ho, who was born and grew up in Oxford of Malaysian and Singaporean parents, graduated with a bachelor's in arthistory and as a veterinary surgeon at Cambridge University before taking up a Japanese government scholarship in 1998 to study woodblock printmaking in Japan.