Year of the Horse

Posted on Thurs, 19 December 2013 by Phil Mussell
Posted in: Coin News
Year of the Horse Look East

THE Royal Mint has recently launched their very first “Chinese Lunar New Year” coin—a precious metal coin (in gold and silver) commemorating the “Year of the Horse” (see News and Views, page 17). Whilst this may be a first for the Royal Mint the subject of the Chinese New Year has long been a staple of other mints across the globe and the front covers of COIN NEWS (and previously Coin & Medal News) have, come January or February each year, often been devoted to the latest offerings. That the Royal Mint should start striking such a coin is no great surprise—the Asian markets are still booming, precious metals in all forms are being eagerly bought up across the Far East and whether you treat this coin as bullion, just a “round ingot”, or a true collector’s coin it is certain to be popular in China and environs. But of course it will be popular here too—the latest trade delegations by Cameron, Osborne and Johnson have shown the willingness of the British Government to encourage Chinese trade, and tourism, the number of Chinese students flooding into this country has reached record highs and come February you can bet every supermarket, bank and anybody else with some marketing savvy will be jumping on the bandwagon of the Chinese New Year to help sell their products (I make no apologies for doing exactly that with COIN NEWS!).

China is no longer the inscrutable, mysterious place it once was, China is mainstream now and the Royal Mint is embracing that just as many other mints have done before—the only real surprise if why they have waited until now to do it. Other mints around the world latched onto this phenomenon years ago, releasing their coins earlier and earlier and always, it seems, selling out (see Dr Kerry Rodgers’ article on pages 35). The Royal Mint have actually lagged behind on this one but I am glad to say they have caught up now. Glad? I hear you cry? Our eminent Royal Mint pandering to overseas markets? Whatever next? Well, as I’ve pointed out the market isn’t only overseas—there are plenty here in the UK, whether of Chinese heritage or not, who will be eager to buy this coin. The whole Chinese New Year/Zodiac/mysticism thing has been around for some time (remember when everyone was Feng Shui-ing their offices, keeping their toilet seats down and buying money trees?) and there is a huge market for it out there—so why shouldn’t the Royal Mint cash in? We coin collectors have to accept that the Royal Mint of the 21st century is there to make money (pun absolutely intended), and whilst they produce the UK coin of the realm they also are in competition with other mints and manufacturers when it comes to other currencies, medals and the like. They may well be “Government owned” but they are also functioning as an independent entity in their own right and are subject to the vagaries of market forces just like everybody else and are, according to their website “committed to providing a financial return to the UK government in line with agreed targets”. In other words they need to get out there and look for new business opportunities—and this one seems ideal. Thankfully, in this case, the coin is rather nice—there have been some questionable designs emanating from South Wales in recent years (well I didn’t like them all I’m afraid!) but this one, with its nod to the old as well as the new (again see News and Views) seems rather apt and has been well recreated from the artist’s original concept.

There will, I am certain, be another 11 designs in the next 11 years, and probably more beyond that. I hope they are all as elegant. I also hope that whilst the Royal Mint is jumping on bandwagons it doesn’t try to jump on too many—the Chinese New Year coins across the globe are both respected and expected, as I said the only real surprise about this issue is that it has come relatively late on for the Royal Mint, other “celebrations and commemorations” are far less mainstream although certain mints will mark them in metal nonetheless, producing coinage for just about anyone and anything—I hope that this new coin series doesn’t herald a change in that particular direction for the ladies and gentlemen in Llantrisant. A Lunar New Year coin as striking as this is to be applauded—when I start seeing Mickey Mouse’s 97th birthday being touted as a new coin subject I’ll know we are in trouble!

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