Cash­ing in on in­vest­ment value of col­lect­ing coins

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By CE­CILY LIU in Lon­don ce­cily.liu@chi­

The UK’s of­fi­cial coin man­u­fac­turer The Royal Mint has launched its first ever le­gal ten­der lu­nar coin to woo wealthy Chi­nese col­lec­tors as coin col­lec­tion be­comes in­creas­ingly wide­spread in China.

The coin, put on the mar­ket last month, com­mem­o­rates the forth­com­ing lu­nar year of the horse. It fea­tures a pow­er­ful horse on one side and the por­trait of the Bri­tish Queen on the other.

The Royal Mint says the horse coin will be the first of a se­ries, which cov­ers the Chi­nese zo­diac and over 12 years will fea­ture all the an­i­mals in the zo­diac.

“China is a sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket for us,” says Shane Bis­sett, head of com­mem­o­ra­tive coins at The Royal Mint.

Bis­sett says China was the big­gest mar­ket for The Royal Mint’s com­mem­o­ra­tive coins for the 2012 Lon­don Olympics, and a mar­ket even larger than the UK’s do­mes­tic mar­ket. To reach out to its Chi­nese buy­ers, The Royal Mint has also es­tab­lished an ac­count on Weibo, the Chi­nese Twit­ter.

He says the lu­nar coins would be at­trac­tive for Chi­nese buy­ers as both a col­lec­tor’s item and a present for oth­ers, and be­lieves the Chi­nese coin col­lec­tion cir­cle has grown in re­cent years.

The horse coin has been de­signed by Bri­tish Chi­nese artist Wuon-Gean Ho. It com­bines el­e­ments from both Bri­tish and Chi­nese her­itage.

The fore­ground of the de­sign fea­tures a pow­er­ful leap­ing horse with a big tail high in the wind. Be­neath the horse’s feet lies the fa­mous Uff­in­g­ton Horse, a pre- his­toric white horse carved into the chalk hills of Ox­ford­shire, which is a unique Bri­tish her­itage site.

The horse is thought to rep­re­sent a tribal sym­bol per­haps con­nected with the builders of Uff­in­g­ton Cas­tle. It is 110 me­ters long and is be­lieved to date back to the Iron Age (800 BC-AD 100) or the late Bronze Age (1000-700 BC).

Ho says that she did ex­ten­sive re­search on the his­tory of horses in China and the UK and par­tic­u­larly en­joyed look­ing at how horses are de­picted in Chi­nese tra­di­tional paint­ings.

She then spent one month work­ing on the draft copy of the horse de­sign, re­vis­ing it sev­eral times, tak­ing about two months to com­plete the project.

Ho, who was born and grew up in Ox­ford to Malaysian and Sin­ga­porean par­ents, grad­u­ated with a BA in His­tory of Art and a pro­fes­sional li­cense as a ve­teri­nary sur­geon from Cam­bridge Univer­sity, be­fore tak­ing up a Ja­panese gov­ern­ment schol­ar­ship in 1998 to study wood­block print­mak­ing in Ja­pan.

“Al­though I am in­volved in arts now, study­ing anatomy and closely ob­serv­ing an­i­mals for my de­gree in ve­teri­nary medicine was good train­ing for this project,” she says.

Even though Ho grew up in the UK, she says that she is very much fas­ci­nated by Asian art and has trav­eled across Asia, vis­it­ing coun­tries in­clud­ing China, Thai­land, Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore.

“I think the Asian way of cre­at­ing things and look­ing at things is very much em­bed­ded in my land­scapes. When you go to a coun­try and breathe the air and eat the food, it changes your out­look on life,” she says.

The new horse coin de­sign fea­tures on a num­ber of dif­fer­ent coins, made from ei­ther 999.9 fine gold or 999 fine sil­ver. The range in­cludes a 10th of an ounce gold bril­liant un­cir­cu­lated coin, a 1-ounce gold proof coin and a 1-ounce gold bul­lion coin.

In sil­ver, there is the 1-ounce sil­ver proof coin, a 5-ounce sil­ver proof coin and a 1-ounce sil­ver bul­lion coin. Prices range from 82.5 pounds ($134) for the sil­ver 1-ounce proof coin to 1,950 pounds for the 1-ounce gold proof coin.

Bis­sett says th­ese coins have al­ready be­come pop­u­lar with coin col­lec­tors in­ter­na­tion­ally. There are about 250,000 pieces of the 1-ounce sil­ver bul­lion coins, and more than 50 per­cent of them have been sold al­ready, he says.

The Royal Mint’s rep­u­ta­tion is one fac­tor that has made the coins at­trac­tive for over­seas buy­ers, he says, but he also be­lieves the de­sign con­trib­utes greatly to the at­trac­tion.

“The horse is very strik­ing and, in the back­ground, the Uff­in­g­ton horse adds some­thing to it. So I think we’ve got a very good story to it. That’s the feed­back we’ve re­ceived.”

The fact the horse coin is the first in a se­ries of coins has also helped with its pop­u­lar­ity among col­lec­tors. The Chi­nese in­spi­ra­tion of the coin also helped to make the coins unique, he says.

“I think it’s a rise in the aware­ness of Chi­nese tra­di­tions — and that’s tran­scended out­side the Chi­nese com­mu­nity into other com­mu­ni­ties, who are now repli­cat­ing th­ese tra­di­tions as well.

“As the num­ber of Chi­nese peo­ple in the UK grows, their net­work and res­o­nance in the UK grow, and they share what their tra­di­tions are,” he says.

The Royal Mint traces its ori­gin back more than 1,100 years, but since 2010 it has op­er­ated as Royal Mint Ltd, a com­pany that has an ex­clu­sive con­tract with HM Trea­sury to sup­ply all coinage for the UK. It is fully owned by the UK Trea­sury.

“Given our own lengthy her­itage, we felt we were uniquely placed to ap­ply our crafts­man­ship and artis­tic skills to another cen­turies-old tra­di­tion, that of giv­ing zo­diac coins at the lu­nar New Year,” Bis­sett says.

Wuon-Gean Ho, Bri­tish Chi­nese artist and de­signer of Royal Mint’s lu­nar coin

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