Chinese Platinum Lunar Coins
Between the years of 1988 and 1999, the China Mint released a series of lunar coins struck in platinum. All of the coins released during these years are one ounce of 99.95% pure platinum, and all coins measure 32 millimeters in diameter. All of these coins are proof in quality, meaning that each coin was struck multiple times during the minting process. The embellishments, which appear to have a three dimensional quality, appear almost delicately engraved on the mirror-like background of the coins. The coins released during these years each feature the same scenes rendered on their one ounce gold and one ounce silver counterparts. The China mint also released the one ounce silver and one ounce gold lunar series between 1988 and 1999.
Platinum is a much denser metal than either gold or silver. It also has a higher melting point and is more difficult to work with than the softer gold and silver metals. Though platinum is presently valued similarly to gold, it is a much scarcer metal and difficult to come by in nature and mine too. Because of the scarcity of this metal, it is a material not as frequently used in the manufacture of Chinese coins. In fact, this lunar series, honoring all of the animals of the zodiac, is the only platinum lunar series ever released by the China Mint - and few others exist too.
The first coin of the series was released in the Year of the Dragon, and because of this, bears an image of two dragons on the reverse face and an iconic image of the Temple of Heaven on the obverse face. This is the only coin in the series that features the Temple of Heaven on the obverse; all of the other coins feature the National Emblem of China. Like all other coins in the series, the top edge of the obverse face shows the inscription, "The People's Republic of China." At the bottom edge of the obverse, on each of the coins, one can see the year of issue. On the reverse face, the specifications of the metallic properties are printed: "contains one ounce of pure platinum, .9995 Pt."
Each of the other coins in this series shows a painting of the animal of the Chinese Zodiac that corresponds to the year of issue. These illustrations of the animals of the zodiac were each carefully copied from paintings important to Chinese culture and history. For example, the 1995 one ounce platinum lunar coin features a rendering of "Picture of a Pig" by Huang Zhou. Zhou was a prominent artist of the 20th century in China, and he was renowned for his versatility of style and subject. Similarly notable artists are honored on each of the coins in this series.
As mentioned above, each of the coins, save for the dragon coin of 1988, displays the National Emblem of China on the obverse face of the coin. The emblem displays the Tiananmen Gate, one of the entrances to the Forbidden City of Beijing. The Gate is encircled by sheaves of wheat and rice, the fuel for Mao's agricultural revolution. The emblem honors the Chinese Communist Party with five stars placed directly above the gate. The largest star represents the Party itself, while the four remaining stars represent Mao's four classes of workers.
Each of these beautiful coins was released in a display box that contained a certificate of authenticity. In some of the earlier years, there are sets containing a one ounce coin of each of the three precious metals. These coins were distributed together in plaque with a display box and a single certificate of authenticity for the group.