Chinese New Year's coin design the work of Belfast illustrator
Belfast-born award-winning illustrator PJ Lynch has designed a new coin to mark the Chinese Year of the Rat.
The coins have been launched by the Royal Mint to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year with the help of the acclaimed local illustrator.
The 57-year-old, who now lives in Dublin with his wife and three children, is famed for creating everything from tiny postage stamps to huge church mosaics and was previously all-Ireland children's laureate.
Following the worldwide success of its previous coins in the Chinese Zodiac collection, Britain's official coin manufacturer has produced the Year of the Rat coin, the seventh in its series.
The Mint's Chinese Zodiac collection began in 2014 with a coin by British-Chinese designer Ho Wuon-Gean that celebrated the Year of the Horse.
It was followed with a coin for the Year of the Sheep in 2015, one for the Year of the Monkey in 2016, and another for the Year of the Rooster in 2017. The most recent coins in the series were sold in 2018 to mark the Year of the Dog and in 2019 to celebrate the Year of the Pig.
Each lunar year is linked to one of 12 animals, whose traits are attributed to people born during that year.
The Year of the Rat, which starts on January 25, is the first sign of the Chinese Zodiac as it starts its 12-year cycle anew in 2020.
According to Chinese folklore, a race between all of the animals took place to decide the order of the lunar calendar and it was won by the rat, which triumphed by hitching a ride on the ox in order to sneak ahead.
Those born in the Year of the Rat are said to be intelligent, adaptable, and optimistic.
"Following the recent addition to The Queen's Beasts collection (10 coins inspired by ancestral beasts of heraldry, myth, and legend said to watch over the queen), we are pleased to present investors with the opportunity to further develop their portfolio with the latest lunar coin," said Nicola Howell, consumer director at Royal Mint.
"Precious metals are known for their ability to safeguard investments against market volatility and it is reassuring for investors to know that they have a range of options available to them."
The Royal Mint said the coins are a "fusion of British and Chinese tradition, celebrating the Chinese zodiac through bullion coin design" and the exchange of gifts and tokens during the Chinese celebrations symbolizes "good wishes for the recipient's health, wealth, and prosperity".