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Mint Strikes Special 'Year Of The Rat' Coins For Chinese New Year

A new series of coins marking the Year of the Rat have been released by the Royal Australian Mint, in a special tribute to the "clever, outgoing and sensitive" people born under that sign.

The Mint releases an annual series of coins for each sign of the Chinese lunar zodiac, but next year will mark the start of a new 12-year cycle -- and considering the number two is considered lucky for those born in the Year of the Rat, the year 2020 is said to "a particularly fortunate" one.

"Ahead of upcoming Chinese New Year festivities in our community, the Royal Australian Mint has released intricately designed collectible coins," said federal assistant treasurer Michael Sukkar.

The $1 coin. Image: Royal Australian Mint

He called them "not only a traditional gift for those who celebrate Chinese New Year but ... a beautiful tangible memento of the start of the next lunar calendar cycle."

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The Chinese lunar zodiac, known as sheng xiao, features 12 animal signs representing one year each of the 12-year cycle -- starting with rat. The cycle continues with the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

The Year of the Rat begins on January 25, 2020.

The reverse side of the $100 coin. Image: Royal Australian Mint

"The artistic coins are a special tribute to the clever, outgoing and sensitive people who will be born under the first sign of Sheng Xiao," the Mint said.

"In the new collection, designs featured on the coins include the sharp-witted Rat surrounded by the lucky lychee, the symbol Fu meaning happiness and the lunar calendar wheel, which reflects the traditional story of the race between the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac."

"According to Chinese tradition, the Emperor of Heaven challenged the animals to a race. The smart, persuasive Rat hitched a ride with the Ox and won the honour of being the first sign of the 12-year lunar calendar."

A silver ingot released as part of the series. Image: Royal Australian Mint

The coins, which are legal Australian tender, come in denominations of 50 cents, $1, $5 and a special $100 'gold domed coin' with a retail price of $2995.

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The 50 cent coin features a rat design on its front and the traditional Queen Elizabeth design on its back; the $1 has a different rat design, with one version depicting the Queen, and another where the Queen is replaced by Chinese symbols.

The $5 coin does feature the Queen on the back surrounded by Chinese zodiac animals, as does the $100 coin.

The 50 cent coin. Image: Royal Australian Mint

Also available is a rectangular $1 silver ingot, featuring the rat and Queen design.

The new coins are available for purchase from the Mint's website.