It's that time of the year again where the Perth Mint unveils its' lineup for the year ahead. Today, we will be focusing on the latest release of the much loved Lunar Series – the 2018 Australian Lunar Series Year of the Dog. This release is part of the second lunar series released by the Perth Mint, which consists of lunar coins minted from 2008 to 2019. We are excited to bring in these coins and they are available for ordering now.
The Chinese Zodiac series, or the “Sheng Xiao”, is a circle of 12 animals that links each year to a particular animal. Each animal is thought to possess different character and personality traits that are often seen in individuals born that year. Those who are born in the Year of the Dog are said to be honest, friendly and have a strong sense of responsibility. People born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 and 2018 are said to be born in the Year of the Dog.
First Look: Gold
The Lunar Dog coins have continued the tradition of “less is more” and we think it looks great! The gold coins feature a Labrador retriever proudly standing on rocks with a stylized pine tree in the background. The design also incorporates the Chinese character for "Dog", the inscription "Year of the Dog", and The Perth Mint's traditional "P" mintmark. Kudos to the Perth Mint for going with a classic interpretation of the animal. The designer portrayed the animal in its’ natural surroundings with a clean and simple background. By continuing with the classic design seen in the previous editions, the Lunar Dog coins should perform well in terms of sales.
As with previous editions, the one ounce denomination has a limited mintage of just 30,000 globally and is expected to sell out quickly like the previous years. For the other denominations, the mintage is unlimited. That means that the Perth Mint will mint the coins for the entire of 2018 and will declare the final mintage at the end of the year. Mintages for fractionals are usually low. For example, the 2016 Year of the Monkey ½ oz gold coin had a mintage of only 11,947.
First Look: Silver
The silver edition is equally stunning. As with previous editions, The Perth Mint has created two different interpretations for the gold and silver editions. The silver coin depicts a German shepherd dog and its’ puppy lying on grass with Chinese peony flowers in the background. The design also incorporates the Chinese character for Dog, the inscription "Year of the Dog" and The Perth Mint's traditional "P" mintmark.
As with previous editions, the one ounce denomination has a limited mintage of 300,000 that is guaranteed to sell out. For the other denominations, the mintage is unlimited. This means that the Perth Mint will mint the coins for the entire of 2018 and will declare the final mintage at the end of the year. Mintages for other denominations are usually low. For example, the 2016 Year of the Monkey 2 oz silver coin had a mintage of only 34,368.
Our first shipment of lunar gold and silver coins will be arriving soon and the following denominations are ready for ordering:
Collectors always lament how the prices for previous editions are much higher after the year has passed. It is noteworthy how the high premiums of past editions are resilient even during periods of lower spot prices. Hence, if you are looking to collect yearly and complete your set, don't wait! For the Perth Mint Lunar Series coins, waiting is not a good idea if you want to get the coins at a reasonable price as they tend to trade at a higher premium above spot compared to other coins due to their relative rarity.
We only have a limited quantity for each denomination available so place your orders now before the coins sell out!
Starting 1 September 2016, the exemption of gold, silver and platinum coins from Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Singapore has been extended. The following coins, all available for ordering at BullionStar.com, are now available for purchase without any GST.
The updated IRAS Guide on Exemption of Investment Precious Metals (IPM) can be found here.
The 1 oz Queens' Beast gold coin is the first of ten coins in a newly released series by the British Royal Mint featuring the heraldic beasts that stood guard at The Queen's coronation. Each 1 oz Queen's Beast is minted in .9999 fine gold and is legal tender at £100. With the coin priced as a bullion coin, it is expected to find its' way into both the hands of investors and collectors.
This is the third coin released by the United Kingdom Royal Mint as part of its' Lunar Series program. The series began in 2014 with the release of the UK Gold Lunar Horse and has attracted investors and collectors alike who are impressed with the design of the coin, as well as the high quality of the finish. The front of the coin features a rhesus monkey swinging through the trees, along with the inscription "Year of the Monkey" . The UK Gold Lunar Monkey has a maximum mintage of just 8,888 coins.
This coin is part of the "Call of the Wild" Series released by the Royal Canadian Mint in 2014. The series highlights animals living in the wild that have been hunted to near extinction. The Gold Growling Cougar 2015 is the second coin in the series. The coin is unique in that the purity of the gold used to mint the coin is 99.999% pure, making it one of the purest gold coins in the world. The coin is legal tender at CAD$200 which is an unusually high denomination.
The 2 oz Queen's Beast silver coin is the first of ten coins in a newly released series by the British Royal Mint featuring the heraldic beasts that stood guard at The Queen's coronation. Each 2 oz Queen's Beast silver coin is minted in .9999 fine silver and is legal tender at £5. 2 oz silver bullion coins are relatively rare. With the attractive design of this coin, it can be purchased for a combination of its investment and collectors' properties.
The Armenian Silver Noah's Ark is one of the most price-worthy bullion coins on the market. The premium is very attractive and is on par or lower than other popular bullion coins like the Silver Maple and Silver Kangaroo. The coin has been minted since 2011. The Armenian Noah's Ark features a dove in flight with an olive branch and Noah's Ark floating on the flood waters. The coin is minted by the German mint, Geiger Edelmetalle. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .999 fine silver and is legal tender at 500 Dram. Also available in 1/2 oz and 1/4 oz.
The Silver Kangaroo is a new bullion release from the Perth Mint and follows in the footsteps of the popular Gold Kangaroo. The Silver Kangaroo features the iconic Australian Red Kangaroo, surrounded by outward radial lines. This enhances the image of the Kangaroo, rendering a 3D-like effect to the kangaroo. With the Silver Kangaroo now exempted from GST, the pricing of the coin is very competitive even compared to the popular Canadian Silver Maples. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .9999 fine silver and is legal tender at AUD$1.
This is the third coin released by the UK Royal Mint as part of its' Lunar Series program. The series was launched in 2014 with the release of the Lunar Horse and has attracted investors and collectors alike who are impressed with the design of the coin, as well as the high quality of the finish. The front of the coin features a rhesus monkey swinging through the trees, along with the inscription "Year of the Monkey". The UK Silver Lunar Monkey has a maximum mintage of just 138,888 coins. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .999 fine silver and is legal tender at GBP£2.
The Peregrine Falcon was the first coin released in the 4-coin "Birds of Prey" Series minted by the Royal Canadian Mint. The series depicts predators in action hunting for its' prey. The reverse of the coin depicts a Peregrine Falcon which can be seen on the coin ready to swoop down to catch its' prey. The mintage for each coin in the "Birds of Prey" series is limited to a maximum of just 1,000,000 coins. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .9999 fine silver and is legal tender at CAD$5.
The Great Horned Owl was the fourth and final coin released in the 4-coin "Birds of Prey" Series minted by the Royal Canadian Mint. The reverse of the coin depicts a menacing Great Horned Howl, wings spread as it descends upon its prey, along with the weight and purity of the coin. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .9999 fine silver and is legal tender at CAD$5.
The Wood Bison was the sixth and final coin released in the Canadian Wildlife Series, a series of coins minted by the Royal Canadian Mint. The series depicted animals in their natural habitat and has proven to be very popular with collectors. The reverse of the coin depicts the Wood Bison, which can be seen galloping through the snow. The mintage for each coin in the Wildlife series is limited to a maximum of just 1,000,000 coins. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .9999 fine silver and is legal tender at CAD$5.
2016 is the inaugural year for the Platinum Philharmonic which follows the Gold Philharmonic, first released in 1989, and the Silver Philharmonic released in 2008. The Platinum Philharmonic features the same loved design as the Gold Philharmonic and Silver Philharmonic. The obverse of the coin depicts the pipe organ in the Vienna Musikverein's Golden Hall. The reverse of the coin shows some of the instruments of the Vienna Philharmonic. Each coin is minted in 1 oz of .9995 fine platinum and is legal tender at €100.
Full official list of Gold Coins qualifying for GST exemption
(i) America Buffalo
(ii) Australia Kangaroo Nugget
(iii) Australia Lunar
(iv) Austria Philharmonic
(v) Canada Maple Leaf
(vi) China Panda
(vii) Malaysia Kijang Emas
(viii) Mexico Libertad
(ix) Singapore Lion
(x) United Kingdom Britannia
(xi) Canada Call of the Wild 3-coin series
(xii) United Kingdom Lunar
(xiii) United Kingdom The Queen's Beasts 10-coin series
Full Official list of Silver Coins qualifying for GST exemption
(i) America Eagle
(ii) Australia Kookaburra
(iii) Australia Koala
(iv) Australia Lunar
(v) Austria Philharmonic
(vi) Canada Maple Leaf
(vii) China Panda
(viii) Mexico Libertad
(ix) United Kingdom Britannia
(x) Australia Saltwater Crocodile
(xi) Canada Wildlife 6-coin series
(xii) Canada Birds of Prey 4-coin series
(xiii) United Kingdom Lunar
(xiv) Armenia Noah’s Ark
(xv) Australia Kangaroo
(xvi) United Kingdom The Queen's Beasts 10-coin series
Full official list of Platinum Coins qualifying for GST exemption
(i) America Eagle
(ii) Australia Koala
(iii) Australia Platypus
(iv) Canada Maple Leaf
(v) Austria Philharmonic
There are many precious metals refineries throughout the world, some local to their domestic markets, and some international, even global in scale. Many, but by no means all, of these refineries are on the Good Delivery Lists of gold and/or silver. These lists are maintained by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) and they identify accredited refineries of large (wholesale) gold and silver bars that continue to meet rigorous proficient standards of refining and assaying, and that are, at the same time, financial viable and stable companies. Currently, there are 71 refiners on the LBMA’s gold Good Delivery List and 81 refiners on its silver Good Delivery List, or which just over 50 of these refineries are accredited to both the LBMA’s gold and silver lists.
But within the top echelons of the world’s precious metals refineries, a number of names stand out due to their sheer scale and pedigree, as well as their global brand recognition in the production of a wide range of investment grade gold and silver bullion bars. These names include PAMP, Argor-Heraeus, Metalor Technologies, Heraeus, Valcambi, Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo, and Rand Refinery.
5000 Tonnes of Gold
Together these seven refinery groups have a combined gold refining capacity approaching a mammoth 5000 tonnes per year. And that’s not even taking into account their refining capacity for other precious metals such as silver and platinum. Valcambi has a gold refining capacity of 1600 tonnes per annum, Metalor 800 tonnes, Heraeus 400 to 500 tonnes, PAMP over 450 tonnes, Argor-Heraeus over 400 tonnes, Tanaka 500 tonnes, and Rand Refinery 600 tonnes.
Notably four of these refineries are based in the gold refining powerhouse of Switzerland, of which three, PAMP, Valcambi and Argor-Heraeus, are clustered literally within a few kilometres from each other in the golden triangle of Swiss refineries centred within the very south of the Swiss canton of Ticino near the Swiss-Italian border. Metalor Technologies is the exception, as its Swiss headquarters facility is based in Neuchâtel, in the north-west of Switzerland. Of the non-Swiss refineries, Heraeus, Tanaka and Rand Refinery, these are headquartered in Germany, Japan and South Africa, respectively.
International in Scale and Ownership
Although three of the four giant Swiss refineries have historically each been owned by a Swiss bank, and although groups such as Heraeus and Tanaka are still privately owned and controlled by founding shareholders, its important to note that none of these giant refineries are purely local concerns, so their headquarters locations are to some extent a secondary concern. From operating facilities, to metal supplier networks, to customer bases, all of these refineries are now absolutely global in nature.
For example, Metalor operates four precious metals refineries globally, in Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore and Massachusetts (US). Heraeus runs gold refining and gold bar production facilities in Hanau (Germany), Hong Kong, and Newark (US). In addition to its Swiss refinery, PAMP, part of the Geneva-based MKS PAMP group, runs a joint venture refinery in New Delhi, in conjunction with MMTC, a large state-owned Indian trading company.
In many cases, the ownership of these refineries is international and cross-border in nature, and increasingly so over the last few years. Agor-Heraeus is owned by the Austrian Mint and two German entities Commerzbank and Hereaus. In 2015, Valcambi was acquired by Indian jewellery producer Rajesh Exports, with one of the selling shareholders being US-based gold mining giant Newmont. Indeed, just last month, Tanaka announced the acquisition of Metalor Technologies, a development which has initiated an upcoming major Japanese - Swiss precious metals refinery combination. Metalor was already international in ownership, as its controlling shareholders are French and Belgian private equity companies. While Rand Refinery of South Africa is exclusively owned by five of the largest South African gold mining companies, some of these owners, such as Anglogold Ashanti and Goldfields, are vast international concerns. Rand Refinery has also increasingly had to cast its new wider for sourcing gold to process in its refinery as South African gold mining output has declined. Rand Refinery now refines over 75% of the gold mined on the African continent (excluding South Africa), and is also increasingly tapping into gold mining output from the US and Asia.
The World's Refinery Referees
Another indicator of the esteem within which these select refineries are held is their membership of the exclusively small panels of good delivery list referees which have been appointed to run the LBMA’s good delivery lists, and similar good delivery lists maintained by the London Platinum and Palladium Market (LPPM) for platinum and palladium bars.
The LBMA’s good delivery referee panel is a five refinery member panel made up of Argor-Heraeus, Metalor Technologies, PAMP, Rand Refinery and Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo. The LPPM’s referee panel also comprises five refiner members, namely Metalor Technologies, PAMP, Valcambi, Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo and platinum specialist Johnson Matthey. So not only are these refineries listed on these LBMA and LPPM good delivery lists, they actually help run the entire set of good delivery standards and processes. With the upcoming acquisition of Metalor by Tanaka, these LBMA and LPPM referee lists may need some adjustment, since Tanaka and Metalor are members of both referee panels.
Overwhelmingly, the gold and silver bars of these refiners are all also accepted as good delivery for the COMEX gold 100 oz and gold kilo futures contracts, the gold contracts of the Tokyo Commodity Exchange (TOCOM), the Dubai Good Delivery gold list maintained by the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), and the good delivery standards of the Shanghai Gold Exchange.
Investment bullion bars
Although all of these precious metals refineries, to various extents, supply semi-fabricated precious metals, alloys and industrial precious metals suppliers to a diverse set of industrial and jewellery sector clients, it is perhaps the investment grade bullion products of these giant refiners that they are best known to a global audience.
PAMP fabricates a vast range of cast and minted gold and silver bars which are extremely popular across Asia and the Middle East, in fact, the premier brand in those regions. Valcambi manufactures a wide range of gold, silver and platinum / palladium investment bars, as well as precious metal coins and medals, and has become well-known as the international supplier of Combibars. Heraeus, Metalor and Argor-Heraeus produce a wide selection of gold and silver bars ranging from large wholesale (good delivery) bars through to smaller cast and minted gold and silver bars. Tanaka’s gold bars dominate the Japanese market and notably, Tanaka is also the sole distributor in Japan of gold and silver bullion Maple Leafs coins from the Royal Canadian Mint and gold and platinum Philharmonic coins from the Austrian Mint. Tanaka's acquisition of Metalor will be interesting in terms of how the combined group markets and distributes its investment bullion products going forward.
It's also not widely appreciated that Rand Refinery has refined over 50,000 tonnes of gold since it first opened in 1921, which is a staggering nearly one-third of all the gold ever mined. Rand Refinery large gold bars are held widely by central banks across the world. Rand Refinery’s flagship gold bullion Krugerrand coin is also held very widely, with over 60 million Krugerrands minted since 1967.
This article has not touched on the Perth Mint, Royal Canadian Mint or Royal Mint, which its important to remember, each operates its own precious metals refinery facilities in addition to being a sovereign national mint.
In summary, the seven refineries featured above are truly giants of the industry, and their longevity and customer trust attest to the authenticity and quality of their investment bullion products.
To learn more about the world's top precious metals refineries featured in this article, please see the full refinery profiles which have now been published on BullionStar's Gold University pages:
The world’s major precious metals mints are currently riding high on the back of extremely strong global bullion coin demand and relatively buoyant gold and silver prices. These mints are predominantly run as commercial enterprises. The sheer scale of revenues that the US Mint, Royal Canadian Mint (RCM), Perth Mint and Austrian Mint have been generating over the last number of years is eye-opening. Not surprisingly, due to their high value nature, revenues from bullion coin sales account for the lion’s share of total revenues for each institution and have been a core driver of their overall profitability.
Official Bullion Coin Programs
Each of these four mints has an official bullion coin program. The US Mint’s program consists of the production and sales of American Eagle Silver bullion coins, American Eagle gold bullion coins, American Buffalo gold bullion coins, America the Beautiful silver coins, and American Eagle Platinum coins. RCM's bullion coin program comprises gold, silver, platinum and palladium Maple Leaf bullion coins, as well as the recently added MapleGrams.
The Perth Mint bullion program is slightly more extensive and briefly consists of the following: Australian Kangaroo gold and silver coin series, Australian Kookaburra silver coin series, Australian Koala silver coin series, Australian Platypus platinum coin series, Australian Lunar gold and Australian Lunar silver coin series. The flagship of the Austrian Mint's bullion program is the Vienna Philharmonic gold bullion coin series, but the mint also produces the Vienna Philharmonic as a silver and platinum bullion coin, as well as historical re-strikes of original Austrian circulation gold ducats, gold guilders and gold crowns.
Bullion Coin Sales Drive Revenues
In fiscal 2015 (to September 30), the US Mint generated revenues of US$2.12 billion on its bullion coin sales. This represented 57.6% of the Mint’s total 2015 revenues of US$ 3.69 billion. Revenues from gold Eagles totalled $979.6 million, silver Eagle sales added $785.4 million, and gold American Buffalos contributed another $252.2 million in revenues.
In 2015, the RCM’s Gold Maple Leaf coin sales generated revenues of CA$1.41 billion while the Silver Maple Leaf coins added a further CA$687 million, giving a combined revenue of CA$2.1 billion. This represented over 80% of RCM’s total bullion revenues in 2015, and nearly 71% of RCM’s total 2015 group revenues.
The Austrian Mint’s annual report for 2015 is not out yet but will be published in early July. For calendar 2014, the Austrian Mint generated revenues of €1.14 billion. The biggest revenue contributors were gold bullion coin sales of €464.2 million and gold bar sales of €391.7 million. Together the Austrian’s Mint’s gold coin and bar sales represented a combined 75% of total mint revenues.
However, profit margins on the mints’ bullion coin sales are relatively small. For example, in fiscal year 2015, the US Mint only generated bullion income of $61.1 million on bullion revenue of $2.126 billion, so this was a margin of 2.87%. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that the bullion sales of these mints, both in coins and bars, supply a global distribution network of precious metals wholesalers, bullion dealers and banks on the downstream side, as well as a chain of precious metals suppliers, refineries and gold miners upstream. Not to forget the ultimate beneficiaries of bullion sales, the investors and collectors. There is therefore an entire virtuous ecosystem built around the bullion coin output of these giant precious metals mints.
Furthermore, an often overlooked point is that with all four of these mints, profits from operations can and often do go to the mints’ owners in the form of either transfers or dividends. For three of the mints, their owners are governments. For the Austrian Mint it is owned by a government-owned central bank, which is essentially the same thing.
Government Ownership and Dividends
The US Mint is part of the US Department of the Treasury, and reports to the Office of the Treasurer. The Mint is structured as a Public Enterprise Fund (PEF) under 31 U.S.C. § 5136 and generates its own revenues without the need for Federal appropriations. Any revenue that the US Mint deems to be excess to it’s needs is transferred to the Treasury General Fund.
For fiscal year 2015 (to September 30), the US Mint transferred $561 million to the Treasury General Fund, however $11 million of this was income from numismatic / bullion products, as the rest was a seigniorage transfer from the sale of circulating coins to the Federal Reserve Banks. But interesting, this $11 million can actually be used to reduce the US Treasury’s budget deficit.
The Royal Canadian Mint (RCM), a federal Crown corporation of the Government of Canada, is 100% owned by the Canadian Government and reports to the Canadian Department of Finance. Like the US Mint, the RCM is not funded by the Government and is predominantly run as a commercial organization except for the Canadian circulation coin program which since 2014 has been operated on a non-profit basis. Although the RCM made a small loss in fiscal 2015 (its year-end is December 31) due to a one-off impairment, it still paid dividends of CA$53 million to the Government of Canada which was a lot higher than previous years due to strong Maple Leaf coin sales.
The Perth Mint, through a holding company called Gold Corporation, is 100% owned by the Government of Western Australia. Western Australia is a state within the Commonwealth of Australia. The Perth Mint group operates on a fully commercial basis and is self-funding. In its fiscal 2015 results to June 30, the Mint made a profit after tax of AU$14 million and also paid a dividend of AU$10.54 million to the Government of Western Australia.
The Austrian Mint (Münze Österreich) is fully owned by Austria’s central bank, the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB). The OeNB’s capital is itself fully owned by the Austrian government. Although the Austrian Mint 2015 annual report is not yet published, the Austrian central bank has already reported that for 2015, it received a regular dividend of a cool €89 million from the Austrian Mint. In 2014, the Austrian Mint paid the central bank an even bigger dividend of €184.8 million out of its net profit.
Silver - Gold Production Ratio
The relative importance of gold and silver bullion coin sales varies across each mint and between years since each Mint’s bullion program differs, and demand patterns ebb and flow.
In 2015, the US Mint sold 801,500 ounces (24.93 tonnes) of gold American Eagles and 220,500 ounces (6.86 tonnes) of gold American Buffalos, for total gold bullion coin sales of 1,022,000 ounces (31.79 tonnes). Silver American Eagle sales reached 47 million ounces (1,461.85 tonnes) in 2015, with another 1,060,000 ounces (32.97 tonnes) of America the Beautiful 5 oz coins sold, bringing total US Mint silver bullion coin sales to 48.06 million ounces (1,494.82 tonnes).
Using a metric of silver ounces sold compared to gold ounces sold, this gives a silver to gold coin sales ratio of 47:1 for the US Mint. In 2015, the RCM sold 953,000 ounces of gold Maple Leaf bullion coins (29.6 tonnes), and 34.3 million ounces (1067 tonnes) of silver Maple Leaf bullion coins, giving a silver to gold coin sales ratio of 36 for the RCM. Therefore applied to 2015, it is justifiable for the US Mint to say that it was the world’s largest seller of gold bullion coins and silver bullion coins.
Although the Austrian Mint hasn’t published its full 2015 bullion sales statistics yet, it did reveal to Bloomberg earlier this year that its combined gold coin and gold bars sales for 2015 totalled 1.32 million ounces (41 tonnes), and its combined silver sales in 2015 totalled 7.3 million ounces (227 tonnes). This would give a general silver to gold ratio for the Austrian Mint of only 5.53, which highlights the Austrian Mint’s relative concentration on gold bullion over silver bullion.
In 2014, the Austrian Mint sold 483,700 ounces (15 tonnes) of gold coins, mainly Vienna Philharmonics, and 410,364 ounces of gold bars (12.75 tonnes). Total gold sold was therefore 894,000 ounces (27.75 tonnes). The Mint’s silver coin sales approximated 144.4 tonnes of silver in 2014. This would give a silver to gold coin ratio of 9.63 and a silver coin to total gold (coins and bars) ratio of 5.2.
Overall, the world’s largest mints are a useful source of income for their government owners. More importantly though, these Mints actually make the valuable and high quality investment gold and silver coins and bars that are in such high demand right now, and that also provide tangible economic benefits such as employing large numbers of people around the world in highly skilled jobs.
To learn more about the world's top Mints, please see full profiles of these Mints which have now been published on BullionStar's Gold University pages: