There are six denominations of Canadian circulation coinage in production: 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1, and $2. Officially they are each named according to their value (e.g. "ten cent piece"), but in practice the three smallest denominations are never called by those names. They are invariably known as the nickel, dime, and quarter respectively; and the two largest coins are very often called the loonie and the toonie respectively. The production of the Canadian one cent piece (known as the penny) was discontinued in 2012, as inflation had reduced its value significantly below the cost of production.
The 50¢ piece, though in circulation, is far less circulated than the other coins. Between the years 2000 and 2007 the Royal Canadian Mint struck 15,950,000 50¢ pieces; in comparison, during the same period 2,262,165,000 quarters were released (approximately 142 times as many). This coin is sometimes called a half dollar, but the name 50¢ piece is also used.
Other than the $2 coin, the denominations of Canadian coinage correspond to those of United States coinage. The sizes of the coins less than 50¢ are similar to those of U.S. coins, though this was not always the case. While the coins tend to have diameters almost equal to the equivalent U.S. coinage, most of the coins are thinner and weigh less than the equivalent U.S. coinage. The US penny settled on its current size in 1857, whereas the Canadian penny was much larger (25.4 mm/1 inch) until 1920. There was some correspondence between the size of Canadian coins and British coins of similar value. For example, the large Canadian penny was identical in size and value to the contemporary British half-penny, which was 25.4 mm in the Edward VII version, and slightly larger during Victoria's reign. Likewise, the Canadian quarter (23.81 mm diameter) was virtually identical in size and value to the British shilling (worth 12 British pence or about 24 Canadian cents, with a 24 mm diameter). The Canadian 5¢ cent coins, until the larger nickel coins of 1922, were 15 mm silver coins quite different from the US "Liberty head" nickels of 1883-1913, which were 21.2 mm and copper/nickel alloy, but more like the older U.S. half dimes.
Modest quantities of U.S. coinage circulate in Canada at par, and some Canadian coins (generally those with value less than 50¢, but mostly pennies and nickels due to their near identical composition) circulate in the United States as well, though recent changes to the appearance and composition of Canadian coinage have made acceptance of these coins by merchants in the United States less certain. This partial interchangeability led to some concern when the United States Mint decided that the new Sacagawea Dollar coin would have the same diameter and coloring as the Canadian $1 coin, the "loonie", although this proved to be a non-issue.
Changes in coinage the most significant recent developments in Canadian coinage were the introduction of $1 and $2 coins and the withdrawal of the one cent piece. The $1 coin (the "loonie") -- was released in 1987. The $1 banknote would remain in issue and in circulation alongside the one dollar coin for the next two years, until it was withdrawn in 1989. The coin was to be the voyageur-design silver (then nickel) dollar coins that had previously been in limited circulation. The dies were lost/stolen(?) in Nov 1986, requiring a redesign. The new coin is colloquially called the "loonie," for the common loon on its reverse, and the name is frequently applied to the currency unit as well. It is made of nickel plated with aureate bronze. The $2 coin, carrying a polar bear, was introduced in 1996. It is usually called the "toonie" and is bimetallic. The $2 banknote was withdrawn at the same time that the coin was released. Unlike several U.S. attempts to introduce a dollar coin, the new coins were quickly accepted by the public, owing largely to the fact that the Bank of Canada and the government forced the switch by removing the $1 and $2 bills from circulation.
Between 1997 and 2001, the $1 loon coin was not issued for general circulation. Due to the high demand for the $2 polar bear coin (mintages between 1997 and 2001 were as high as 29 million in 2000 alone), the $1 coin was only produced for the standard collector sets that were made available on an annual basis, such as the Uncirculated, O Canada, Specimen and Proof sets.
On March 29, 2012, the Canadian government announced that the 1¢ coin would be retired. The Royal Canadian Mint stopped producing 1¢ coins in May 2012, and in February 2013 the Bank of Canada stopped distributing them, but the coins remain legal tender. Cash transactions are rounded to the nearest 5¢, while non-cash transactions (using cheques, credit cards, or debit cards) will continue to be rounded to the nearest 1¢.
Production Canadian coins are issued by the Royal Canadian Mint and struck at their facilities in Winnipeg. All special wording on commemorative coins appears in both of Canada's languages, English and French. All of the standard wording on the reverse sides of non-commemorative coins is identical in both languages. On the obverse sides, the name and title of the Canadian Monarch appear in an abbreviated-Latin circumscription. Currently, this reads "ELIZABETH II D. G. REGINA." The initials stand for "Dei Gratia;" the entire phrase means "Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, Queen."
The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics commemorative quarters have dropped the inscription "D.G. REGINA," and they read "CANADA ELIZABETH II," along with the date of issue and Ilanaaq, the emblem of the games.
HistoryCoins of the ColoniesBeginning in 1858, various colonies of British North America started issuing their own coins denominated in cents, featuring the likeness of Queen Victoria on the obverse. These replaced the sterling coins previously in circulation. The Province of Canada was the first to issue decimal coins. They were based on the value of the American dollar, due to an influx of American silver. Denominations issued were 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, and 20¢. The 1¢ coin was issued again in 1859, but it was very unpopular due to its extremely light weight. The coins had to be discounted by around 20% to get them into circulation. Other colonies that issued decimal coinage were New Brunswick and Nova Scotia both starting in 1861, Newfoundland in 1865, and Prince Edward Island in 1871. Many examples can be seen online via the Canadian Currency Museum.
In 1867, the British parliament passed the British North America Act, uniting the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into the Dominion of Canada. Coins of the three former colonies continued to circulate until 1870, with all being legal tender in all provinces of the Dominion. As other colonies subsequently entered confederation, they dropped their colonial coinage and adopted the national Canadian currency.
Queen Victoria coinage]In 1870, the first national coinage of the Dominion of Canada was issued in denominations of 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, and 50¢. A 1¢ coin was not issued until 1876. The designs were standardized with the head of Queen Victoria on the obverse, value and date with a crowned maple wreath reverse, except for the 1¢ coin, which had on its reverse a maple vine circlet.
King Edward VII coinageIn 1902, the first coins of King Edward VII's coinage was issued. The 1902 5¢ coin is of interest to collectors, as its design includes the outmoded St. Edward's Crown instead of the Imperial State Crown. These coins were hoarded upon being issued, as the public believed that an error had been made. In 1903, the design on the 5¢ was modified accordingly.
In 1907, Heaton's Mint struck its last issue of Canadian coins - the 1907H 1¢, which is quite scarce. In 1908, the Royal Canadian Mint at Ottawa was opened. At that time the Ottawa mint was known as the Royal Mint, Ottawa branch. The name "Royal Canadian Mint" was first used in 1931.
The reverse design on the 10¢ coins include several varieties in relation to the leaves.
King George V coinageThis coinage is known as the "Godless" coinage, because the abbreviation "DEI GRA", (for "DEI GRATIA" or "[king] by the grace of God"), was omitted from King George V's titles. When the public noticed this, there was a huge outcry at this breach of tradition, and the phrase was later restored. All the coins from the 1¢ to 50¢ were issued. The 50¢ is the scarcest of all the coins minted in 1911 with a mintage of 209,972. The Canadian Coin News publication printed an article showing a well-worn 1911 50¢ example that did have the "DEI GRA" abbreviation. This coin has not yet been certified as genuine, having been rejected by ICCS, the popular Canadian grading company. The 1911 pattern dollar coin was produced with the 'DEI GRA' abbreviation on the 2 known silver examples and the 1 known example in lead.
Obverse of a 1917 Canadian ten-cent piece.
In 1920, The fineness of the silver coins was changed from .925 fine silver to .800 fine silver, and the size of the cent was reduced. In 1921, the last silver 5¢ coins were struck. These are extremely rare, numbering less than 400. These were replaced in 1922, by a larger nickel coin, copying an earlier change in the United States.
There are a few scarce dates, especially the 1925 and the 1926. There are two types of the 1926: the "near 6" type, which has the tail of the 6 lower down and near to the maple leaf, and the rarer "far 6" type. The 1921 50¢ is also an extremely rare coin. It is the rarest of the King George V series.
The first Canadian silver $1 coin was issued as a commemorative coin in 1935 to commemorate King George V's Silver Jubilee. The portrait of the King on this coin was the same as that of the coins of several other countries. This coin also bears the famous coureur des bois design, which was designed by Emmanuel Hahn. This coin, and others issued since with this reverse design, have the affectionate nickname of "voyageur dollars".
King George V died on January 20, 1936, and was succeeded by King Edward VIII. Because his abdication occurred before production of any Canadian coinage with his likeness could commence, no Canadian coins bear his image.
In 1937, There was a pressing demand for 1¢, 10¢, and 25¢ coins, but as the Royal Canadian Mint was waiting for new tools and matrices to arrive from the Royal Mint, the decision was made to strike coins dated 1936, but a dot would be added in the area near the date to indicate that the coins were struck in 1937. The 1¢ and 10¢ coins with the dot are excessively rare, so rare in fact that only four or five specimens are known. In 2004, a "Dot cent", as they are sometimes called, sold at auction for $207,000. The one cent coin was sold again in the Canadiana sale for $400,000 while an example of the ten cent piece with the dot sold for $184,000. The 25¢ coin, while not in the same class with the cent and ten cent piece, is still a very difficult coin to find.
Canadian gold circulation coinsGold coins for circulation (earlier rejected "for fear of committing a breach of the Royal Prerogative") were issued from 1912 to 1914 only, in $5 and $10 denominations, though sovereigns, to British standards, were issued in small quantities for some years. The minting of gold coins for circulation ceased due to the onset of the first world war, when the government of Canada recovered the majority of circulating gold coins to finance the war. Reissue plans were dropped in 1928. According to the Mint, a large quantity of the 1912-1914 gold coins were stored by the Bank of Canada for over 75 years.In 2012, the Mint offered 30,000 coins from the collection for sale to the public through its retail channels and stated that it would melt and refine the remainder of the 245,000 coins to sell the gold content.
1947 Maple Leaf coinageMain article: 1947 Maple LeafThrough 1947 the George VI coins bore the inscription GEORGIVS VI D:G: REX ET IND:IMP: ("Georgius VI, Dei Gratia, Rex et Indiae Imperator", or "George VI, by the grace of God, King and Emperor of India"). But as India became independent that year as the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan, "Emperor of India" needed to be dropped from the coinage. However, there was a demand for coinage. So, while waiting for the new tools and matrices to arrive from the Royal Mint, the decision was made to strike 1947-dated coinage, but a maple leaf symbol would be added next to the date to indicate that the coins were actually struck in 1948. The silver $1 exists in two types: "tall 7" and "short 7". The voyageur $1 is also the rarest coin. The 1¢ is the most common coin. The 1¢ exists as two varieties, "blunt 7" and "pointed 7". The blunt 7 is scarcer and thus more valuable. The upper part of the 7 near the maple twig is slightly blunted compared to the normally found pointed variety. The pointed 7 is actually the same as used on the 1947 regular-issue 1¢. The 50¢ coin also exists with two "7" varieties. While fairly scarce, the curved left (or straight) 7 is much more common than the curved right 7. The regular 1947 50¢ coins also came with left and right curved 7 numerals. These 1947 varieties without the maple leaf are similarly valued except for the curved right 7 in extremely high grade. The 1947 maple leaf 5¢, 10¢, and 25¢ do not have notable varieties and are all fairly common coins.
King George VI royal coinage (1948-52The new tools and matrices arrived from London, so the issuing of the Maple Leaf coinage ceased as a result. The obverse of the coins is inscribed GEORGIVS VI DEI GRATIA REX (George VI by the Grace of God, King). During the issue of this coinage, a commemorate silver $1 was struck in 1949 to commemorate Newfoundland becoming the tenth province of Canada. The 1948 coins are very scarce, especially the 50¢ and the silver $1. This is due to the slow delivery of the modified tools and matrices from London.
In this coinage, there are several notable varieties. The first of these is the 1950 "no lines in 0" 50¢ coin. The most famous variety of this series is the "Arnprior dollar", which has one and a half waterlines near the bow of the canoe instead of the normal three waterlines. This variety is named after the town of Arnprior, Ontario, where this variety was discovered.
Queen Elizabeth II coinage Several series of coins were issued under the reign of Elizabeth II, including the current series. The first was the 1953-1964 coins. The updated Obverse (mature portrait) of the Queen was added to all coins in 1965. For 1959, the 50¢ piece Reverse was redesigned, updating the Canada Crest. In 1968, the 10¢ and higher denominations were debased, their silver alloy being replaced by nickel. The dime of 1969 has two varieties, a large 9 (rare) and small 9 (common). In 1973, an RCMP quarter came out; it also has two varieties, a large bust(rare) and small bust (common).
In 1987, the loonie was introduced, replacing the voyageur dollar with a new design, new colour, and smaller size. This coin also replaced the $1 bill, which was subsequently withdrawn from circulation by the Bank of Canada. In February 1996, the $2 coin, or toonie, was released; it currently has three varieties. (Early examples had problems with the centres being punched out in circulation.) The toonie replaced the $2 bill. To date there have been four different obverse portraits of the Queen used on Canadian coinage, with new portraits introduced in 1953, 1965, 1990 and 2003. Prior to 1990, the Queen's portraits (1953 by Mary Gillick and 1965 by Arnold Machin) were designed by the British Royal Mint, and were similar to those used on British, Australian and New Zealander coinage. The 1990 and 2003 portraits are designed by Canadian artists, 1990 effigy by Dora dePedery-Hunt and 2003 effigy by Susanna Blunt, and are unique to Canadian coinage.
In 2000 all coins below $1 were changed to steel with copper or nickel plating; in 2012 this was extended to the $1 and $2 coins as well. The 50¢ piece is regularly minted, but not in large quantities; it is very rare to come across this coin in circulation, although an unsuccessful attempt was made by the Mint to promote the use of the coin when a special edition was released in 2002 marking the 50th anniversary of Elizabeth II ascending the throne.
Special edition coinsAlthough the Mint has produced many special edition coins in recent years, Canada does have a history of such coins. From 1943 to 1945, the Mint issued the "Victory nickel" to promote the Canadian war effort. In 1951 a circulating commemorative coin, a 5 cent piece for the bicentennial of the discovery of the element nickel, was released. In 1967, all Canadian coins were issued with special reverses to celebrate the Canadian centennial. Six years later, a "Mountie quarter" was issued in 1973 to commemorate the centennial of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
In recent years, the Mint has issued several series of coins with special reverses. Most of them have been 25¢ coins, particularly in the years 1999–2001. There were also versions of the $2 coin commemorating the founding of Nunavut, and another with a family of polar bears; there have been several variants of the $1 coin, one of which featured the Canadian peacekeepers' monument in Ottawa to commemorate the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. A commemorative Terry Fox $1 coin began circulating on April 4, 2005.
On October 21, 2004, the Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a 25¢ poppy coin. This coin features a red poppy (Papaver rhoeas) that is coloured red,embedded in the centre of a maple leaf above a banner reading "Remember - Souvenir". It is the world's first coloured coin. While some countries' mints have produced colourized coins for market to collectors, this is the first colourized coin in general circulation in the world.
The Mint states that, with normal wear and tear, the colour should remain for a number of years, although this claim was quickly disproved. The colouration compounds are attached to the metal on a specially prepared 'dimpled' section of the coin, and seem to come off easily if deliberately rubbed. The coin will retain its full value even if the red poppy has worn off or been removed; however it is now expected that fully coloured specimens will become collectible in the future.
In an isolated incident in the United States these coins were briefly reported as a possible 'spy tool' by some US Defense Contractors unfamiliar with the odd-seeming coin and raised espionage warnings until the situation was clairified.
On May 4, 2005 the Mint unveiled a new "Victory nickel", reminiscent of the original issued during the Second World War. The new coin commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory in World War II. A mintage of 59,258,000 Victory nickels were produced and treated as regular circulation coins.
In 2005, 25¢ and $5 coins commemorating the centennial of two of Canada's provinces were released: the coin for Alberta represents oil exploration in that province; the coin for Saskatchewan depicts a singing meadowlark and a grain elevator. Later the same year, the Mint later issued a Year Of The Veteran coin to honour military veterans, again in the 25¢ denomination. On February 21, 2007, the mint announced that they would be producing a 100 kilogram coin the size of a large pizza with a face value of $1 million. This new coin bears the highest face value in the world, using approximately $2 million of 99.999% pure bullion, and 5 were produced and sold to investors.