Starting Your Coin Collection – The History of Canadian Coins
The History of Canadian Coinage and Collecting Canadian Coins
Canadian coinage was approved by Queen Victoria around July of 1858, and was minted in England at the Heaton Mint. These were the first official coins in the history of Canadian money. These coins were struck in denominations of one, five, ten, and twenty cents, and were designed by Leonard Charles Wyon. Nobody knew it yet, but this was the beginning of how collecting Canadian coins started. In 1901, Canada was allowed to have its own coin mint, and was called the Royal Canadian Mint.
Throughout our history, coins have been struck with portraits of the monarchs of Great Britain during those years on the obverse, which is the ‘heads’ side of the coin. Coins from 1858 to 1901 had the image of Queen Victoria, 1902 to 1910 had King Edward VII, 1911 to 1936 had King George V, 1937 to 1952 had King George VI, and from 1953 until today, coins bare the image of Queen Elizabeth II.
Over the years, coins have been produced in various denominations including the 1 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent, 25 cent, 50 cent, 1 dollar, 2 dollar, 5 dollar, 10 dollar, and 20 cent pieces. Dollars started being minted in 1935 and were made of 80% silver up until and including 1967. The 2 dollar coin, or “toonie” was first minted in 1996 and are still being produced today. The elusive 20 cent coin was only produced in the first year of Canadian coinage in 1858.
In the collecting of Canadian coins, or numismatics, coins receive a grade on how close they are to how the coin was originally struck. This grading system was invented by William Herbert Sheldon, and is a scale from 1, which is the lowest possible grade to 70, which is perfect and the coin is exactly as it was struck.
1-2 – P – Poor
3 – AG – About Good
4-7 – G – Good
8-11 – VG – Very Good
12-19 – F – Fine
20-39 – VF – Very Fine
40-49 – EF – Extra Fine
50-58 – AU – About Uncirculated
60-70 – MS – Mint State
1925 1 Cent
1921 5 Cent
1889 10 Cent
1921 50 Cent
To start collecting Canadian coins, collectors like to think in terms of condition and rarity. Knowing how many coins of a particular issue were struck, as well as knowing the grade of the given coin, can be imperative in determining the rarity and value. A coin may be very valuable if it is rare, even in a poorer condition. Examples of coins like that are what are known as ‘key dates’ issues. The 1948 dollar, the 1921 50 cent, the 1915 25 cent, the 1889 10 cent, the 1921 5 cent, and the 1925 1 cent are all key dates based on the small number that were struck of each.
Collectors in any field like to have the best of the best, and collecting Canadian coins isn’t any different. Companies that professionally grade coins, like PCGS, NGC, or ICCS have databases, or population reports, of all of the coins they have graded. This gives collectors the ability to see how many coins have received that particular grade, or higher. When there aren’t any coins that have been graded higher, the coin is deemed ‘finest known’, and is always highly sought after by collectors who are willing to pay a premium to have the best.
Every coin is not struck in the same manner. Coins can be business strikes, specimens, prooflikes, or proofs. A business strike coin was intended to be used for circulation. When a business strike coin is in uncirculated, or in mint state condition, the original mint lustre can be clearly identified from other strikes (Lot 271). A specimen coin is struck against a matte or lined background in order to achieve maximum visual impact. These coins are struck up to two times on numismatic presses (Lot 272). Prooflikes are coins intended for collectors which have a highly reflective, mirror like fields (Lot 269).
Understanding the difference in what strike a coin is, is integral to collecting coins. There can be substantial differences in prices for different strikes of the same coin, from the same year, in the same technical grade. For example, a 1964 silver dollar in MS-65 (business strike) has a retail price of $755, in PL-65 (prooflike strike) it has a retail price of $21, and in SP-65 (specimen strike) has a retail price of $461. Paying for a business strike in the case, and finding out you purchased a prooflike, will be very disappointing to any collector.