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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is one of the most loved Prime Ministers today. His appointment of an equal number of men and women in his Parliament, the appointment of Noble Laureates as Members of Parliament, etc gained him immense respect. He recently opened doors to immigrants from United States of America (US) as well as other countries. But how much do you know about the coins of Canada and the history of this beautiful country?

Canada, a country in the Northern half of the continent of North America covers an area of 9.98 million square kilometers. It is the world’s second-largest country by total area and the fourth largest country by land area.

 

In 1497, King Henry VII of England sent an Italian explorer John Cabot on an expedition to Canada or “Newfoundland” who discovered the wealth lying in this coastline. This would serve as a future need to colonize Canada. Around the 1530s, Jacques Cartier, a French explorer also sailed towards St. Lawrence River. Establishing themselves in the St. Lawrence Valley, they referred to it as New French. The English-French rivalry was at its peak in the 17th Century. There was a struggle for Canadian colonization and with the Treaty of Paris (1763) New France was handed over to Britain.

 

Despite sharing borders with the United States of today, Canada remained loyal to England during the American War of Independence. After the war, the Great Lake served as the border between US and Canada.

 

With immigrants coming to Canada and the vast cultural differences between the French and England occupied lands of Canada, protest for greater rights began. The Constitutional Act of 1791 passed by the Crown of England divided Canada into Upper Canada (French) and Lower Canada (English). They later united to form the province of Canada.

 

The official birth of Canada was in 1867 after Britain passed the British North American Act giving Canada the liberty to govern itself; it became the first dominion of the British Empire. However, their powers were still constrained- Canada could not sign its own treaties nor have representatives in international meetings and foreign embassies. The Canada Act of 1982 finally severed Canada’s last remaining rites with the British Parliament.

 

Despite this, Queen Elizabeth II is still head and Queen of Canada. This is the reason busts of Queen Elizabeth II – the current monarch of England – and George V – the past monarch of England – appear on the obverse of coins of Canada.

 

The history of the coinage of Canada is simple yet beautiful. It is similar to that of the coinage of the United States, though certain aspects of it are very different. Canadian coins found their way into the US currency and vice a versa as both their basic currency- the dollar, was similar. To distinguish Canadian Currency from other dollar-denominated currencies, it was divided into 100 cents and given the value of ‘C$’ (Canadian Dollars).

 

It was in 1857 that the dollar was established as the monetary unit of Canada post-independence. The value of both the US dollars and Canadian dollars was more or less similar for many years until some years ago when the value of Canadian dollars reduced considerably.

 

The first decimal coins were issued in 1858 and the denominations were 1, 5, 10 and 20 cents. These were issued in the name of the Province of Canada- Upper (Ontario) and Lower (Quebec) Canada. The first truly Canadian coins of denominations 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents were issued in 1870 after the confederation of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into these provinces. Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland also issued their own coins prior to their confederation to the provinces mentioned above.

 

Coins of Canada were originally issued with a .925 silver content as opposed to .900 fine standards of US silver coins. This was later reduced to .800 in 1920 and .500 by mid-1967 and abandoned a year later in favor of pure nickel coins. Another contrast was the issue of large cents from 1858-1920, while the US introduced a smaller cent of similar size, content, and weight.

 

Both United States and Canadian currency had a 20 cent provincial issue that was accepted in both the countries. To avoid this problem, Canada issued a 25 cent issue around 1870, abandoning the 20 cents. Plans for issuing a silver dollar were in discussion since 1911; it was introduced only in 1935 after the US halted its issue of silver dollars.

 

The first dollar issued (1936) had a portrait of George V, in commemoration of the silver jubilee of his reign. For some years in the beginning, Canadian coins were struck at London’s Royal Mint or at the Heaton Mint in England. Coins issued at Heaton Mint have the mintmark “H” on them; coins minted at Royal Mint had none.

 

Coins of Canada are graded on similar standards as US coins. The points of greatest wear are on the obverse in the bands of crowns, sprays of laurel around the head and in hairlines above or over the ear. The reverse is usually fine unless it is abnormally worn.

 

There are seven main denominations of coins of Canada in use today: 1 C$ (Loonie), 2 C$ (Toonie or Twoonie), 50 Cent (Half Dollar), 25 Cent (Quarter), 10 cents (Dime), 5 Cent (Nickel) and 1 Cent (Penny).

 

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The 1 C$ dollar coin is called “Loonie” because it has a picture of a ‘loon’, the national bird of Canada on the reverse within a dotted circle. On the obverse of the coin currently in circulation is the bust of Elizabeth II facing right surrounded by a divided legend “ELIZABETH II D.G.REGINA” meaning ‘Queen Elizabeth II by the Grace of God’ within a dotted circle. It is made up of gold-colored nickel and was introduced in 1987. It weighs between 6.27 to 7gms and has a diameter of 26.5 mm.

 

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The 2 C$ is called “Toonie” or “Twonie” as it is made up of two different colors of metal. It replaced the two-dollar bill in mid-nineties as the notes, though cheaper to produce, lasted only a year. On the obverse of the coin currently in circulation is the portrait of Elizabeth II facing right within a circle of aluminum bronze plating. It is surrounded by a divided legend “ELIZABETH II D.G.REGINA” meaning ‘Queen Elizabeth II by the Grace of God’ within an outer steel ring. On the reverse is the portrait of a polar bear within the aluminum bronze circle and is surrounded by the continuous legend “CANADA 2 DOLLARS”. It weighs between 6.92 and 7.30gms and has a diameter of 28mm.

 

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The 50 Cent or “Half Dollar” is a coin having the bust of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse of the coin currently in circulation surrounded by a continuous legend “ELIZABETH II D.G.REGINA” meaning ‘Queen Elizabeth II by the Grace of God’ within a dotted circle. The reverse of this coin is a portrait of the Canadian coat of arms within a dotted circle surrounded by a divided legend “CANADA 50 CENTS”. It weighs 6.9gms and has a diameter of 27.13mm.

 

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The 25 Cent is called a “Quarter” as it is one-fourth of a dollar. It is a coin having the bust of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse of the coin currently in circulation surrounded by a continuous legend “ELIZABETH II D.G.REGINA” meaning ‘Queen Elizabeth II by the Grace of God’ within a dotted circle. The reverse of this coin is a portrait of caribou, one of Canada’s beloved antlered animals within a dotted circle. It weighs 4.4gms and has a diameter of 23.88mm.

 

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The 10 Cent is called a “Dime”. On the obverse of the coin currently in circulation is the bust of Queen Elizabeth II surrounded by a divided legend “ELIZABETH II D.G.REGINA” meaning ‘Queen Elizabeth II by the Grace of God’ within a dotted circle. On the reverse is the portrait of the famous Bluenose schooner that was the fastest racing ship in the world for almost 20 years. It is surrounded by a divided legend “CANADA 10 CENTS” with a date on right-hand side within a dotted circle. It weighs 1.75gms and has a diameter between 17 to 18.3mm.

 

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The 5 Cent is called a “Nickel” even though it’s made of steel and is bigger than the dime in size. On the obverse of the coin currently in circulation is the portrait of Elizabeth II facing right surrounded by a divided legend “ELIZABETH II D.G.REGINA” meaning ‘Queen Elizabeth II by the Grace of God’ within a dotted circle. On the reverse is the portrait of a beaver sitting on a rock with value “5 CENTS” on top and legend “CANADA” and year of strike below within a dotted circle. It weighs 3.95gms and has a diameter of 21.2mm.

 

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The 1 Cent or the “Penny” is a copper coin. On the obverse of the coin currently in circulation is the portrait of Elizabeth II facing right surrounded by a divided legend “ELIZABETH II D.G.REGINA” meaning ‘Queen Elizabeth II by the Grace of God’ within a dotted circle. On the reverse is the portrait of a maple leaf with value “1 CENT” above and legend “CANADA” and year of strike below. It weighs 2.35gms and has a diameter of 19.5mm.

 

The Government of Canada announced plans to abolish the Penny in 2012, though it will be a while before all the existing ones will be taken out of circulation.

 

The Royal Canadian Mint was in News when one of its six 1 kg gold coin was stolen from the Bode Museum in Berlin. You can read some other articles on the interesting coins of Canada on our site.

 

The Mintage World Team comprises of experts, researchers and writers from the field of Philately, Notaphily and Numismatics who try to shed light on some of the most interesting aspects of coins, banknotes and stamps from not just India but across the globe as well.
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