Canadian Bronze Coins 1858 to Date

The history of coinage in Canada during the first half of the 19th Century closely parallels that of its neighbor to the south, the United States of America, during the 18th Century. Both were colonial possessions of Great Britain, and both suffered from a lack of adequate circulating coinage. The right to produce coins locally was viewed as a violation of the Mother Country’s sovereignty, and there was prolonged resistance to it. In Canada’s case, this objection was not overcome until 1908.

A law passed in 1857 established the dollar as the unit of money for the Province of Canada, and this unit was given the same intrinsic value as the USA’S gold dollar. This unit was divided into 100 cents, and coins of the cent denomination were first struck for Canada in 1858 at London’s Royal Mint. Nearly half a million large, bronze cents were struck in 1858 and more than 10 million the following year. These bore a portrait of the reigning monarch Queen Victoria, and the dies were by famed engraver Leonard C. Wyon. The reverse of the new coins displayed a simple, ornamental wreath, a type which would last more than 60 years.

It was not until 1876 that additional cents were required, and these were struck for what had since become the Dominion of Canada. The new pieces were coined at a slightly higher weight to correspond to the British halfpenny. With the London Mint overwhelmed by so many colonial coinages, the work of producing new Canadian cents was frequently contracted to Ralph Heaton and Sons in Birmingham, whose mintmark H may be found on a number of the Victoria cents.

The same specifications were continued during the reign of Edward VII (1901-10), and the substitution in 1902 of his portrait for that of Victoria was the only noticeable change in the cent. This bust was the work of G. W. De Saulles. Nearly all of the Edward cents were coined at London from 1902 through 1907, though a few were struck by Heaton in that final year. Beginning with the coinage of 1908, all Canadian cents were coined at the new mint in Ottawa, Ontario.

When Edward’s son succeeded his late father as George V in 1910, his portrait by Sir E. B. MacKennal graced the cent beginning with the coinage of 1911. The pieces bearing that date lack the motto DEI GRATIA (by the Grace of God), and this was found so objectionable that the words were added beginning in 1912. The larger portrait of George V’s coins mandated that the legend CANADA be moved to the cent’s reverse, and this slightly modified design was prepared by W. H. J. Blakemore. All cents of George V and his successors were struck by the Royal Canadian Mint.

The cumbersome large cent had worn out its welcome by 1920, and a new cent was introduced during that year, resulting in both types bearing the same date. The small cent was quite similar in dimension and composition to the cent of the USA. Its obverse was a near copy of the large cents, yet its reverse was a departure. The only heraldic elements to appear were two maple leaves, placed at either side of the denomination. This design was by Fred Lewis, but the master dies were again the work of W. H. J. Blakemore.

The small cent continued unchanged through 1936, those coined during the brief reign of Edward VIII bearing the portrait and titles of his late father. George V’s younger son succeeded Edward as George VI, and his portrait by T. H. Paget appeared from 1937 through 1952. For the first time on a Canadian coin, the monarch was bareheaded. The reverse was modified to show the two leaves attached to a branch in a more naturalistic arrangement. This design by G. E. Kruger-Gray proved popular and quite enduring, being used to the present day.

The independence granted India in 1947 meant that the legend ET IND:IMP (and Emperor of India) was no longer a part of the king’s titles. This change was effected beginning with the cents of 1948.

George VI’s eldest daughter succeeded him as Elizabeth II in 1952, though her portrait and titles did not appear on the cent until the following year. Designed by Mary Gillick, this bust was slightly modified later in 1953 by Chief Engraver Thomas Shingles of the Royal Canadian Mint. A more mature portrait of Elizabeth II debuted in 1965 and was continued through 1989. This was modified slightly beginning in 1979 to make the portraits proportional on all of Canada’s coins, regardless of denomination. The queen’s features were again remodeled beginning with the cents of 1990, this entirely new portrait being the work of Dora de Pedery-Hunt.

Commemorative coins have become a popular feature in Canadian numismatics during recent decades, and this trend was begun with the coinage of 1967. These all bore reverse designs thematic of the Confederation Centenary. For the cent, Alex Colville created a simple image of a rock dove in flight. Some 25 years later, this same event was again celebrated on Canada’s coinage. While the main focus was a distinctive series of quarter dollars honoring each of the provinces, the cent too was altered to include the dual dates 1867-1992 on its reverse.

Other recent changes to Canada’s one-cent piece reflect its declining value and the rising costs of its component metals. A minor reduction was made in the cent’s thickness in 1978. Two years later, its diameter was slightly reduced and its weight drastically reduced. A further weight reduction in 1982 was accompanied by a change in shape from round to 12-sided; it was hoped that this would assist the blind in distinguishing one-cent pieces.

SPECIFICATIONS:

1858-1859:

Diameter: 25.40 millimeters

Weight: 4.54 grams

Composition: .950 copper, .040 tin, .010 zinc

Edge: Plain

 

1876-1920:

Diameter: 25.40 millimeters

Weight: 5.67 grams

Composition: .955 copper, .030 tin, .015 zinc

Edge: Plain

 

1920-1941:

Diameter: 19.05 millimeters

Weight: 3.24 grams

Composition: .955 copper, .030 tin, .015 zinc

Edge: Plain

 

1942-1977:

Diameter: 19.05 millimeters

Thickness: 1.65 millimeters

Weight: 3.24 grams

Composition: .980 copper, .005 tin, .015 zinc

Edge: Plain

 

1978-1979:

Diameter: 19.05 millimeters

Thickness: 1.52 millimeters

Weight: 3.24 grams

Composition: .980 copper, .0175 zinc, .0025 other

Edge: Plain

 

1980-1981:

Diameter: 19.00 millimeters

Thickness: 1.45 millimeters

Weight: 2.80 grams

Composition: .980 copper, .0175 zinc, .0025 other

Edge: Plain

 

1982-:

Diameter: 19.1 millimeters

Thickness: 1.45 millimeters

Weight: 2.50 grams

Composition: .980 copper, .0175 zinc, .0025 other

Edge: Plain

From the NGC Photo Proof Series. Copyright © 2001 The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.  All rights reserved.