Canadian Maritime Provinces Bronze Coins 1861-1947

The modern nation of Canada was forged out of several individual provinces over a period of many years. Between 1861 and 1949, when Newfoundland, the last of the independent provinces joined the Canadian Confederation, a rich series of coins was produced for use in these individual regions. The bronze issues are quite illustrative of these distinctive coinages and present a number of collecting challenges.

NEW BRUNSWICK

Taking its cue from the Province of Canada, in 1860 New Brunswick established a monetary system with the dollar as its unit, this dollar to be equal in value to the gold dollar of the United States of America. Adhering to a decimal system, the New Brunswick dollar was divided into 100 cents. Large, bronze coins of this value were struck at the Royal Mint in London for use exclusively within New Brunswick. Dated 1861 and 1864, some one million were coined of each.

The obverse of the New Brunswick cent was similar in appearance to that of Canada and to the halfpenny of Great Britain. It featured a laureate portrait of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), the so-called “bun head.” This was designed and engraved by Leonard C. Wyon of the Royal Mint. The coin’s reverse, however, was quite distinctive. It featured an ornate, floral wreath surrounding a crown. The work of C. Hill, a similar type was used for the bronze coins of Nova Scotia.

An issue of 222,800 half-cents was also produced in 1861 for New Brunswick, but these quickly proved unnecessary. The vast majority were subsequently melted, and examples are scarce. The production of a separate coinage for New Brunswick ceased when it joined the Dominion of Canada in 1867.

NOVA SCOTIA

The bronze coinage of this province closely parallels that of New Brunswick, but with one important difference. The Nova Scotia dollar was valued at five dollars to the British pound sterling. While this facilitated the use of British silver coins in circulation, it also required use of the half cent in making change.

The Nova Scotia cent and half-cent are quite similar to their New Brunswick counterparts, utilizing virtually identical reverse designs. Like the New Brunswick coins, the obverse die for the half-cent was taken from the British farthing, while the obverse for the cent was simply that of the British halfpenny.

Half-cents were coined in 1861 and 1864 at the Royal Mint in London, some 400,000 being produced of each. Cents dated 1861, 1862 and 1864 were also struck there for use in Nova Scotia. The combined mintage for 1861 and 1862 is 1.8 million, while another 800,000 were dated 1864. All coinage for Nova Scotia ceased when it joined the Dominion of Canada in 1867.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

The decimal coinage of this small island province is limited to a single issue of bronze cents coined in 1871. Though no mintmark appears, these were produced at the privately owned Heaton Mint in Birmingham, England. Some 2,000,000 pieces were struck from dies by Leonard C. Wyon.

The obverse features a diademed portrait of Queen Victoria which is identical to that of the Jamaican halfpenny and similar to the head on many of Britain’s colonial possessions. The reverse design was adapted by Wyon from the provincial seal, which depicts the mighty English oak providing protection for three saplings representing the three counties of Prince Edward Island.

Though this province joined the Dominion of Canada just two years later in 1873, the bronze cents bearing the distinctive imagery of Prince Edward Island evidently continued to circulate for years afterward. Heavily worn examples are not uncommon.

NEWFOUNDLAND

Holding out the longest against unification with Canada was this large island province. It was not until 1949 that Newfoundland joined with its great neighbor to the west, and a silver dollar was issued that year to commemorate this event.

Bronze cents of similar size and composition to those of Canada were struck for Newfoundland from 1865 to 1936. Like those of the other Maritime Provinces, the cents of Newfoundland featured a simple floral wreath on their reverse surrounding St. Edward’s crown. The obverse portrait of Victoria on the cents dated 1865-96 likewise borrowed the die of the British halfpenny by L. C. Wyon, while the reverse was engraved by T. J. Minton.

Most were coined at the Royal Mint, though exceptions are found in that the cents of 1872 and 1876 were struck by the Heaton Mint in Birmingham. Large, bronze cents were continued under the reign of Edward VII (1901-10). They were coined by Heaton in 1904 and at the Royal Mint in 1907 and 1909. G. W. De Saulles fashioned the king’s portrait, while the reverse by W. H. J. Blakemore is similar to that of the Victoria coins, but with the substitution of the Imperial State crown for St. Edward’s crown.

Sir E. B. MacKennal’s portrait of George V (1910-36) appears on the Newfoundland cents of that reign, while the reverse type is unchanged. Examples were coined at London’s Royal Mint in 1913, 1929 and 1936 and at Ottawa’s Royal Canadian Mint in 1917, 1919 and 1920. The latter are distinguished by a tiny mintmark C.

Beginning in 1938, Newfoundland adopted a small cent which was similar in size and composition to that used by Canada since 1920. The crowned portrait of George VI (1936-1952) was by Percy Metcalfe, while the reverse design featuring Newfoundland’s native pitcher plant was the work of W. J. Newman.

The initial production dated 1938 was struck in London at the Royal Mint. Subsequent issues dated 1940 through 1944 and also 1947 were struck at Ottawa, and most bear a tiny C mintmark. By error, the dies dated 1940 and 1942 did not include this mintmark, though they too were coined at the Royal Canadian Mint.

When Newfoundland at last joined the Dominion of Canada in 1949, it brought to an end a colorful era in Canadian numismatics. Subsequent coins for this and the other provinces were of uniform types and values.

SPECIFICATIONS:

NEW BRUNSWICK & NOVA SCOTIA HALF-CENT

1861-1864:

Diameter: 20.65 millimeters

Weight: 2.835 grams

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

Edge: Plain

 

NEW BRUNSWICK & NOVA SCOTIA CENT

1861-1864:

Diameter: 25.53 millimeters

Weight: 5.67 grams

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

Edge: Plain

 

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND CENT 1871:

Diameter: 25.40 millimeters

Weight: 5.67 grams

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

Edge: Plain

 

NEWFOUNDLAND CENT 1865-1936:

Diameter: 25.53 millimeters (1865-1913, 1929-36)

Diameter: 25.40 millimeters (1917-20)

Weight: 5.67 grams

Composition: .950 Cu,.040 Sn,.010 Zn (1865-1920)

Composition: .955 Cu,.030 Sn,.015 Zn (1929-36)

Edge: Plain

 

NEWFOUNDLAND CENT 1938-1947:

Diameter: 19.05 millimeters

Weight: 3.240 grams

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

Edge: Plain

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