Mokie's Blog

01 Jul 2021

The Classic Commemoratives of Canada

Coins-World | Mokie

The classic commemorative period in the U.S. ran from 1892's Worlds's Columbian Exposition Half Dollar to 1954's George Washington Carver/Booker T. Washington commemorative. It was a pretty good run with 58 different coins in gold and silver. Included in that 58 were 48 silver half dollars, 1 silver quarter, 1 silver dollar, 5 gold dollars, 2 gold 2 ½ dollars, and a gold 50 dollar. This only reflects a type set total and does not account for all the different years, mintmarks, and varieties to be found in the classic commemorative set. I would consider that a pretty prodigious output over that 62 year run.

Classic Canadian commemoratives are a bit different. To me, the classic period in Canada extended from 1935 to 1967 and only comprised 6 different dollars. There were other commemoratives including 3 nickels, but I am focusing o the Dollars. My criteria for distinguishing these classic dollars is their silver content. These classics were .800 fine and were circulating commemoratives. After 1967, Canadian dollars became nickel with .500 fine NCLT commemorative dollars starting in 1972. Modern Canadian commemoratives, like modern U.S. commemoratives come in a variety of metals and have become prolific to the point of near ridiculousness.

So what were those 6 Canadian commemorative dollars? We start with the very first Canadian silver dollar the 1935 issue which commemorated the silver jubilee (25th anniversary) of King George V. This commemorative differs from the remarkably similar appearing 1936 issue by including the Latin inscription ANNO REGNI XXV. This issue also began the Voyageur design on Canadian dollars, one of most beautiful renderings in Canadian coinage. Mintage was 428 thousand.

The 1939 commemorative issue was created to honor the Royal Visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the current Queen's Mum) in the spring and summer of 1939. The reverse of the coin depicts the Parliament Building and Peace Tower in Ottawa, the Canadian capital. The Latin inscription above the Peace Tower reads He Reigns by the Faith of his People. Mintage was 1.36 million.

The 1949 issue commemorated the joining of Newfoundland with Canada in March 1949. There was a referendum voted on by the Newfies and by a razor close vote, Newfoundland chose to relinquish its status as a British colony and become a part of Canada. The reverse of the dollar depicts the Matthew, the ship John Cabot sailed when he discovered Newfoundland (again) some 500 years after it was first discovered by the Vikings. Of course, the land had already been occupied for thousands of years so one would have to push the original discovery date back about 14000 more years. In any event, Cabot was lauded, and Newfoundland became what it is today. If you look under the ship, you will see the Latin phrase FLOREAT TERRA NOVA which translates to May the New Land Flourish and indeed it has. Incidentally, Newfoundland was the last province to join Canada and it is now identified as Newfoundland and Labrador. Mintage was 672 thousand.

The 1958 Canadian commemorative is one of my all-time favorite coins. Partly because of its outstanding design, but also because it was the birthdate of the person who would one day become Mokie. This commemorative was minted to honor the 100th anniversary of British Columbia it shows the top of a totem pole with the Rocky Mountains in the background. It became known as the Death Dollar because of the Raven at the top of the pole however to the native peoples of BC, the Raven had no such connotation. Mintage was just over 3 million.

The 1964 Commemorative dollar commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Confederation Conferences held in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and Quebec City, Quebec that eventually led to the British North American Act and the establishment of Canada. Canada started out small, just Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island but has since grown immensely and is now the 2nd largest country in the world. Mintage was 7.3 million.

The final commemorative is the 1967 coin commemorating the 100th anniversary of Canada. The Canadians changed all their coin designs in 1967 with Canadian wildlife. The dollar shows the Canada Goose in a mostly plain field with the word Dollar above the goose and Canada 1867-1967 below the goose. The whole 1967 set is beautiful and shows what can be accomplished when a nation wants to produce beautiful coins. Canada in 1967 was much like the U.S. in 1976 with numerous celebrations around the country and hundreds of commemorative items for the hardy collector. Mintage was 6.8 million.

I hope you enjoyed your journey through classic Canadian commemoratives. I think they are a great set to collect and they are also relatively inexpensive. Give them a try, you will be delighted.

Bibliography: Haxby, James A A Guide Book of Canadian Coins and Tokens , 1st Edition



Level 5

The iconic 1935 dollar will always be my favorite Canadian Dollar. However, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about all these dollars in one place!


Level 5

Always liked Canadian coins. Wish I had concentrated more on Canada coins. Nice blog.

I agree that the classic Canadian commems were all good designs. Unfortunately they have taken the same road as the USA when it comes to modern commems. Namely: too many poor designs, questionable subjects and themes. Sorry, but every hockey team doesn't deserve a commem,


Level 7

Well I thought all was lost. A blog I can read. Thank you. I enjoyed it very much. I'm not one for Canadian coins. But they do have some beauties. I do have some. Thanks for taking your time. Very enjoyable. You made my day.

Long Beard

Level 5

Great blog! For the record, I'd like to thank you for expanding my horizons. Largely in part from your many blogs. Because of this I've found myself buying more foreign coinage than U.S., mostly from Ireland. And yes, that 1958 is a definite on my list.


Level 6

I like the classic designs. I have a few of these and really enjoy them. Thanks for a great blog! ; )


Level 6

Like you, I am a fan of these Canadian issues. Great clean designs. I agree that this is the 'classic" period. Now the Royal Mint seems kinda like the Royal Gift Store. The still have some outstanding issues. I always liked the death Dollar now I know why. Thanks for this brilliant blog.

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