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As you go through your old change, it is possible, but quite unlikely you will stumble upon a 50 cent coin.  What used to be an important part of daily commerce is now relegated to history, and the cabinets of coin collectors.

 

Back in 1870, when the relatively new Dominion of Canada planned its first issue of coinage, this was included at the largest denomination (25c, 10c, 5c being the others).  Minted in sterling silver, and weighing over 11 grams, it was impressive in size.  The obverse featured a crowned image of Queen Victoria.  Consider that back in the late 1800’s, 50 cents would likely have had the purchasing power of around $30-$50 today, it was a coin that was frequently used.  This is proven by the surviving examples, which are almost always worn.

 

In 1902 the coin was changed, with the crowned portrait of the new King Edward VII, and changed again in 1911 with that of King George V.  The front of the coin remained the same for 66 years (1870-1936), with the simple legend “50 Cents Canada”, and the date, along with a crown on top, with sweet maple leaves tied at the bottom with a bow at the bottom.

 

The new King George VI, in 1937, created a major redesign of all of Canadian coinage.  Unlike his predecessors, the new king had his portrait uncrowned.  The other side was changed to a coat of arms with two lions, one with a union jack, the other with a flag of fleur de lis.  This reverse design, with little modification continues to this day.

 

As of 1968, Canadian coins were no longer made of silver, and much of the coinage from the 1940’s though 1960’s that was in circulation at the time, was hoarded.  Even today 46+ years later, it is quite easy to find these coins in quantity.

 

Since the use of these coins declined dramatically in the 1970’s and 1980’s, by 2002 the mint decided to no longer produce them for general circulation.  It would be unusual to find one in change, and certainly most cashiers in stores would not recognized them today.  Fortunately for collectors, the 50 cent piece is still minted each year, and available by buying them in rolls at the mint boutique in Ottawa.

 

 

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In 1937 when King George VI became King of England, and the British Empire, it was decided that a new issue of Canadian paper money be created.  It was only 2 years before, in 1935 that a whole series of notes were created by the Bank of Canada, and now these were to be retired (resulting in many scarce notes).

 

The 1937 issue is special, and groundbreaking in many ways.  Firstly, it was the first bilingual notes.  The previous series had separate English and French notes...which proved expensive to produce, and obviously made little sense.  Secondly, beforehand the lower denomination notes all had different members of the monarchy on them, and this was the first time that the king appeared on more than one note of a series.  Usually other family members would be on different bills.  Also, a new numbering system was devised where a 2 letter prefix, written as a fraction was put before the serial number.  The lower letter was for the denomination, the upper for the series.  This was also the first time all notes had different numbers, before notes printed on the same sheet had the same number, and a check letter showing the position on the sheet.

 

$1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 (issued with George VI portrait), $100 (Sir John A. Macdonald), and $1,000 (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) notes are part of this series.  Most notes were released on July 21, 1937, but the $1,000 was not needed until 1952, and therefore few actually circulated since a new issue was again created in 1954 with Queen Elizabeth II.

 

The backs of the bills are are stunning allegorical vignettes copied from the 1935 series. (see picture)

 

Despite the series continuing until 1954, all notes issued have the 1937 date on them, and it is safe to say most surviving examples are actually ones that were printed in the early 1950’s.  Fortunately collectors have an easy way to tell the earliest notes from the latter ones.  Since all notes are signed on the bottom by the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada, and these positions changed a few times during this period we can using this as a guide to when they were printed.

 

The first part of the series issued July 1937 to November 1938 are signed on the left by  JAC Osborne...in general these are quite scarce and highly sought after by collectors, as few were saved, and very few are known in new condition.  Next, again signed on the left; Donald Gordon, November 1938 to January 1950..most of the circulating life of this series of signed by Gordon so these are in general quite easy to find.  Lastly notes signed on the left by James E. Coyne were issued from January 1950 until this series was replaced with the Elizabeth II notes in 1954.  It is common for collectors to only save notes when they know a series is ending, and this is why notes signed JE Coyne from the 1937 series are plentiful.

 

If you have questions about older Canadian paper money please do not hesitate to call or contact us through our website.

 

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With the Olympics finally here Russia has put together some interesting offerings.  According to reports I have read, a total of 47 different coins are being issued by Russia relating to the Sochi games.  Some of these are for general circulation, and others as special precious metal collectibles.  So this list may not be exhaustive at this point...but here is a start…


Firstly of note (pardon the pun) is a stunning new 100 Rouble banknote.   These are regular circulation notes, but unless you are in Russia, eBay may be your best bet for finding one.



Next worth mentioning are the silver coins.  My understanding (I have not seen them all yet) is that 16 different silver coins are being issued.  All have similar specifications; 3 Rouble face value, 92.5% pure, weight of a troy ounce 31.1g.  On one side are various winter sports with a flower of the Sochi area below.  It seems not all the coins were released at one time, and as of this writing I have only seen 8 of them.   Canadians are fortunate, as the Royal Canadian Mint is a distributor, and coins can been seen and ordered from www.mint.ca



There are also some strange looking rectangular coins, also 3 Roubles, .925 silver, and 31.1g with the images of cats, and bears on them.  I am not sure if this is included in the 16 silver coins mentioned.



Lastly a quick look at gold coins.  There is a series of 99.9% gold coins available.  Each coin is 1/4oz in weight, and has a face value of 50 Roubles.  Also being distributed by the RCM...but at $779.99 not for everyone.  Nice designs.  The hockey coin below is particularly attractive.




Not to be outdone the Russians have produced an enormous 3 Kilogram pure gold coin with a face value of 25,000 Roubles.  I do not know the mintage, but a news report online describes a transaction taking place valuing the coin at $232,000.  Image below.



If you have questions about older Russian coins please do not hesitate to call or contact us through our website.

Technically speaking this 2014 is the first Russian olympic games...but the USSR (which included Russia, and other parts of the former Soviet Union) did host the summer olympic in 1980.


A large variety of coins were issued, and most were produced in very large quantities, so that they are still obtainable today... with a little bit of online searching.  


All of the coins have a similar obverse with the national arms, Soviet hammer and sickle, with CCCP, and the coin value in Roubles at the bottom.  The reverses are more interesting, showing various summer sports, and the olympic 5 ring logo.  If you look carefully on the reverses there is also often a small mint mark showing that they were stuck in either Leningrad or Moscow.


The most affordable of these coins would be the copper-nickel 1 Rouble piece that was actually struck for circulation.  On the reverse it has the olympic torch.  Over 4 million were made, but a seldomly seen coin in North America….despite being worth less than $5.


The most popular and common coins are the silver issues.  A 28 coin set was minted both in proof, and uncirculated finishes, 14 of each 5 and 10 Roubles.   An alloy of 90% pure silver was used.  Reverses consisted of images from the various summer games.  The set came in an attractive red case.  Strangely enough, these appear with much frequency in older collections of people in the Montreal area, and I think they may have been offered for sale by mail to Royal Canadian Mint customers.  Generally 250,000 to 400,000 of each coin were produced.  Although asking prices usually vary, this set usually sells at retail for a small premium over the silver value.


A six coin set of 100 Rouble gold coins were also offered in both proof and uncirculated finishes.  Struck in 90% gold, but understandably in lesser quantity than the silver; 50,000 - 100,000 of each.  They were offered individually or as a set.  Like the silver, collectors can usually obtain a set at a modest premium to the prevailing gold value.


Somewhat more unusual are the 150 Rouble platinum coins.  Russia is known as one of the major producers of this scarce metal, so it probably seemed natural for them to offer this 5 coin set to collectors.  Again offered in proof and uncirculated finishes.  The total mintage however is understandably much less at about 30,000-35,000 per coin.  


If you have questions about older Russian coins please do not hesitate to call or contact us through our website.

 

In August of 1947 India was granted independence from England.  Since all Canadian coins of George VI had the legend “GEORGIVS VI D: G: REX ET IND: IMP:”...roughly translated as “George VI by the grace of God, King, and emperor of India”, the coinage all needed some modification.  No longer could any coins claim that George VI was emperor of India.


After World War II, the Canadian economy was improving, the population was growing rapidly, and there was a need for a larger output of coinage to meet this.  During the war certain coins...especially the silver dollar, either had reduced mintages, or were suspended.  


Since a new obverse die would be required to strike the 1948 coins, and the matrices and punches did not arrive in time from the Royal Mint in London for minting them, the Royal Canadian Mint faced a big problem.  They needed to produce coins...but could not, as they did not yet receive the new design from England.  In early 1948 they came up with a clever idea.  They continued to mint coins with the 1947 date so they could keep the same obverse, but to differentiate these coins from the ones actually minted in 1947, they put a small maple leaf just after the date.  This would avoid confusion with actual 1947 coins.


This is not the first time the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) has applied this solution.  In 1937 the RCM was waiting for the master tools from London to produce the first coins of George VI after the passing of George V and abdication of Edward VIII.  Since they did not arrive on time, an emergency issue of 1936 25 cents was made with a dot on the bottom of the coin showing that it was actually coined in 1937.  Although scarce, many 1936 dot 25 cents survive and it is an interesting collectible.  1936 1 and 10 cents were also made with a dot, but only a handful of specimen coins survive, as the whole mintage was remelted in mid 1937.


In mid 1948 with the new design received, coins with the actual 1948 date were struck...but by this time much of the required coins were already made with the 47 maples.  This explains why most Canadian coins with the 1948 date are much rarer than other years.  For example a much used coin like the 10 cent...10 million were struck in 1948...but only about 4% of them with the 1948 date...the others are all 47 maples.


For collectors this has created two classic rarities of the Canadian coin series.  The first and most popular is the 1948 dollar of which only 18,780 were struck (consider the 1949 mintage was 672,218).  Second rarity...and an extreme one at that, is the 1947 maple leaf 50 cent with the 7 curved right.  As discussed in a previous article, very few survive (likely less the a couple hundred), and the coin is worth thousands of dollars in nice condition.


 

With the Canada 1 cent having recently ended its 150+ year run as a part of our circulating coins, it is interesting to look at another seemingly strange but important denomination...the 50 cent.

When first introduced in 1870 by the Dominion of Canada, it was the highest value coin. Considering most workers at that time likely earned between $5 and $15 a week, this piece represented a significant sum.

 

Coins unlike other objects can have 3 different types of value.  Firstly is their exchange value in commerce.  Fortunately for us in Canada, most older coins are still legal tender, and usable for transactions.  Second is metallic value.  Before 1968 common circulating 10, 25, 50 cents, and dollars were made in silver...all of these are worth a premium at current market prices based on their metal value.  Also, most gold coins have values way in excess of their printed legal tender value.  But the question we get asked the most is what determines "collector value"

 In the last 2 articles we discussed the basics on getting started with a coin collection. For those of you who have not had the opportunity to read these (and would like to) please visit a site I put together with many of the articles that have appeared here at www.montrealcoinexpert.com

The last and critical bit of information you need to get started is coin grading. Condition is what makes value with most coins. Beyond value, having a collection of pristine, wonderful looking pieces of medallic art with all of the original details, and shine, is much more pleasurable to look at than a group of worn down ugly slugs.

 Last time we discussed how important it is to focus on a specific area rather than try to collect everything. It was also mentioned that doing some homework on what you are about to collect, and very importantly getting a book or two on the subject (and reading them!) will go a long way.

Next is most likely the most overlooked part of coin collecting, and one that if you plan it properly will increase your enjoyment of your collection many fold…storage and display. Lets face it, you probably started a collection because you like the look of these old shiny pieces of metal…so why not make sure you get the most out of your coin display. The good news is that in the last few years the selection of items available to help you sort, store, and display your coin has expanded greatly.

Again, as mentioned in the previous article, by knowing what your collection is supposed to look like when it is done will greatly help you plan carefully not only your coin purchases, but also how it will be displayed. Here are some ideas based on different types of collections…

 For the next few weeks, lets rewind a bit and get back to basics. Many clients come to see us who would like to start a collection but are unsure how to go about it. Doing a little homework and planning beforehand will go a long way to make sure you get the most enjoyment out of collecting, and get the best value for your limited collecting budget.

The biggest problem most collectors (beginners or advanced) face is that they do not know what to collect. Numismatics is a very vast field, and there are many ways to go about things. Here is a tiny example of areas you could focus a collection on…Canadian Coins (many will focus on one denomination, pennies, nickels, etc), Canadian Tokens (this is a huge area on its own), Canadian Paper Money (Government, and private bank issues, or merchant script…), other specific countries, ancient coins (Roman, Greek, Byzantine). People can also focus on a topic. For example some collect coins from the various Olympics (this is a fun one), or coins with trains on them, or coins issued by famous historic figures like Napoleon. Some of our customers only like to collect gold coins, and get one from each country. We even have a few very brave souls who try to get one of every coin type (design…not date), from every country on the world!