The Life and Death of the Canadian Penny

In 1497, only 5 years after Christopher Columbus’s first voyage, Genoese John Cabot discovered Newfoundland making Newfoundland the first colony ever acquired by Great Britain although they didn’t establish permanent settlements until later on.

In 1534, Jacques Carter discovered the St. Lawrence River and founded New France. He began trading with the Native Americans. This trade became the keystone of Canada’s early economy with beaver skins being one of the first exchange media. Being so isolated in the wilderness, a lack of coined money was a great hindrance to trade.

The first coins struck for Canada under French rule were the copper 20 deniers, and the silver 5 and 15 sold in 1670.

The French and British fought for years for control of the vast region. Eventually, the British prevailed and was awarded all of the French territories in the Treaty of Paris of 1763. French culture is still important today and French and English are both official languages. Wanting to be self-governed, the Canadian Confederation was established in 1867 and only included Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. It wasn’t until 1931 Canada was given Independence from Great Britain.

Modern Canadian coinage began in 1858, based on a dollar of 100 cents. Being as no official Canadian mint existed, coins were struck at the Royal Mint in London or its prime subcontractor, Heaton’s Mint, in Birmingham, London. All coins struck at the Heaton mint bear an ‘H’ mint mark. The last coins made at Heaton for British North America was the Canadian cent of 1907.

In 1901, Canada passed the Ottawa Mint Act which called for the construction of the Royal Canadian Mint. Construction began in 1905 and the first coins were struck on January 2, 1908. Canadian coins express a high sense of nationalism. The obverse displays the image of the current British monarch while the reverse bears images of national treasures such as endemic wildlife, the Canadian coat of arms, and the historical Bluenose; a sailing vessel which is the symbol of Nova Scotia.

Most valuable:

1936 dot cent penny

King George passed away in 1936. It was expected that Edward VIII would succeed him and a portrait had been design for him on the 1937 coin; however, he abdicated in December of 1936 and George VI was crowned instead. This left the mint scrambling since no portrait had been prepared. Because of high demand for coins, the mint reused the George V template from 1936 and added a small dot under the date to identify the new batch as being struck in 1937.

The RCM minted 678,823 but ended up melting down most of them when the anticipated shortage never occurred. Only a few ones are known to exist today with one of them selling at US coin auction for $400,000 in 2010.

In 1947, Emperor of India was dropped from the titles due to the Indian Independence Act of 1947.

Death of the penny:

In 2012, it was announced the penny would be phased out saving the taxpayers $11 million a year which would only affect cash transactions which would be rounded up or down to the nearest 5 cent increment.


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