Five of Canada’s most expensive coins

The recent coronation of King Charles means changes to Canada’s currency: updating our coinage with the new monarch’s effigy. It’s been a long while since we’ve had a new face on our pocket change — there were four different effigies of Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II, over the course of her 70-year reign. 

The Dominion of Canada has been putting the face of royalty on our coins since 1870. The first coins were silver 5-, 10-, 25- and 50-cent pieces, all with the head of Queen Victoria on the obverse. 

Ever since, Canada’s rich political and administrative history has had a significant impact on the faces of our money, creating a treasure trove of coins for numismatists to collect. And some of these coins are now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

[Read our blog: 10 most valuable coins in the world]

Here are some of the most expensive pieces in the Canadian coin landscape. 

  1. 1916 Edward VII Gold Sovereign

Known more in the British coinage system, gold sovereigns are also common in Canada — except for the 1916 Edward VII Gold Sovereign, that is. Canadian sovereigns were produced during 1908 and 1919. The 1916 batch, with an Edward VII effigy on the obverse and St. George slaying a dragon on horseback on the reverse, is particularly rare. Around 6000 were struck, but very few exist. One widely-held theory is that most of them were melted. A less popular theory: the coins were lost at sea during transport. Around 25-50 of these “holy grails of Canadian coins” exist, and they fetch between $8,000 and $163,000. Note: the 1908 specimen sovereign, created to commemorate the opening of the Ottawa mint, is worth as much as $15,000.

  1. 1911 Silver Dollar: “The Emperor” 

This silver dollar is considered to be one of Canada’s rarest coins — one that never saw circulation, owing to production delays and a change in government. In 1910, three prototypes were created in London (the Ottawa Mint did not have a large enough press for this brand new coin): one in lead and two in silver. While production was falling behind schedule, a new unionist government scrapped the coin altogether. The pattern coin, nicknamed “The Emperor,” circulated among collectors for over 60 years before it was purchased for $734,000 by a Canadian numismatic dealer, who offered it to the Bank of Canada Museum.

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  1. 1921 50 Cent Coin / King George V Half Dollar

This “king of Canadian coins” is as interesting for its value as its history. In the 1920s, there was low demand for 50 cent pieces, so most of the 206,328 silver coins were kept in storage at the Mint. However, in 1929 demand for half dollars picked up, so the Mint ordered 500,000 of the shelved 50-cent pieces — mostly from 1921 — to be melted and recast. About 75 of the original 1921 half dollars survived the smelter. In 2000, one of these rare specimens, with King George V’s effigy on the obverse and two maple boughs and a crown on the reverse, sold for US$400,000. In 2015, one sold for $220,000.

  1. 1921 5-Cent Coin

1921 also produced another highly collectable coin: the 5-cent piece, which is considered to be the “prince of Canadian coins.” In the early 1920s, it was legislated that silver 5-cent pieces (15.5mm) be replaced by larger coins (21mm) and struck from 100% nickel. However, the silver version had already gone into production in 1921 and around 3 million were created. Most of these faced the same fate as the 1921 King George V Half Dollar — but about 450 escaped the smelter. Some of these silver 5-cent coins are worth more than $50,000.

  1. 1936 “Dot” Penny

To most collectors, the “dot” penny needs no introduction — it’s one of Canada’s rarest coins. But here’s a short history on how this curious one-cent piece came about. King George V died in January 1936 and the throne passed to King Edward VIII, who abdicated in December of the same year (check out The Crown for more on the royal havoc this caused). Meanwhile, there was an urgent need for new coins, but not enough time to create an effigy for the newly crowned King George VI. So to show that the coin was for 1937, the Mint repurposed the 1936 penny with King George V’s effigy and punched a small raised dot just below the 1936 date. Over 678,000 “dot” pennies were produced, but only a few are known to exist. In 2010, one of these extremely rare pennies sold for US$402,500

There were also 10-cent and 25-cent “dot” coins produced during this time. Of the 191,237 10-cent pieces placed into circulation, only five exist. It’s also one of Canada’s rarest coins — in 2021 the Mint produced 550 pure gold versions in commemoration.

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Start your own collection of historic Canadian coins

If you’re interested in starting your own collection of Canadian and international coins, we can help. Century Stamp & Coin has a huge collection of coins and a knowledgeable and experienced team to support you with building your very own coin collection.