by Louis Golino for CoinWeek
World coins are gaining in popularity in the U.S., and none are more popular than coins from Canada.
Canada has been a pioneer in the use of color and alternative materials such as holograms, embedded crystals, enamel, and so forth. Coins with such materials have gained wider acceptance in recent years, though some classic coin collectors still scoff at them.
But in years past the Royal Canadian Mint became a kind of poster boy among many American numismatists for how not to make and sell coins, with several extensive Canadian Olympic coin series being prime examples, according to that view.
The Canadian mint produces a wider and more diverse array of coins and sets than the U.S. and many other mints do, and until a few years ago many of those issues were minted in large numbers relative to the demand for them.
In addition, the coins were issued in so many different versions, finishes, and packaging options, and there were so many coins in many series, that completing them was a daunting task, especially for the precious metal issues.
Within Canada and other countries where Canadian coins are collected, especially in other commonwealth nations, those coins were popular. But many American coin experts and writers tended to be highly critical of the coins coming out of Canada.
For example, long-time coin writer, Tom DeLorey, who writes for Coinage magazine , last year wrote a scathing article on Canadian coins.
But in my view our Canadian neighbors have learned from experience, and Mr. DeLorey’s piece felt out of date to me. Today Canada produces a more compelling array of coins and sets in much more limited numbers. As a result, recent Canadian coins have often sold out quickly, and year after year the mint has won awards for its coins.
For example, in the past couple of weeks several issues sold out within days of being released, and others have also sold very briskly.
Native American moon series
Perhaps the best recent Canadian series is one that started last year. It is a Native American- themed series made of a combination of silver and niobium, a precious metal that is much rarer than silver, and which is not often used in coins.
The series honors the seasonal moon phases of the Algonquin people. The first two coins were released last year, the Hunter Moon and Buck Moon coins.
The first 2012 coin in this series, the Full Wolf Moon issue, was just announced at the beginning of March and sold out from the Canadian Mint within days.
According to the Canadian Post Office, which also sells this item: “This Moon was so named because in January, a month of cold and gusting snow, wolves could often be heard howling.”
The coins are limited to 7,500 units per issue, and no two coins are exactly the same because the metals are oxidized to create a unique finish. Niobium can be oxidized to achieve a wide range of different colors.
Other recent issues
In addition, a silver coin honoring the 60-year anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth of England, the diamond jubilee, that includes an embedded Swarovski crystal, and a mintage limited to 15,000, also sold out quickly. It is one of many Canadian issues honoring the diamond jubilee, and other commonwealth countries and the UK itself have also issued many other coins with the same theme.
But the Canadian issue, a $20 silver proof coin, was perhaps the most elegant and attractive of all these coins, had one of the lowest mintages, and a reasonable price of $105, which probably explains why it sold so well. The quick sell-out of this coins makes it likely it will have a decent premium in the secondary market.
Other hot Canadian issues include three coins which commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, including a colored quarter, a silver-plated half dollar, and a $10 silver proof coin.
The half dollar, which uses color for the ocean, had an accessible issue price of around $40 and a mintage of 15,000 coins, and amazingly the coin sold out during the first day following its announcement. It will not actually be released until next month. In the past few days, some examples of this coin have sold for as much as $100 on e-Bay.
Canada played an important role in the Titanic story. The Titanic sank off the coast of Newfoundland, and many of the deceased are buried in Halifax. Survivors were rescued by a Canadian ship.
Another widely collected recent series is the $20 face value one-quarter ounce bullion silver series limited to 250,000 coins per release and sold to Canadian customers at face value. In the U.S. market these coins have been generally been selling for $30 or more. Some retailers have allowed customers to purchase them at face value if purchased with other Canadian coins. APMEX of Oklahoma, one of the largest bullion companies in the world and a U.S. Mint Authorized Purchaser, and Gate West Coin of Canada have both had such offers.
The latest, and third release, in this series, which features a swimming polar bear, sold out faster than the previous issues. Each release has sold out quickly, and each coin features an iconic Canadian theme such as a maple leaf, or a canoe on water.
War of 1812
Americans may not remember that our second war of independence, the War of 1812, also involved Canada. In honor of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, when Canadians repelled multiple incursions by American forces into their country, the Royal Mint has issued a special commemorative dollar in proof and uncirculated finishes. The coin makes an interesting companion piece to the recently-released U.S. Star Spangled Banner commemoratives, which celebrate the end of the War of 1812 in 1814 and the writing of our national anthem by Francis Scott Key.
In addition, Canada this year issued what I believe is a world first proof set, a special all 99.99% silver proof set with some coins also selectively gold-plated. It has a mintage limited to 20,000 units. Reports from buyers who have received their sets have been extremely positive, with one collector comparing them to the 25th anniversary American Silver Eagle sets.
James Bucki, who writes a coin blog , says that the Mint told him about 8,000 of the sets are still available. Mr. Bucki is also a columnist for the Numismatist, published by the American Numismatic Association .
According to the 2010 annual report of the Canadian Mint, in 2010 production of coins declined to 1.826 billion pieces, but revenue was up at $2.209 billion. Net income was $33.8 million, which was down from the level in 2009.
With all the interesting 2012 releases coming out of Canada, I would expect there to be an increase in revenue for this year.
Afficionados of Canadian coins are fortunate that a landmark price guide and reference book was recently published by Whitman Publishing, and I will discuss the book soon.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.