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The Semi-Key Canadian Cents of the 1920s

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for PCGS ……
A new era in Canadian numismatics commenced when Canada replaced its large cent with the smaller-sized one-cent coin in May 1920. The move was made due to the economics behind rising copper prices and the shrinking consumer value of a cent. Canada’s large cent weighs 5.67 grams and has a diameter of 25.4 millimeters, whereas the small cent clicked in at only 3.24 grams and just 19.05 millimeters wide, thus the diameter of the reduced-size “new” cent was 25% smaller than that of its predecessor and a whopping 43% lighter.

Reigning upon the British throne at the time of these changes to the small cent in Canada was King George V, and his bust appears on the obverse of the diminutive copper coin, while the reverse bears two maple leaves surrounding the coin’s date and the denomination “ONE CENT”, capped atop by the inscription “CANADA”. This reverse design for the small cent represents a significant departure from the reverse of the large cent, which features those same inscriptions within a large wreath of 16 maple leaves.

The first decade of production for the small cent was busy, and no year saw business-strike production of the coin fall below one million. However, several semi-key dates emerged during that time, with every date issued during the mid-1920s seeing mintages of less than four million and now worth far more than its face value, even in circulated grades. These semi-key dates include issues from 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, and 1927. All these dates are valuable in well-worn condition and are extremely scarce in uncirculated grades.

1922 Canada Cents - PCGS

The 1922 Canada Cent is one of the scarcest business-strike representatives of the denomination from the 1920s. Images courtesy PCGS

Mintages for these six dates vary from just over one million to approximately 3.5 million, which even in the case of the higher number is still scant from the standpoint of Canadian coinage output in the 1920s. Here’s a breakdown of mintages for the six business-strike cents, year by year:

  • 1922 – 1,243,635
  • 1923 – 1,019,002
  • 1924 – 1,593,195
  • 1925 – 1,000,652
  • 1926 – 2,143,372
  • 1927 – 3,553,928

The most valuable of these dates are the 1923 and the 1925, which each sell for around $30 in F12. Meanwhile, the 1922 takes around $15 in F12, and the 1924 and the 1926 fetch about $6 in that same grade. The 1927, which is the most common of these, sells for about $2 in F12.

Values rapidly climb for these dates in the uncirculated grades, with all six realizing four figures in MS64RD and the 1923 eclipsing $10,000 in MS65RD.

1925 Canada Cents - PCGS

The 1925 Canada Cent reveals the lowest mintage of the Canadian “pennies” from the period, with just over one million

For the collector looking to build a date run of Canadian Cents from circulation, challenges have mounted in recent years, with the discontinuance of the one-cent coin from Canada’s commerce. The last Canadian Cent was minted in 2012 and the final day of official distribution of the coin into circulation was February 4, 2013. While Canadian “pennies” are still legal tender in Canada and many continue appearing in United States circulation channels (particularly near the latter’s northern border and in places like peninsular Florida, which sees a high number of Canadian travelers and seasonal residents), it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find old Canada Cents in pocket change.

Collectors who seek to build a nice collection of Canadian Cents on the PCGS Set Registry need to seek specimens from coin dealers who specialize in Canadian coinage.

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