Canadian astronomer, numismatist to release book on Newfoundland gold coins

University of British Columbia professor Harvey B. Richer is slated to release his new book The Gold Coins of Newfoundland, 1865-1888: How Newfoundland Came to Possess a Spectacular Mintage of Gold Coins in Newfoundland next week.

A long-time coin collector with an interest in rare Newfoundland gold coins, Richer is also a professor of astronomy and physics. He has published more than 140 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals and is one of the most frequent Canadian users of the Hubble Space Telescope. In 2014, he was the recipient of the Carlyle S. Beals Award of the Canadian Astronomical Society given for lifetime achievement. He was also recently made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, which is the foremost academic society in Canada.


Published by Boulder Publications, Richer’s forthcoming numismatic book will be launched on July 27 at the Anna Templeton Centre on Duckworth Street in St. John’s, Nfld.

“Well-researched studies about early Canadian coinage are few and far between. Richer’s The Gold Coins of Newfoundland 1865 to 1888 contributes admirably to filling the void. Despite drawing heavily upon official documents and contemporary newspaper accounts the work is not dry,” said Paul Berry, chief curator of the Bank of Canada Museum, in review of the book.

“The combination of historical narrative and numismatic detail interspersed with amusing anecdotes that at times resemble a detective novel make for an informative, pleasant read. Whether you have a general interest in the history of Newfoundland or are a serious numismatic researcher there is something for everyone in this book.”

Richer has also published more than 140 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals. (Submitted photo)


In the book’s prologue, Richer argues Newfoundland’s numismatic history is unique because the colony didn’t join Confederation until 1949.

“Like the other provinces-to-be, it began producing (at the Royal Mint in the United Kingdom) its own coinage in the early 1860s, but since it would not join Confederation for another 85 years, it came to have a much richer and more extensive coinage history than any of the other British colonies, producing coins up to 1947,” writes Richer in the prologue.

“Not only did Newfoundland, like other provinces, request from London bronze and silver coins but in eight non-consecutive years between 1865 and 1888, it asked London for a supply of gold coins. It is apparent from the documents discussed in this book that these requests were always granted. This is remarkable because Newfoundland was the poorest of the British colonies in North America in the 1860s, and significantly less wealthy than virtually any other locale on the continent at that time.”

While examining Newfoundland’s history through its coinage, the book also explores why Britain agreed to mint gold coinage for what was then a British colony, and why there were no gold coins minted after 1888. According to the author, the book also presents “fascinating new details for each year that gold coins were minted, the existing distribution of these scarce coins, a survey of the greatest collections ever assembled, and the provenances of the rarest of the gold coins.”

“My goal was to write a book that would interest historians, the general public looking for a good historical narrative and, particularly, numismatists desiring new insight into the gold coins of Newfoundland,” writes Richer in the book’s epilogue. “I hope interested readers will formulate their own research projects, see them through to completion, and provide greater insight into this fascinating coinage of Britain’s oldest colony.”


In 2013, after decades of fascination with Newfoundland coinage, Richer visited the province with his son.

“If I hadn’t visited Newfoundland I probably wouldn’t have written the book,” he told The Telegram in a story published earlier this month. “It’s such an incredible place. It has such a rich history and I think it is absolutely gorgeous. After that trip I started writing the book which took me four years. The book was a labour of love engendered by the first trip to Newfoundland which just blew me away.”

For more information or to purchase a copy of the book, which is available for $34.95, click here.

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