On today’s date in 1942, Federal Finance Minister James Lorimer Ilsley announced the Victory design on the new five-cent copper-zinc alloy (also known as tombac) coin, which was 12-sided to help distinguish it from the penny and 25-cent coin.
Canadian five-cent coins were made of nickel from 1921-42; however, the Second World War created a nickel shortage across the country, so beginning in 1942 and through the entire next year, Canadian five-cent coins were struck from a brass alloy known as tombac. The coin’s designers, upon realizing the colour of the alloy would make the five-cent coins difficult to distinguish from pennies, changed the shape from round to 12-sided (also known as dodecagon). However, they then realized this alteration wouldn’t be enough, so the traditional beaver design was replaced the following year by the “V” (for “Victory”) design, which was used until the war’s end in 1945.
From 1943-45, the Victory coins were created and engraved by Thomas Shingles, who intended to stimulate the war effort. The message “We Win When We Work Willingly” is engraved in Morse code on the rim of the coin.
Throughout the war, Canada’s five-cent coins maintained a weight of 4.54 grams, a diameter of 21.21 mm and a 1.7-mm thickness.