OTD: Dies shipped for what would become Canada’s rarest coin

On today’s date in 1911, the British Royal Mint sent dies for Canada’s new $1 silver coin to its Ottawa branch.

Today, the coins struck by those fabled dies are the rarest coins in Canada’s history.

When the Mint began striking coins in 1908 (then known as the Ottawa Branch of the Royal Mint), a one-dollar coin had not yet entered circulation, but was desperately needed; so in 1911, the Mint struck a trial one dollar coin in lead, while London’s Royal Mint struck two trial coins in .925 silver.

They were originally designed as pattern coins, to show the proposed design.

Since Britain was responsible for preparing and distributing most of the master tooling to its Dominions and colonies, the engravers were under great pressure as they were already busy preparing new coins to coincide with the coronation of King George V.

In their haste, they failed to include “Dei Gra(tia)”, (“By the Grace of God,” in Latin) on the inscription surrounding the effigy—an unfortunate omission that appeared on all smaller denomination coins that entered circulation and became known as “godless coins.”

A series of exceptional events delayed the introduction of the new dollar. And it was not until 1935 that a silver dollar – the iconic Voyageur design –was introduced to elevate the original dollar of 1911 to the status of one of Canada’s rarest coins.

Two specimens (silver and lead) are held in the National Currency Collection at Ottawa’s Bank of Canada Museum while the other silver specimen is owned by a collector.

The 1911 silver pattern dollar was sold at auction in 2003 for $1 million.

In 2011, the Mint released a special-edition proof silver dollar to commemorate the original coin’s 100th anniversary.

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