OTD: Test tokens struck to prepare for first production of Canadian coins in Ottawa

On today’s date in 1907, test tokens were struck to adjust the coining presses prior to the first production of Canadian coins at the Ottawa branch of the Royal Mint.

The facility had three coin presses that were manufactured by Taylor and Challen, a prominent manufacturer based in Birmingham, England in the beginning of the 20th century. At this time, Taylor and Challen coin presses, rolling machines and other minting machinery were used for several minting operations around the word.

To ensure the presses were in working order, two 50-cent dies were prepared for a trial run, in which plain tokens were engraved “OTTAWA MINT / TRIAL RUN” on one side and “NOVEMBER / 1907” on the opposite site.

It’s believed fewer than 20 of these trial tokens were struck. According to Mint records, most of the tokens were destroyed, although seven were given to Mint officials. Two copies are in the Bank of Canada’s Currency Museum.

These tokens—a milestone in Canadian numismatics—represent the first items ever struck by what is now the Royal Canadian Mint.

One side of the 1907 trial tokens read "NOVEMBER / 1907". (Photo by PCGS)

One side of the 1907 trial tokens read “NOVEMBER / 1907”. (Photo by PCGS)

OFFICIAL OPENING

The Mint’s Ottawa branch officially opened on Jan. 2, 1908.

At 3 p.m., then-Governor General Earl Grey remarked, “As the King’s representative I formally declare the Ottawa Branch of the Royal Mint open,” before striking the first official coin produced by the Ottawa mint, a 50-cent piece.

Originally, the official opening was scheduled for Nov. 9; however, this was postponed until the new year because of a security concern. The facility lacked a surrounding fence, which was considered essential for an operation of that size and significance. The fence was eventually completed on time, although its final cost tripled its original estimate, causing some controversy for the government.

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