By Jesse Robitaille
The Royal Canadian Mint issued its second numismatic catalogue of 2021 this February, and with it comes eight new issues.
To mark Black History Month, the first of which was declared nationally in Canada in February 1996, the Mint issued a $20 one-ounce Fine silver coin honouring the “Black Loyalists.”
During the American Revolutionary War from 1775-83, thousands of Black people – free, indentured and enslaved – fought for Britain before coming to British North America for “freedom and a better life,” according to a statement issued by the Mint.
“But the hardships they endured are a reminder of how complex our history can be.”
Within the two years after 1783, when the Treaty of Paris concluded the American Revolution and established a boundary between the now-independent United States and the British North American colonies to the north, more than 3,000 Blacks settled in Nova Scotia, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. There, they faced “hostility, racial segregation, low-paying jobs and inequality,” wrote historian Channon Oyeniran, the vice-president of the Ontario Black History Society, for the encyclopedia.
“Once they arrived in Nova Scotia, Black Loyalists and enslaved persons alike were sent to and settled in places like Shelburne, Birchtown, Annapolis Royal, Preston and Digby. Among the various towns, Birchtown shortly became one of the most populated settlements of Black people (free and enslaved) outside of Africa, at that time,” added Oyeniran.
“After arriving in Nova Scotia, disenfranchisement soon set in; the promises of freedom, equality, jobs and land were often unfulfilled. Working in low-paying jobs, being on the brink of starvation, and experiencing segregation in all aspects of life proved to be the reality for Black Loyalists in Canada.”
This history is represented on the reverse of the Mint’s new coin, featuring the armorial bearings of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society (BLHS) granted in 2006 by the Canadian Heraldic Authority (CHA) and designed by Darrel Kennedy, the Assiniboine Herald (one of several titles for the CHA’s officers of arms).
On the shield, three Loyalist civil coronets represent the non-combatants who fled to British North America. In the centre, the ship’s wheel represents both the past (the ships landing in 1783) and the present (the BLHS’ focus on community development). To both sides, the lion supporters symbolize the pride of Africa and the courage demonstrated by those who sought a better life in Nova Scotia.
Beneath the shield, Nova Scotia is represented by its official floral emblem, the mayflower, while a rock symbolizes the landings near Birchtown. The anchor in the crest commemorates the fleeing families’ sacrifices, something represented by the footprints in the mantling. The motto “THE HEART OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE IS IN YOUR ROOTS” is also included below the armorial bearings, which are flanked by maple leaves.
The obverse features a repeating maple leaf field pattern and the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt.
With a mintage of 5,500, the coin has a weight of 31.39 grams, a diameter of 38 millimetres and serrated edges. It’s packaged in a black clamshell case with a black beauty box and was launched on Feb. 2 along with the other seven coins in that month’s catalogue.
“The Mint prides itself in crafting coins that pay tribute to Canada’s history, culture and values. That includes celebrating our diversity and acknowledging the difficult chapters of our history,” said Marie Lemay, Mint president and CEO. “We are proud to be issuing our third coin commemorating black history by recognizing the influential role Black Loyalists played in shaping the diverse country we know and love today.”
MAPLE TREE’S 25TH ANNIVERSARY
For the 2021 instalment of the Mint’s “Maple Leaves in Motion” series, the Crown corporation issued a $50 five-ounce pure silver coin with yellow and rose gold plating.
Also kicking off a year-long 25th anniversary celebration of the maple tree, Canada’s national arboreal emblem, the coin is the Mint’s first issue with dual plating (yellow and rose gold) on a large multi-faceted design.
The reverse design, by Canadian artist Matt Eggink, features a leaf from a sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Set against a laser-engraved relief pattern, the maple leaf’s multiple engraved facets are individually plated with either yellow or rose gold, and another 10 geometric shapes – one for each Canadian maple species – form a partial frame.
The selectively plated obverse also features Blunt’s effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.
On April 25, 1996, the federal government officially recognized the maple tree as Canada’s national arboreal emblem. The anniversary of this symbol is one of the Mint’s major themes for 2021, and on several coins, including this February’s issue, it is represented by a special “25” maple leaf privy mark.
With a mintage of 1,500, the coin has a weight of 157.6 grams, a diameter of 65.25 millimetres and serrated edges. It’s packaged in a red lacquered, Mint-branded collector’s case with a black beauty box.
2021 SPECIMEN SET
On Feb. 2, the Mint also issued its 2021 Specimen Set, “Blanding’s Turtle,” which is the second issue from the Mint’s multi-year “Endangered Species” specimen set series.
The set includes five-, 10-, 25-, 50-cent and $2 circulation coins plus a specially designed $1 coin featuring the Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), an endangered species now bred in Canadian captivity.
Like last year’s inaugural Endangered Species specimen set, the exclusive $1 coin is dedicated to raising awareness about wildlife conservation and species recovery efforts in Canada.
“This long-lived (80 years) species has suffered a dramatic population decline,” according to the Mint, which is the world’s only mint to offer an annual set in a specimen finish. “And given its late maturation (14-25 years), even the smallest increase in adult mortality pushes it closer to extinction. But there is some good news: nest protection and head-starting programs, like the one established by the Toronto Zoo and its partners, are part of ongoing efforts to give this ‘smiling’ turtle a more certain future in Canada.”
Designed by Canadian artist Pierre Girard, the $1 coin features a Blanding’s turtle sunning itself on a log in its wetland habitat. It’s the first time a reptile has been featured on the Mint’s annual specimen set $1 coin. The obverse features Blunt’s effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.
All six coins feature a specimen finish described by the Mint as “brilliant and frosted relief over a lined specimen background.” With a mintage of 30,000, the set is held in a book-style packaging with a removable lens for viewing the coins.
OTHER FEBRUARY COINS
Other coins issued as part of the February catalogue include:
- a $5 quarter-ounce Fine silver coin, “Moments to Hold: Arms of Canada,” the first issue of a four-coin series with a mintage of 100,000;
- a $250 one-kilogram Fine silver coin, “1912 Heraldic Design,” with a mintage of 500;
- a $2,500 one-kilogram pure gold coin, also entitled “1912 Heraldic Design,” with a mintage of 40;
- a $20 one-ounce Fine silver coin, “Pysanka,” the Mint’s sixth Fine silver pysanka coin, with a mintage of 5,000; and
- a $250 two-ounce pure gold coin, “Pysanka,” with a rooster motif and a mintage of 250.
The pysanka coins are numismatic versions of one of the bullion pieces issued by the Mint in late January for Germany’s Digital World Money Fair.
The gold “Heraldic Design” coin is a follow-up to last year’s “Reimagined 1905 Arms of Dominion of Canada” coin, according to the Mint. Both it and the silver version are part of the Mint’s centennial celebration of the Arms of Canada, which will be represented on several coins this year.