With more than 160 years of decimal coinage to collect, Canadian numismatists can find a fulfilling hobby through much of the modestly priced material available on the market today.
By Jesse Robitaille
While the general advice is to collect the highest-quality examples available, deep pockets aren’t a prerequisite for having a satisfying hobby—or being an advanced numismatist.
Unique or finest-known examples are nice to own, but collectors pay steep premiums for those privileges. There’s more to numismatics than Mint-State (MS) coins.
“Collectors don’t always need to collect MS-quality coins,” said dealer Kirk Parsons, co-owner of Kitchener, Ont.’s Colonial Acres. “Coins in lower grades can be a great investment, too, but the key to buying coins that aren’t MS is to ensure they’re problem-free and have nice eye-appeal.”
Among the most sought-after yet affordable Canadian coins are the country’s silver dollars, which were issued from 1935-67. While Emanuel Hahn’s reverse design depicting a voyageur and an Indigenous guide was used on Canada’s $1 coin until 1986, the coin’s composition was changed from 80 per cent silver and 20 per cent copper to pure nickel after 1967.
“Our most popular coins to collect are Canadian silver dollars, and it doesn’t matter the year because people really like them,” said dealer Jared Stapleton, owner of Toronto’s Metro Coin & Banknote, who added the only pricier example in lower grades is the key-date 1948 dollar, which has a CCN Trends valuation of $2,000 in MS-60.
“Besides that, it’s a doable collection,” added Stapleton. “The price can go from affordable to really expensive in higher grades, but the number one collectible in our shop are silver dollars.”
1947, 1945 EXAMPLES
The 1947 silver dollar, including its several varieties, is one place people can look for an affordable avenue to collect.
In Very Fine (VF) to About Uncirculated (AU), the 1947 “Maple Leaf” varieties range from $235-$450 in Trends.
“The mintage is only 21,135,” said Parsons, who added the “highly sought-after” 1948 silver dollar has a mintage of 18,780.
“There’s only an 11 per cent difference in mintage, but pricing is approximately 500 per cent more for the 1948s, making the 1947 ‘Maple Leaf’ a great investment coin.”
The 1947 “Pointed 7” silver dollar, which includes five varieties – the regular “Pointed 7,” one with a dot and others with “HP” double, triple and quadruple stamped – also has a relatively low mintage of 65,595. In VF to Uncirculated, prices range from about $175-$400, Parsons said.
“As a major dealer, we do not get these walking in the front door very often.”
The 1945 silver dollar, which has a mintage of 38,391, runs a similar range of $225-$450 from VF-20 to MS-60 in Trends.
“Collectors are often missing this date from their collection, so it is always in high demand and has a low mintage,” Parsons said.
If you’re after MS examples, the silver dollar series does offer some affordable dates, including 1935 and 1936 – the first two years of issue – both of which start at about $30 in VF-20. Moving up to MS-65, the 1935 silver dollar is valued at $250 in Trends while the 1936 date is valued at $600.
“These are highly collectible and do not cost as much as other key-date coins,” added Parsons.
HALF-DOLLARS & 25 CENTS
For Canadian half-dollars, which were issued beginning in 1870 and continue to circulate despite a lack of general use, there are affordable examples with the 1931, 1934 and 1936 dates in VF to Extremely Fine (EF) condition.
“The mintages of these range from 38,550 to 57,581,” said Parsons. “In lower grades, they are more abundant, but in the VF to EF grades, they are seemingly rare with pricing ranging from $120-$350.”
The 1911 and 1914 half-dollars in Fine to VF are also “seemingly rare,” Parsons said, with Trends valuations ranging from $120 to about $300.
“Even though mintages are higher, the ‘survivor rate’ as coins get older decreases, and thus, actual mintages of coins available on the market today are more limited.”
Rounding out the 50-cent coins is the 1905 date, which has a mintage of 30,000. In Very Good (VG) condition, this coin commands a $300 Trends valuation.
Moving on to 25-cent coins, the 1947 “Dot” variety is “becoming more rare” in Fine to AU, Parsons said, adding Trends valuations in those grades range from $110-$380.
The 1921 and 1927 dates, which mark the bounds of a five-year stretch in which no 25-cent coins were struck, are also scarce. In VF to EF, which are “attractive grades,” Parsons said, these dates range from about $140-$320 in Trends.
1913 ‘BROAD LEAVES’
Another “underrated yet still affordable” coin is the 1913 “Broad Leaves” dime, according to dealer Sean Isaacs, owner of Almonte, Ont.’s Alliance Coin & Banknote.
One of Isaacs’ favourites, this 10-cent coin is “a truly distinct die/design variety yet truly, excessively uncommon in the everyday course of business,” he said.
“We handle a lot of coins, and from my own experience, I see perhaps two examples a year,” added Isaacs, who said that’s “significantly less” than the number of 1948 dollars he sees at his shop.
“In decent Good or VG – or even Fine – it would still seem to be very underrated at current price levels,” he said, adding he has “a nice VF example” in his collection.
“As a teenager, I traded 20,000 pennies for it, deciding at that time to give up my attempt to build a world-record-sized penny hoard.”
The Broad Leaves variety ranges in Trends from about $200 in VG to $500 in VF.
For five-cent coins, the 1925 date – with a mintage of more than 200,000 – is affordable through EF condition.
“A highly collectible denomination, this is one of the key dates, costing $100-350 in these grade points,” said Parsons.
As for Canada’s cents, the 1922, 1923 and 1925 dates, each with mintages of about one million, “are almost always missing from the average collection and are always in demand,” added Parsons.
“From VG to Uncirculated, these will cost on average $25-350, with all of them under $100 in EF condition.”
NEWFOUNDLAND & THE MARITIMES
While the price of gold is trending upwards, Newfoundland’s $2 gold coins remain affordable but “will soon be priced out of the $500 range,” said Parsons.
“However, a few common dates in EF or lower – 1881, 1882H, 1885 and 1888 – are rarely offered and always in demand,” he added.
Coins of the Maritimes are also “making a comeback, and demand has increased the past few years,” Parsons said.
From Good-6 to Fine-15, most examples of Maritime coinage are “relatively affordable” at less than $100, he added, but prices can reach the thousands in VF to EF condition.
“Maritime coins in lower grades are relatively plentiful and affordable to collect, but buying them in slightly better condition – in VF or better – the survivor rate of these grade points was very low, and thus, they command bigger premiums. Buying these one grade level below the major jump in value can be a smart investment.”