OTD: Decimal coinage introduced in Canada

On today’s date in 1858, decimal coinage was introduced to present-day Canada after the Province of Canada issued a letters patent to produce legal-tender five-, 10- and 20-cent coins in silver plus cents in copper.

A total of $450,000 of this coinage was struck by the British Royal Mint, according to N. Surrey Garland’s 1895 book, Garland’s Banks, bankers and banking and financial directory of Canada. The coins depict the effigy of Queen Victoria on the obverse and a maple leaf wreath – topped by a crown on every denomination except the cent – on the reverse.

The Currency Act (passed in 1853 and proclaimed on Aug. 1, 1854) “confirmed the ratings of the British sovereign and the US$10 gold eagle that had been in place since the establishment of the Province of Canada in 1841,” according to A History of the Canadian Dollar by the Bank of Canada.

“The British gold sovereign was rated at £1 4s. 4d. local currency or Can$4.8666, while the gold eagle (those minted after 1834 with a gold content of 232.2 grains) was valued at Can$10. British coins, both gold and silver, as well as U.S. gold coins, were legal tender. Other foreign silver coins, while not legal tender, continued to circulate (McCullough 1984, 110).”

A few years later, decimalization received another boost. After a recommendation from the public accounts committee, the Province of Canada revised the Currency Act in 1857, after which all provincial accounts were kept in dollars.

An 1858-dated 20-cent pattern specimen brought $10,575 during an April 2014 sale by Heritage Auctions. (Photo by Heritage Auctions)


At the Toronto Coin Expo Spring Sale 2017, Geoffrey Bell Auctions sold an 1858-dated 20-cent coin as Lot 177.

Certified as About Uncirculated-50 by Canadian Coin Certification Service, this example realized $300 plus buyer’s premium.

Earlier, in April 2014, the U.S.-based Heritage Auctions sold another 1858-dated 20-cent coin, this a pattern specimen, from the George Prager Collection of Canadian Specimen Coins. Certified by Professional Coin Grading Service as Specimen-62, it brought $10,575, including buyer’s premium.

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