OTD: Decimal coinage introduced in Canada

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

According to N. Surrey Garland’s 1895 book Garland’s Banks, bankers and banking and financial directory of Canada, $450,000 of this coinage was struck by England’s Royal Mint. The coins depicted the effigy of Queen Victoria on the obverse.

According to A History of the Canadian Dollar by the Bank of Canada, 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. 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.


At the Toronto Coin Expo Spring Sale 2017, auctioneer Geoffrey Bell Auctions sold an 1858-dated 20-cent coin as Lot 177. In Canadian Coin Certification Service About Uncirculated-50, this example realized $300 plus buyer’s premium.

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