This month, the Royal Canadian Mint is telling a story of valour in combat with a tribute to First World War flying ace Billy Bishop.
Born 125 years ago in Owen Sound, Ont., the talented airman was only 23 years old when he downed his first German plane on his first mission.”It was the mud, I think, that made me take to flying,” wrote Bishop in his 1918 book, Winged Warfare.
After arriving in France, the author found himself up to his knees in mud on a stormy July day. When a plane landed and took off nearby, “I knew there was only one place to be on such a day—up above the clouds in the summer sunshine.”
Altogether, he recorded 72 confirmed kills as a Royal Flying Corps fighter pilot in the Great War and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his single-handed attack on a German airfield near Cambrai, France, on June 2, 1917. His fame grew even further when he was believed to have shot down the infamous Baron Manfred von Richthofen—known as the Red Baron.
Bishop’s contributions continued through the Second World War. As an honorary air marshal, he played a key role in recruiting for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and drew worldwide attention to the RCAF and to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
The $20 Fine silver coin features Bishop standing with his first plane, a Nieuport 17 he affectionately called “Little Daisy.” In the foreground, a full-colour portrait of the flying ace with “BILLY BISHOP 1894-1956” engraved to the right of his shoulder. Mint engravers reproduced archival photographs to create this design.
The effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt with “20 DOLLARS” and “ELIZABETH II D.G. REGINA” engraved along the outer edge of the coin is featured on the coin’s obverse.
This piece has a weight of 31.39 grams, a diameter of 38 millimetres and a mintage of 7,500 pieces.
CANADIAN NATIONAL RAIL
The Mint is reopening another chapter in Canadian history with its first issue in a series of 2019-dated coins celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Canadian National (CN) Rail.
The $200 pure gold coin designed by artist Tony Bianco features on its reverse a side-by-side view of three CN Railway engines that powered progress in Canada during the last 100 years.
On the far right is No. 6060, one of the last Mountain steam locomotives delivered to CN. Next is Locomotive 6400, a class U-4-a Confederation steam locomotive that was used for the Royal Visit in 1939. In the foreground, CN 2304 is a GE ES44DC model that represents today’s efficient diesel freight locomotives.
Instead of denticles, train tracks circle the rim and frame a stylized map that alludes to the railway’s impact across Canada. The reverse includes the face value “200 DOLLARS,” the commemorative dates “1919” and “2019” and the word “CANADA.”
The obverse also features Blunt’s effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.
This piece has a weight of 15.43 grams, a diameter of 29 mm and a mintage of 1,000 pieces.
Little-known pieces of Canada’s numismatic past are also brought back to life in the 2019 Fine silver two-coin set, “Royal Canadian Mint Lore: Back to Concept.”
Consisting of a pair of two-ounce silver coins, this set captures the original artwork proposed by artist Emanuel Hahn for the launch of Canada’s “Voyageur” silver dollar and the 25-cent caribou circulation coin more than 80 years ago.
It may surprise some people to discover Canada’s 25-cent coin could have included an engraving of the Big Dipper constellation floating above the image of our well-known caribou.
In honour of Canadians with an Icelandic and Scandinavian heritage, which is especially well-represented in the province of Manitoba, the Mint is launching a new Fine silver, selectively gold plated series of three coins celebrating Norse Gods.
The first of these Alexandra Lefort-designed coins features Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. His famous hammer, as well as his belt and iron gauntlets, are gold-plated.
Two more legendary figures of Norse mythology will be showcased in 2019.
OTHER FEBRUARY COINS
Completing this month’s numismatic catalogue are:
- the pure silver Proof set, “75th Anniversary of D-Day,” featuring a selectively gold- plated silver dollar designed by Tony Bianco;
- the Specimen set, “Pileated Woodpecker,” designed by artist Jean-Charles Daumas;
- a $2,500 pure gold coin, “Great Seal of the Province of Canada (1841-1867),” crafted of a kilogram of 99.99 per cent pure gold;
- a $50 Fine silver coin, “Maple Leaf in Motion,” designed by Glen Loates and featuring a first-time combination of pink and yellow gold plating;
- a $10 Fine silver coin, “Maple Leaves,” a specimen-finish coin designed by artist Pierre Leduc;
- a $20 Fine silver coin, “The Canadian Flag,” combining colour and classical engraving in a design by artist Aoifa Anctil;
- a $100 Fine silver double-concave coin, “Nature’s Grandeur: Commanding Wolves,” designed by Denis Mayer Jr.;
- a $200 pure gold coin, “Canadian Moose,” crafted of 99.999 per cent pure gold and designed Claude Thivierge;
- a $50 Fine silver coin, “My Inner Nature: Grizzly Bear,” a selectively gold-plated coin designed by artist Caitlin Lindstrom Milne;
- a 25-cent coin set, “Dinosaurs of Canada,” a three-piece collection of multi-ply plated steel coins featuring paleoartist Julius Csotonyi’s illustration of famous Canadian dinosaur fossils presented in a colourful folder;
- a $125 Fine silver coin, “The Benevolent Dragon,” a half-kilogram selectively gold-plated coin celebrating Chinese New Year with a Three Degrees Creative design;
- a $3 Fine silver coin, “Celebrating Canadian Fun and Festivities – Dog Sledding”; and
- a $5 Fine silver coin from the Zodiac series celebrating the Pisces sign.