Mint goes the distance for Arctic expedition centenary

The Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913-16 is the subject of the 2013 silver dollar. The expedition was organized and run by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, a noted anthropologist and explorer born in Gimli, Man., but raised in the United States. Originally, the expedition was to be funded by two organizations from the United States, but at the time it was still considered possible that large islands or even a small continent was located under the Arctic ice and Prime Minister Robert Borden arranged for the expedition to be funded by the Canadian government.

As a result, Stefansson’s original plan was modified, and a second southern part was added under biologist Rudolph Anderson to explore lands around the Mackenzie Delta. The expedition left Canada’s west coast in August 1913 and quickly encountered trouble. The flagship, Karluk, under the famous Capt. Robert Bartlett, became trapped in ice. The ship was carried west in Siberian waters and eventually crushed with the loss of 11 lives. The survivors trekked over ice to Wrangel Island, a distance of 130 kilometres. Bartlett then travelled hundreds of kilometres across the ice to the Siberian mainland and then returned to Alaska to organize a rescue mission. It was September, 1914 before they were eventually reached.

Meanwhile, Stefansson, who had been away hunting caribou when the Karluk was carried off, continued with the expedition. He wintered in Alaska with two other vessels, purchased a replacement ship and hired local people to replace the crew. The northern party eventually travelled thousands of kilometres and discovered four large unknown islands. The southern party, led by Anderson, had more success. Their reports filled 14 volumes of cartographic and geological information. They were also the first to document the culture and way of life of the North’s aboriginal people, including the Copper Inuit, some of whom worked as expedition guides.

After the expedition, Stefansson settled in New York City, where he participated in an ill-conceived plan to establish a permanent base on Wrangel Island. Unfortunately, the participants were under-equipped and inadequately trained, and all four died in the first winter. Stefansson took much of the blame. Anderson went on to become head of the biology division of the National Museum of Canada. The design for the silver dollar draws from photographic records of the Canadian Arctic Expedition. Created by Bonnie Ross, it shows three men standing beside a dogsled. In the background is a compass rose, with the needle pointed east of true north, toward magnetic north. Taking magnetic readings was a major part of the expedition’s mandate.

The dollar is struck in .9999 silver with a diameter of 36.07 millimetres and weight of 23.17 grams. It is struck in Proof finish, with a mintage of 40,000, and Brilliant Uncirculated finish, with a mintage of 20,000. The coin also appears in the silver Proof set. In this case the coin has selective gold plating around the edge of the coin, the edge of the compass, and the figures in the foreground. The other coins in the set, from 5 cents to $2, are struck in .9999 silver. Gold plating is also applied to the entire loon dollar and inner core of the silver $2 coin in the set. The mintage limit for the Proof set is 25,000. The expedition is also the theme of the 2013 $100 gold coin. That coin shows a survey team stopped on an ice floe to take measurements.

Also created by Ross, it is again based on some of the more than 4,000 photographs taken to document the expedition. In the background is a map of Canada’s Arctic. The coin is struck in 14-karat, (58.33 per cent) gold with a diameter of 27 mm and weight of 12 grams. The mintage limit is 2,500. Not yet done, the Royal Canadian Mint has also used the expedition as the theme of gold and silver kilogram coins. These coins, designed by W. David Ward, show the north shore of Baffin Island, overlooking Lancaster Sound. In the distance are glacier-topped mountains. The coins are both struck with a purity of .9999. The $2,500 gold coin, with a mintage of 20 coins, has a diameter of 101.6 mm. The $250 silver coin has a mintage of 750 and is slightly larger, at 101.8 mm.

Inuit sculpture on 50-cent piece
A final northern-themed coin is a gold 50-cent piece reproducing a sculpture by Joanassie Nowkawalk from northern Quebec, one of the first Inuit sculptors to gain popularity. The sculpture, Owl Shaman Holding Goose, captures the belief that Inuit shamans can change themselves into animals to gain access to their wisdom and strengths. The original is on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, home of one of the largest collections of Inuit art in the world. The tiny coin has a weight of 1.27 grams (1/25 of an ounce), and diameter of 13.92 mm. It is struck in .9999 gold with a mintage limit of 10,000.

Teal takes wing on Specimen set
The Mint’s January launch traditionally contains a number of collecting favourites. For several years the Specimen sets have featured other Canadian birds on the $1 in place of the loon. The 2013 set continues that tradition with a coin depicting a blue-winged teal. Designed by wildlife artist Glen Loates, the coin shows the bird standing on a partly submerged piece of wood with marsh grass in the background. All the coins in the set are struck in Specimen finish with a mintage limit of 50,000. As with all other 2013 sets, it does not contain a 1-cent coin. All the coins have the same metallic composition and physical specifications as circulating coins. The Uncirculated Set, formerly referred to by collectors as Proof-Like and now classed as Numismatic BU, is another January regular.

The six coins in the set have the same design, composition, and specifications as business strikes. The set is packaged in a film holder, with an envelope dated 2013. The mintage limit for the set is 75,000. Four other sets – Baby, O’ Canada, Wedding, and Birthday – have also been introduced. All the sets contain Uncirculated examples of the coins from 5 cents to $2, with the exception of the 25-cent piece. Again this year, each set carries a different 25-cent coin design, which is only available in the sets. The Baby set has the baby feet design already used in 2012, the O’ Canada set has a Maple Leaf design, the Wedding set shows a pair of linked rings, and the birthday set features a piece of cake with a candle.

The sets are blister-packed in folders, with cut-outs on the front to showcase the 25-cent piece. There is no mintage limit, as the coins are produced to demand. The coins have the same composition and specifications as circulating coins of the same denomination. The baby feet design is used again on a $10 half-ounce silver coin. That coin is struck in .9999 silver with a diameter of 34 mm and weight of 15.87 grams. The mintage limit is 15,000.

Cartier featured in gold explorer series
The $200 gold series honouring explorers of Canada continues with a coin honouring Jacques Cartier. The design of the series’ second coin, by Laurie McGaw, shows the explorer standing on the bank of the St. Lawrence River. He is wearing the fashions of French society of the time, holding a sword and flanked by two soldiers. A ship is featured in the background, while a First Nations man approaches warily. The series, started last year, is leading up to Canada’s upcoming sesquicentennial celebrations in 2017.

Cartier led three voyages to the St. Lawrence region between 1534 and 1541. While searching for a route to China, he uncovered a vast continent, started the fur trade, and gave Canada its name. However, his remarkable career came to an unfortunate end. On his final voyage, believing they found gold and diamonds, his crew loaded their ships and returned home only to find they had iron pyrite and quartz. The coin, struck in .9999 gold, has a diameter of 29 mm and weight of 15.43 grams. The mintage limit is 2,000.

Ontario’s coat of arms in gold
The 11th coin in the gold Provincial Coats of Arms series features Ontario. The 14-karat coin shows the contemporary version of the design, adopted by the province in 1972. The original design dates back to 1868, but was not finalized until 1909. It shows a moose and a deer supporting a shield with three maple leaves beneath a cross of St. George, reflecting the province’s English origins. Below is the provincial motto, “Loyal she began, loyal she remains,” written in Latin. The $300 coin has a weight of 60 grams and diameter of 50 mm. The mintage limit is 500.

O’ Canada series hits first note
The first of 12 coins in the O’ Canada subscription series was also launched in January. The $10 silver coin shows an Inukshuk. Future coins in the series will depict a beaver, the RCMP, a polar bear, Canadian summer fun, a wolf, Niagara Falls, caribou, hockey, an orca, Canadian holiday season, and a coloured Maple Leaf. The Inukshuk coin is designed by Tony Bianco. All of the coins weigh 15.87 grams, have a diameter of 34 mm, and are struck in .9999 silver with a mintage limit of 40,000. The series is offered in a monthly subscription.

Harris the next of the Seven
The fourth coin in the Group of Seven series commemorates the work of Lawren S. Harris. As with other coins in the series, the one-ounce silver coin has a face value of $20 and is struck in .9999 silver. The mintage limit is 7,000. The coins are available individually, or by subscription. Harris, born in Brantford, Ont. in 1885, led a privileged life. His family owned the Massey-Harris farm equipment-manufacturing firm, leaving the young man free to pursue his interest in art. Unlike other members of the group, Harris often painted city scenes, dealing with the juxtaposition of old and new. The painting used for the coin, Toronto Street, Winter Morning, shows a Victorian neighbourhood in the 1920s.

Leave a Reply

Canadian Coin News


Canadian Coin News is Canada's premier source of information about coins, notes and medals.

Although we cover the entire world of numismatics, the majority of our readers are Canadian, and we concentrate on the unique circumstances surrounding collecting in our native land.

Send Us Your Event

Running an event? Send it to us and we will display it on Canadian Coin News!

Submit Event →

Subscribe To 26 Issues For Just $59.99/year

Subscribe today to receive Canada's premier coin publication. Canadian Coin News is available in both paper and digital forms.

Subscribe Now

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage.