Mint offers sleigh full of Christmas coins

The traditional Canadian Christmas gift set, announced months ago by the Royal Canadian Mint, has been joined by a further five issues: a base metal lenticular coin and four silver offerings. Lenticular technology allows more than one image to be printed on a lens attached to the coin, so that the image changes when tilted. The 2013 coin shows two children building a snowman. In the first image the base has been constructed and one of the youngsters is moving it into position as the second child raises a second ball for the body.

In the second image, the two children are posing beside the finished result, complete with top hat and carrot nose. Their pet dog, seated on a wooden sled, looks on approvingly. In the background is a house decorated for Christmas with a wreath on the door and lights hanging from the eaves. Inside is an illuminated Christmas tree. The 50-cent coin is designed by Tony Bianco. As with other lenticular coins, it is struck on cupro-nickel blanks in Specimen finish. The mintage is 20,000 coins.

The lenticular coin has become a seasonal regular, having been offered by the Mint in each of the previous six years. Two of the other coins are colourized silver issues with a $10 face value. One of the coins, designed by Claudio D’Angelo, shows a trio of red holiday pillar candles, with the red finished in enamel. In the background is a grouping of pine boughs and pine cones. Candles, originally a practical source of light, were integrated into religious practices throughout early Europe and became a part of holiday traditions such as Candlemas. Today they remain a symbol of light.

The other coin shows a partridge in a pear tree, from the famous song The Twelve Days of Christmas, first published in England in 1780. While such adding songs were popular at the time, it may have started as an English-French pun, since the French word for partridge is perdrix, pronounced “peardree.” Designed by Riso Turunen, the coin shows a bird perched on a tree, the base of which is decorated with holly, pine cones, and ribbons. The pine cones and holly are reproduced in brown and green, while the ribbon has a red enamel finish. In the background is a frosted window with snow falling outside. Both coins share the same physical specifications: they are struck on .9999 silver blanks with a weight of 15.87 grams and diameter of 34 millimetres. Both have a mintage limit of 10,000 coins.

The final coins are both silver $20 issues with inserts. One coin shows a holiday wreath. While wreaths can be used for decorating year-round, the Christmas wreath decorated with pine needles and berries is a Canadian Christmas symbol used on homes and in community decorations. The coin shows a wreath decorated with ribbons and five Swarovski crystal elements, three blue and two gold coloured. It was designed by Maurice Gervais, although his initials do not appear on the reverse of the coin.

The second coin has a glass candy cane attached. Finished in holiday colours of white, green, and red, the element stands out from the surface of the coin. The rest of the design has three red poinsettia leaves, a gold star, and an ornament finished in blue and gold. In this case, designer Gervais’ initials, MG, appear in the lower right quadrant of the reverse. The candy cane was reputedly created as a way to keep young choir children quiet during midnight masses on Christmas Eve. The poinsettia is originally from Mexico, but became associated with Christmas because its topmost leaves turn red during the middle of winter, when long nights expose the plant to 12 or more hours of darkness each day.

The coin’s glass element was created by Cortella & Ballarin of Murano, Italy. It is the fourth coin in a series featuring Venetian glass inserts, which started with the $20 silver hummingbird coin of 2010. Both coins have the same specifications, being struck on .9999 silver blanks with a diameter of 38 mm and weight of 31.39 grams. The mintage limit is 10,000 in both cases. All coins have the Susanna Blunt effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, as used on contemporary Canadian circulating coins.

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