Mint unleashes Bank of Canada gold coin holdings

The final gold coins in the Bank of Canada’s reserves are being put up for sale. The Royal Canadian Mint has been consigned what it refers to as “a rare collection of Canada’s first gold coins, produced by the Mint from 1912 to 1914.” The coins take the form of almost a quarter-million Canadian $5 and $10 gold coins with 1912, 1913 and 1914 dates. They have been stored at the Bank of Canada for more than 75 years after becoming part of the Government of Canada’s Exchange Fund Account. The non-Canadian gold had been disposed of in the 1970s. The Mint announced that the highest quality of these $5 and $10 gold coins are now being offered for sale to convert the proceeds into quality fixed-income securities. The remainder are to be melted.

Approximately 30,000 coins were retained, in the same proportion as the Bank of Canada’s holdings. “The 1912-14 $5 and $10 Canadian gold coins are at the source of the Royal Canadian Mint’s reputation as a world-class refiner and producer of gold coins and we are delighted that these pieces of our history are back in the spotlight after a nearly century-long absence,” said Ian Bennett, president and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint. “By creating this unique opportunity to purchase Canada’s first gold coins proudly displaying national emblems, the Mint is excited to share these important artifacts with Canadians and collectors worldwide with the help of the Bank of Canada and the Department of Finance.” “The Bank of Canada is proud to have safeguarded these national treasures for over 75 years and we are pleased that they have returned to the Mint so that Canadians can collect them as precious historical objects,” said Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada. “Though precious metal coins are no longer part of daily commerce, Canada’s first gold circulation coins endure as important symbols of our nation’s proud heritage.”

When it opened its doors for business in January 1908 as the Canadian branch of Britain’s Royal Mint, the Mint’s Ottawa facility was mandated to produce Canada’s circulation coinage as well as convert Canada’s growing gold resources into dollar-denominated gold circulation coins. There had been a growing demand for Canadian gold coins, fed largely by finds in British Columbia. At that time no gold coins were produced in Canada. From 1912 to 1914, the Mint produced $5 and $10 coins with a purity of 90 per cent. It also produced sovereigns for the British government, with the now-famous C mint mark. Although sought by Canadian collectors, the sovereigns are technically not part of the Canadian gold coin series. There was, in fact, little demand for the coins. While a small number of coins bearing the date 1912, 1913 or 1914 did enter circulation and have found their way into the numismatic market, the bulk of these coins were kept out of circulation at the beginning of the First World War as the government accumulated gold reserves to help finance the war effort.

The Mint is offering the coins in “premium hand-selected” sets of all six denominations produced from 1912 to 1914, in addition to selling “hand-selected” single coins. The proceeds of this sale, less a fixed management fee, will be returned to the Exchange Fund Account for the purchase of high credit quality, marketable fixed-income securities, in compliance with the fund’s mandate. The coins were selected by a Canadian numismatic expert working for the Mint and Bank of Canada. Even after going into operation, it took several years for the Mint to set up a refinery capable of producing coins in volume. By then the B.C. gold rush was pretty much over, although gold was being produced in other parts of Canada. According to the Mint, much of the gold for the coins came from the Klondike region in 1912 and from Ontario in the other years.

The remaining 10-per-cent content in the coins is copper. Coins intended to circulate traditionally have less purity than bullion coins, since gold is a soft metal and wears quickly in use. The reverse side of these first Canadian gold coins features the inscription “CANADA” above a shield bearing the arms of the dominion of Canada in a wreath of maple leaves, beneath which appears the year of issue and face value. The obverse bears the effigy of King George V. At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the Government of Canada recovered the majority of circulating $5 and $10 coins and withheld remaining stocks from circulation to help finance the war effort. The coins have been held in canvas bags for more than 75 years in the vaults at the Bank of Canada. Approximately 245,000 King George V $5 and $10 gold coins dated 1912, 1913 or 1914 are currently held in the Exchange Fund Account, controlled by the minister of Finance.

The following coins are being made available to the public: • premium hand-selected six-coin set (140 sets; $12,000 each), • premium hand-selected 1912, 1913 and 1914 $5 single gold coins (291 coins; $875 each), • premium hand-selected 1913 and 1914 $10 single gold coins (4,869 coins; $1,750 each), • hand-selected 1912, 1913 and 1914 $5 single gold coins (5,050 coins; $500 each), • hand-selected 1912, 1913 and 1914 $10 single gold coins (18,950 coins; $1,000 each). The premium coins were hand-picked by Mint personnel for maximum eye-appeal and nearly pristine quality. Their lustre is exceptional, as is the quality of their strike and their virtually unblemished surfaces.

The remaining coins were selected by Mint staff for a high-quality appearance, with minimal evidence of wear caused by handling, storage, or environmental conditions. The premium coins have a gold hologram on the holder, while the select coins have a silver hologram. The coins have not been specifically graded. The coins may rank from AU to MS. The sale of premium hand-selected coins, including the six-coin set, will be limited to one per household. Hand-selected coins will be limited to three purchases per household. The Mint said the coins are only being offered through the Mint and not through numismatic distributors.

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