It was on this day in 1907 that Newfoundland and New Zealand achieved Dominion status within the Empire after the 1907 Imperial Conference decided to confer dominion status on all self-governing colonies.
The first brief European contact with Newfoundland and Labrador came about 1000 AD when the Vikings briefly settled in L’Anse aux Meadows. Around 1500 AD, European explorers and fishermen from England, Portugal, France, and Spain (mainly Basques) began exploration. Fishing expeditions came seasonally; the first small permanent settlements appeared around 1630 AD.
Newfoundland resisted joining Canada and was an independent dominion in the early 20th century. Fishing was always the dominant industry, but the economy collapsed in the Great Depression of the 1930s and the people voluntarily relinquished their independence to become a British colony again. Prosperity and self-confidence returned during the Second World War, and after intense debate the people voted to join Canada in 1949.
The “golden era” came in the early 20th century. Since then poverty and emigration have been the main themes, despite efforts to modernize after 1949. Most efforts failed, and the sudden collapse of the cod fishing industry was a terrific blow in the 1990s. The historic cultural and political tensions between British Protestants and Irish Catholics faded, and a new spirit of a unified Newfoundland identity has recently emerged through songs and popular culture.
By the 1850s new formed local banks became a source of credit, replacing the haphazard system of credit from local merchants. Prosperity brought immigration, especially Catholics from Ireland who soon comprised 40 per cent of the residents. Below is a history of Newfoundland’s coinage history as outlined in Wikipedia.
The coins of Newfoundland are of historical importance as Newfoundland was a British colony until 1907, and a Dominion until 1949, when Newfoundland and Labrador became the tenth province of Canada.
The first traders’ tokens were Halfpenny tokens issued by the brothers R & I.S. Rutherford in St John’s in 1841. There are two varieties of the tokens – a dated type and an undated type.
In 1846, the Rutherford Brothers issued a second set of tokens, but these pieces are inscribed RUTHERFORD BROS. They had relocated to Harbour Grace. These pieces were minted by Ralph Heaton & Sons of Birmingham, England (commonly known as Heaton’s Mint).
This very rare piece appeared around 1845. It was issued by Peter M’Auslane, a general merchant in St John’s, whose business was destroyed by fire shortly afterwards. He then left Newfoundland and settled in Upper Canada (now Ontario).
The obverse of this very rare piece is inscribed ‘PETER M’AUSLANE St. JOHNS NEWFOUNDLAND’, and the reverse is inscribed ‘SELLS ALL SORTS OF SHOP & STORE GOODS’.
The 1858 Halfpenny token, which is very rare, has a ship on the obverse similar to the Ship Halfpenny tokens from Prince Edward Island. The date 1858 alone appears across the centre of the reverse.
The 1860 Halfpenny token, which is scarce has the date 1860 in the centre of the obverse inside a circle. The inscription FISHERY RIGHTS FOR NEWFOUNDLAND is enclosed outside the inner circle. The reverse of this piece is inscribed RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT going around the outside and AND FREE TRADE is in the centre of the reverse. This piece makes a political statement on promoting the fishing industry and asserting a claim to responsible government.
Queen Victoria coinage (1865–1900)
|Laureate head left||Denomination|
|AV 2 Dollars, 3.30 g|
In 1865, Newfoundland changed over to decimal currency following the footsteps of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Pattern coins were issued in 1864, as were specimen cents.
- 1 cent: This coin was struck for circulation in 1865, 1872–73, 1876, 1880, 1885, 1888, 1890, 1894,
and 1896. 1872 and 1876 cents have H mintmarks.
- 5 cents: Five-cent pieces were minted in 1865, 1870 1872-73, 1876, 1880–82, 1885, 1888, 1890, 1894,
and 1896. 1872, 1882, and a few 1873 coins have an H mintmark.
- 10 cents: Dimes for circulation were issued in 1865, 1870, 1871–73, 1876, 1880 1882, 1885, 1888, 1890, 1894, and 1896. All 1880’s have the second 8 punched over a 7. The coins minted in 1871-72, 1876, and 1882 are mintmarked H. The 1871H coins are rare and have Canada’s reverse design.
- 20 cents: 20-cent pieces were minted in 1865, 1870, 1872–73, 1876, 1880–82, 1885, 1888, 1890, 1894, 1896, 1899-1900.
- 50 cents: Circulating 50¢ pieces were struck in 1870, 1872–74, 1876, 1880–82, 1885, 1888, 1894, 1896, 1898-1900. All coins dated 1872, 1876, or 1882 have H mintmarks.
- 2 dollars: $2 coin were issued in 1865, 1870, 1872, 1880–82, 1885, and 1888. The 1882 coins have an H mintmark under the date. The 1880 coin has a very low mintage of only 2500. One of the rarest gold coins in North America.
Newfoundland was the only British North American colony to have its own gold coin (though the Ottawa mint also produced gold sovereigns). Originally, a gold dollar was considered, but it was decided it might be lost by the fishermen due to its low value. Thus, a two-dollar denomination was chosen for the gold coin. Three (equivalent) denominations were indicated on the coin, as it was denominated as $2, 200 cents, and 100 pence (equivalent value in sterling).
King Edward VII coinage
- 1 cent: Cents were minted in 1904, 1907 and 1909. 1904 has an H mintmark.
- 5 cents: The five-cent piece was struck in 1903-04 and 1908. 1904 coins have H mintmarks.
- 10 cents: This coin was issued in 1903 and 1904 (H mint).
- 20 cents: This highly unusual coin was minted in 1904 only.
- 50 cents: Fifty cent pieces for circulation were struck in 1904 (H), and 1907-09.
King George V coinage
These coins were issued between 1911 and 1936.
- 1 cent: This coin was issued in 1913, 1917 (C), 1919-20 (C), 1929, and 1936.
- 5 cents: This coin was struck the same years as dimes, plus 1929.
- 10 cents: This coin was issued in 1912, 1917, and 1919. All but 1912 have C mintmarks.
- 20 cents: The 20 cent coin was issued for the last time in 1912, due to confusion with the Canadian 25 cent coin.
- 25 cents: This was a two year type introduced in 1917 and 1919 to supersede the Newfoundland 20 cent coins. The Newfoundland 25 cent coins were interchangeable with the Canadian 25 cent coins, which was in common circulation in Newfoundland, even though Canadian coins were not legal tender in Newfoundland.
- 50 cents: This short-lived series was struck in 1911, and 1917-19. The 1917-19 coins have C mint marks below the date.
King George VI coinage (1938–47)
The Government of Newfoundland decided to modernise some of the coins; however, there was a very strong conservative element that was in favour of changing only the 1-cent piece.
The 1938 issue was struck at the Royal Mint in London, England. From 1940 to 1947, the coins were struck at the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa, Canada.
- 1 cent: In 1940 and 1942, the Canadian Mint forgot the C mintmark. Cents were also minted in Canada in 1941, 1943–44, and 1947.
- 5 cents: The rarest date in this denomination is the 1946C, with only 2041 coins known.
- 10 cents: The two key dates in this denomination are the 1946C are the 1947C.