OTD: Royal proclamation restores ‘Dei Gratia’ to Canada’s ‘Godless’ coins of 1911

On today’s date in 1911, a Royal proclamation restored the words “Dei Gratia” (Latin for “By the Grace of God”) to all forthcoming Canadian coinage.

Britain’s Royal Mint asked Canada’s Department of Finance to choose between obverse designs in English or Latin, the latter of which was chosen. Because Britain was responsible for preparing and distributing most of the master tooling to its Dominions and colonies, the engravers were under great pressure while preparing new coins to coincide with the coronation of King George V.

In their haste, the engravers failed to include “Dei Gra(tia)” (Latin for “By the Grace of God”) on the inscription surrounding the effigy—an unfortunate omission appearing on all smaller denomination coins that would enter circulation.

Finance Minister William Fielding also failed to notice the proposed inscription’s lack of “Dei Gratia” when approving the design, which soon earned a reputation as “Godless.”

Stocks of the 1910-dated circulation coins were rapidly depleting by the time the new production tooling arrived from England, so Canada was forced to issue “Godless” circulation coins in 1911; however, these “Godless” coins caused such controversy in the ensuing months that the phrase was returned to Canada’s coinage the following year.


In 2011, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a special-edition double-dated Proof set of all of Canada’s denominations from the era.

With exception of the pure copper cent, all of these historic coins were struck in sterling silver.

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