RCM ‘R&D Lab’ tempts collectors with new test token set

By Jesse Robitaille

Following a 2018 issue that drew the interest of error collectors, the Royal Canadian Mint has issued its latest test token set as part of its August numismatic catalogue.

Released on Aug. 3 along with a gold fractional set plus eight individual coins, the 2021 R&D security test token set, “Behind the Scenes,” is a creation of the Mint’s research and development department, based in Winnipeg. All six test tokens were used to develop new minting innovations, including patented technology, multi-component composite circulation coin (MC4), which “represents a bold step forward,” according to a statement issued by the Mint. The mintage is fixed at 10,000 sets.

“These innovative products were created after receiving feedback on our previous R&D token set,” Xianyao Li, the Mint’s chief technology officer, is quoted as saying on the Crown corporation’s website. “That set’s tri-metallic prototypes combined value and security features in a way that made them more appealing to collect, even as circulation coins, so our team set out to redefine what was possible. … Not only did we create the MC4’s structure and features; we also developed the technology that allows the different components to be automatically assembled and struck at high speed—that was the real challenge, and we succeeded.”

The set’s tokens (reverses shown) use multi-component composite circulation coin, also known as MC4.

MC4 has four components, according to the Mint. Made of different materials, these components include an outer ring, a polymer or metal separator plus an inner core plated with two different alloys.

“The use of a black, white, and even a clear polymer ring opens up the possibility of integrating more colour and more materials than ever before,” adds the Mint statement.

For example, the set’s first polymer token features an outer ring of nickel-plated steel; a separator of transparent polymer; and an inner core of copper-plated steel on the obverse and nickel-plated steel on the reverse.

“The saying, ‘If it was easy, everyone would do it,’ inspired us to do something nobody has ever done or would even think of doing,” Brad Everton, the senior manager of applied research at the Mint’s Winnipeg facility, is quoted as saying on mint.ca. “We set out to make the most secure coin possible, and you can see the results of our hard work with this token set. Also, every mint makes mono-metallic coins and most make bi-metallic ones — some even make tri-metallic ones — but we asked ourselves, ‘How much farther can we take this?'”


The first three tokens in the Behind the Scenes set offer a preliminary look at the new MC4 technology. Each one features interrupted serrations on its edge and multi-security features, including visible and hidden microtext, latent images, positive and negative embossing, on its reverse.

  • Token #1 is an MC4 experimental prototype combining a nickel-plated steel outer ring with a clear (transparent) polymer separator, a nickel-plated steel reverse and a copper-plated steel obverse.
  • Token #2 is another MC4 prototype featuring a nickel-plated steel outer ring, a black (opaque) polymer separator, a copper-plated steel reverse and a brass-plated steel obverse.
  • Token #3 is a third MC4 prototype featuring a a bronze-plated steel outer ring, a white (opaque) polymer separator, a brass-plated steel reverse and a copper-plated steel obverse.
  • Token #4 also features interrupted serrations and the same multi-security features as the MC4 but in a bronze-plated steel mono-component token.
  • Token #5 is a copper-plated steel mono-component version of Token #4.
  • Token #6 is made of nickel-plated steel and as the last mono-component example in the set marks the starting point (it was the base model used to test and calibrate the presses).

    The set’s specifications are outlined on a card (shown) accompanying the Mylar package.

The tokens also boast several security features. On the first five pieces, the common maple leaf design is enhanced with an array of integrated features, including micro-text, latent images and embossing, taking security “to a whole new level without detracting from the art,” the Mint statement adds.

Each of the tokens is a genuine test specimen created at the Mint’s “R&D” facility, where they were used in calibration and laboratory testing. They’re packaged in a Mylar envelope with a card highlighting its specifications plus a note from Xianyao Li, the Mint’s chief technology officer since 1998.

Soon after the Mint issued its initial six-piece test token set in 2018, two southern Ontario dealers discovered several tri-metal tokens with prominent die cracks through the centre of the obverse.

“It’s a substantial die crack, and it’s on a better set,” one of the dealers, Kirk Parsons, told CCN in November 2018. “Historically, these sets have done well and hold their value – and some have gone up in value in the past – so it’s kind of neat to find an error on a better item like this.”

Including this August’s release, the Mint has now issued eight test token sets since its first four-piece set (Charlton TTS-1) in 1984.

The 2022 gold fractional set, ‘A Shining Crown,’ includes four coins featuring the royal family’s Diamond Diadem.


The Mint’s August catalogue also includes a 2022-dated pure gold fractional set, “A Shining Crown,” which features the royal family’s “Diamond Diadem” plus the queen’s former effigy on all four coins.

The set includes a 1/20th-ounce $1 coin, a 1/10th-ounce $5 coin, a quarter-ounce $10 coin and a one-ounce $50 coin. The obverses feature the queen’s 1990-2002 effigy by Canadian sculptor Dora de Pédery-Hunt while the reverses show the stately diadem – made in 1820 for King George IV – sitting atop a maple leaf. The one-ounce coin’s diadem and maple leaf design are also selectively plated with platinum. With a mintage of 500, the set is packaged in a maple leaf-shaped case made from hard maple wood.

Queen Elizabeth II wore Diamond Diadem in the famous accession portrait taken by Dorothy Wilding and during the coronation procession in 1953. The queen continues to wear the diadem to all state openings of British parliament.

The Diamond Diadem is set with 1,333 sparkling diamonds, including the four-carat pale yellow sparkler at the centre of the front cross pattée. The crosses alternate with a floral design that incorporates the national emblems of England (rose), Ireland (shamrock) and Scotland (thistle).

A five-ounce silver coin, ‘Great Lakes Tribute,’ celebrates one of the world’s largest surface freshwater ecosystems, which is shared by Canada and the United States.

Pédery-Hunt was the first Canadian to design a royal effigy for the country’s coinage. This effigy – featured across the fractional set – is the one that’s on most Canadian coins issued from 1990-2002.


One of the eight individual coins issued this August includes a $50 Fine silver coin, “Great Lakes Tribute,” a five-ounce commemoration of one of the world’s largest surface freshwater ecosystems.

Shared by Canada and the United States and spanning more than 1,200 kilometres, the Great Lakes include (from west to east) Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario. Together, they account for nearly 85 per cent of North America’s surface freshwater and more than 20 per cent of the world’s supply of surface freshwater.

On the coin’s reverse, the lakes are featured in a colour-over-engraved map designed “exclusively for collectors,” according to the Mint. Described as a “true scale” map – a first for the Mint – the coin’s design is “a true representation” of the Great Lakes and surrounding region scaled down (1:22 million). It also marks the first time a cartographer – in this case, Chris Brackley, of Limehouse, Ont. – has created a map exclusively for the Mint. Selectively coloured to show different land cover, the 65.25-millimetre coin also features a patterned obverse with the field marked by laser-engraved graticules to represent latitude and longitude.

“My favourite maps evoke the places they are designed to represent,” Brackley, a freelance cartographer for more than two decades, is quoted as saying on the Mint’s website. “And though I was working with a small canvas in designing this coin, my palette was expanded beyond colour into 3D relief and the glassy finishes of pure silver. The result is a landscape that rises and falls with a symphony of colour, while the Great Lakes themselves lie smooth and reflective— just like the oceans of freshwater they are designed to represent.”

With a weight of 157.6 grams, the coin has a mintage of 2,000 and is packaged in a black clamshell with a black beauty box.

A one-ounce silver coin, ‘125th Anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush: Panning for Gold,’ features gold-plated nuggets on its concave reverse (shown).


The seven remaining coins in the Mint’s latest numismatic catalogue include:

  • a $20 Fine silver coin, “Black and Gold: The Grey Wolf,” which follows the Mint’s 2019 gold- and black-rhodium-plated issue, “The Canadian Horse,” with a mintage of 4,500;
  • a $25 Fine silver coin, “125th Anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush: Panning for Gold,” which features gold-plated nuggets on its concave reverse and has a mintage of 5,000;
  • the last of four $30 Fine silver coins from the “Imposing Icons” series, this featuring the bison with a mintage of 2,500;
  • a $100 Fine silver coin, “Our National Colours,” which continues the Mint’s year-long celebration of Canada’s arboreal emblem, the maple tree, with a mintage of 800;
  • a $15 Fine silver coin, “Lunar Year of the Tiger,” which has a mintage of 18,888 and marks the beginning of a new annual series of one-ounce silver coins based on the Chinese lunar calendar;
  • a $100 pure gold coin, “Lunar Year of the Tiger,” which has a mintage of 1,888 and marks the beginning of a new 12-year series of half-ounce gold coins based on the Chinese lunar calendar; and
  • a $2,500 pure gold coin, “Lunar Year of the Tiger,” which has a mintage of 33 and marks the beginning of another 12-year series.

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