By Jesse Robitaille
Picking up after a two-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Royal Canadian Mint resumed numismatic production on May 25.
The Mint closed its boutiques in Ottawa and Winnipeg on March 14 before suspending the majority of its production and shipping operations from March 20-April 5, after which time the Crown corporation returned to modified production.
“In the final weeks of the quarter, the Mint responded to this unprecedented situation with COVID-19 in a proactive way that prioritizes the health and safety of our employees,” said Mint President and CEO Marie Lemay. “We have adapted our production to be able to continue delivering critical services in support of essential sectors of the Canadian economy while adhering to strict new protocols to ensure our work environment is a safe one.”
While first-quarter revenues for foreign circulation and bullion were up 31 per cent and 51 per cent, respectively, numismatic revenue fell by 22 per cent in the same period, which ended March 28.
“The decrease in revenue was largely attributable to the suspension of order fulfillment and shipments in mid-March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with a planned smaller, more resonant product portfolio in 2020, in particular for silver products, consistent with the Mint’s updated numismatics strategy,” reads the first-quarter report.
Altogether, the Mint’s first-quarter profits totalled $1.7 million (compared to $7.7 million for the same period in 2019).
While the Crown corporation is planning to return to full production in the second quarter, it also “expects COVID-19 to continue to affect its performance over the balance of 2020,” according to its latest financial report.
Because the report only accounts for activity until the end of March, the pandemic’s impact on 2020 circulation mintages won’t be fully understood until the next quarterly report is published in early July, Alex Reeves, the Mint’s senior manager of public affairs, told CCN.
TWO JUNE ISSUES
Two new issues were unveiled by the Mint on June 2 but won’t begin shipping until September.
“Since there are only two products launching this month, we are not issuing a customary news release,” added Reeves. “This is a temporary situation as our numismatic production only resumed May 25 and capacity will gradually increase over time. Therefore, you can expect our monthly offering to gradually return to historical levels over the coming months.”
Among the June issues as a $100 Fine silver coin, “The Armorial Bearings of the Dominion of Canada,” from a new series dubbed “Archival Treasures.” The coin’s reverse design, which features the emblem of the Dominion of Canada in 1868, ties into collectors’ “hunt for historical treasures,” according to a statement issued by the Mint.
“We dug deep into Library and Archives Canada’s collection to find the original design by Sir Charles George Young, the Garter King of Arms at the College of Arms in England, as well as a letter dated April 8, 1868, and addressed to Richard Grenville, third Duke of Buckingham and Chandos and secretary to the colonies from 1867 to 1868.”
Produced by a team of the Mint’s engravers, the coin’s reverse design – featuring the arms of Canada’s first four provinces, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Québec – interprets Young’s original pen-and-ink drawing. Complete with a paper-texture finish, the design is scaled to fit the 10-ounce, 76.25-millimetre coin and includes several revised elements suggested by the Duke of Buckingham after the design was submitted in 1868.
“My background in History taught me to search the archives for content, but this was the first time I got to handle such important historical documents,” Jamie Desrochers, Mint product manager, is quoted as saying on the Mint website. “I’m so glad they gave me white gloves to handle them—the weight of seeing these treasures in person made my hands sweat. Reading the correspondence to Duke of Buckingham, with its perfect calligraphy, made me nervous in the best of ways. I was so excited to handle these precious documents dating back to 1868.”
Packaged in a black clamshell with a black beauty box, each coin also includes a special insert card featuring the original drawing.
There’s a mintage of 800 coins.
MAPLE MASTERS COLLECTION
Also issued this June is a five-piece Fine silver coin set called the “Canadian Maple Masters Collection.”
Designed by Nathalie Lagacé, the coins in the large fractional set are reminiscent of the maple boughs from early Canadian circulation coins. Each one has been individually designed to pay tribute to a different maple leaf species, including:
- the sugar maple (one-kilogram $250 coin with a diameter of 102.1 millimetres);
- the silver maple (half-kilogram $125 coin with a diameter of 85.45 millimetres);
- the Douglas maple (five-ounce $50 coin with a diameter of 65.25 millimetres);
- the black maple (two-ounce $30 coin with a diameter of 50 millimetres); and
- the bigleaf maple (one-ounce $20 coin with a diameter of 38 millimetres).
The one-kilogram coin also includes selective rose gold plating, “setting the iconic sugar maple leaf design apart,” according to the Mint.
“Trees are a major part of my art—and my life,” Lagacé is quoted as saying on the Mint website. “The moment I step into any wooded area, I feel a magical, very intimate connection with nature that allows me to go beyond the botanical features to uncover a tree’s unique character. This project introduced me to five distinct maple personalities.”
All 250 sets include a serialized certificate signed by Mint engravers Aida Alves and Eric Boyer, and each set is packaged in a wooden case with a black beauty box.
Both the “Armorial Bearings” coin and Canadian Maple Masters Collection will launch on Sept. 1.