In launching the latest issue in its ongoing “Commemorating Black History” Fine silver coin series, the Royal Canadian Mint is honouring the community of Amber Valley, Alta., founded in 1910 by African-American families from Oklahoma, Texas and surrounding states.
Seeking a life away from segregationist laws, racial hostility and violence, they journeyed to northern Alberta in response to the Canadian government’s offer of free land in the country’s west. By 1910, approximately 300 men, women and children endured and overcame new hardships as they tamed the Alberta wilderness to carve out a new life in a thriving community that was renamed Amber Valley in 1931. Their inspiring tale of spirit and determination is forever preserved on a beautiful 99.99 per cent pure silver collector coin.
Released in conjunction with the annual observance of Black History Month, the 2024 $20 Fine silver coin celebrates the legacy of an exceptional group of men and women who built one of Western Canada’s earliest Black settlements.
The coin is among several new releases in the mint’s February catalogue.
“I appreciate the recognition this coin represents,” said Myrna Wisdom, historian and co-founder of the Black Settlers of the Alberta and Saskatchewan Historical Society. “The Black settlers of Amber Valley are indeed deserving of this recognition, which includes both my paternal and maternal grandparents, as well as my parents.”
“The Royal Canadian Mint is proud to contribute to the national celebration of Canada’s Black History Month through a continuing series of silver collector coins that captures important stories that define our shared heritage,” said RCM president Marie Lemay. “We are delighted to share the inspiring story of Amber Valley and the pioneering Black settlers who succeeded in building a new life in a new land, as yet another example of the spirit and resilience of Black communities across Canada.”
The reverse design, by artist Valentine De Landro, is centred on an imagined scene of a homesteader family arriving in Pine Creek, Alta., in 1909 and peering over the land that would become the thriving community of Amber Valley. The design includes a map outline of the province, enhanced by a bough of maple leaves. The lower portion of the reverse depicts a wagon train of settlers completing their long journey from the southern United States. The scene is framed by log cabins, which were the first houses built by the intrepid Black pioneers who were determined to make a new home in northern Alberta.
“For the composition, I needed to find a balance between what I thought were two prevailing characteristics: the journey and the community,” said artist De Landro. “The pioneering imagery was essential to communicating the spirit of Amber Valley, crossing through harsh terrain to reach a virtually unknown destination and to begin a legacy centred on the goal of a better life for their family.”
The obverse features the Susanna Blunt-designed transitional effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, which includes a special marking consisting of a vertical inscription of the dates “1952” and “2022,” separated by four pearls to symbolize the four effigies that graced Canadian coins throughout her reign. The coin has a mintage of 5,500.
The mint is launching six other coins as part of its February new releases. Two of the coins celebrate the Year of the Dragon. According to Chinese astrology, 2024 is the year of the Wood Dragon, bringing with it the promise of growth, progress, creativity and good fortune.
Both coins offer the same design: Framed by a wood pattern, the powerful dragon is brought to life by extraordinarily high relief that lifts the finely detailed relief to a peak height of 4.7 millimetres on the obverse while the reverse rises to 3.85 mm. This is a “mint first” to have the high relief on both sides of the coin which, says the mint, “is sure to be one of the highlights of 2024.”
“A mint first to welcome the Year of the Wood Dragon,” states a product description. “Never before has the mint been able to strike such extreme relief on both sides of the coin, and as part of a two-sided design that flows from front to back, reverse to obverse.”
While both coins are 50 mmm in diameter, one is made up of 100.74 grams of 99.99 per cent pure silver while the other is comprised of 188 grams of 99.99 per cent pure gold.
With a face value of $50, the silver coin has a mintage of 5,388 coins while the gold coin – with a face value of $350 – has a mintage of only 108 coins worldwide. The gold coin retails for $25,888.88.
The mint’s other February releases include:
A Robert Bateman original featuring a revered icon of the grasslands: the mighty bison. Bateman’s Weather Watch – Bison is captured in pure silver with a portrait of a bison at rest. Masterfully rendered in a luminous Proof finish, the coin’s 50-mm diameter allows for a wealth of finely engraved details that capture the spirit of the original art and its subject. With only 3,750 coins available, the two-ounce silver coin includes the artist’s engraved signature on the reverse. The mint began releasing Bateman’s originals on Canadian coins in 2019.
The Maple Leaves in Motion coin is a popular annual issue, and for 2024, the mint is introducing a new tech paring that has never been seen before on a five-ounce pure silver coin. Struck incuse, the Maple Leaf radiates a brilliant shine that is amplified by the black rhodium-plated field, which repeats on the obverse. The dark background alters the way the light reflects off the coin’s surface, grabbing the viewer’s attention and focusing it almost entirely on the shiny, incuse Maple Leaf. With a face value of $50, the 65.25-mm coin has a mintage of only 2,000. It has sold out every year since the series began.
The mint is also releasing coin No. 3 in its annual “Tall Ships” series of pure gold coins. Distinguished by the square sails on its foremast, the topsail schooner featured is a striking example of the sail plan that made this type of tall ship both strong and nimble. The rigging allowed these two- (or more) masted vessels to carry more sail, with the square topsails providing increased area for more speed. Combined with fore and aft sails, this made the ship easier to manoeuvre in heavy seas, an important consideration for coastal trading in the 1800s. With a $200 face value, the 29-mm gold coin weighs 15.43 grams and has a mintage of only 800. The design was created by artist Bonnie Ross.
The remaining release is the launch of a new annual series called, “This is Canada: Wondrous Waters.” The first of four coins explores the waters of the Pacific coast. The 38-mm silver coin weighs 31.39 grams and has a face value of $20. Created by artist Glen Green, the first coin features the coastline of British Columbia punctuated by islands and fjords. The mintage is 7,500 coins. The remaining three coins of the series will depict the Arctic Coast (May), the Atlantic Coast (August), and the Great Lakes (November).
For more details, visit mint.ca.