Specimen set of Canada’s first coins to be displayed at Regina club show

By George Manz

A rare specimen set of early Canada’s first coins, these issued in 1858, will be on display at the Regina Coin Club Fall Show and Sale this October.

When these coins were issued by the Province of Canada 161 years ago – and a few years later by other British North American colonies – Canada was much smaller than it is today.

Back in 1858, the Province of Canada consisted of Upper Canada, also known as Canada West, and Lower Canada, which was known as Canada East. These small British colonies were in the southern part of what are now the provinces of Ontario and Québec.

After 1837-38 rebellions in favour of responsible government in Lower Canada and Upper Canada were defeated, Lord Durham reported only a united government would end the animosity.

Soon after, the Act of Union of 1840 gave each province 42 seats in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. Eventually, moderate reforms such as responsible government and bilingualism – with French as one of the two official languages – were enacted.

COINAGE ISSUED

Another one of the duties of the government of the Province of Canada was to issue coins.

And what coins they were. The 1858-dated coins were issued in four denominations, including large cents, silver five cents, silver 10 cents and silver 20 cents. All were minted in England.

The obverse of each coin depicted Queen Victoria wearing a laurel wreath in her hair; however, by 1858, Victoria was overweight and much older looking than she appeared on these coins.

The bronze large cents are my favourites in the series partly because they were made not only to represent the value of the coin but also because they were designed for other functions. Each cent weighed exactly 4.54 grams, which meant there were 100 cents in a pound. Also, the coins measure 25.4 millimetres, so if you place 12 of them together edge to edge, they will measure exactly a foot (30.48 centimetres) in length.

The silver five-, 10- and 20-cent pieces were made of sterling silver, and interestingly, the 20-cent coin was a one-year denomination. Within a few years, the government decided it would be replaced by a 25-cent coin.

The colonies of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia issued decimal coins in 1861 followed by Newfoundland in 1865 and Prince Edward Island in 1871, two years before it joined Canada as the country’s seventh province.

Saskatchewan and Alberta both joined Canada on Sept. 1, 1905, followed by Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949.

REGINA CLUB SHOW

The Regina Coin Club Fall Show and Sale will be held on Oct. 19-20 at the Turvey Centre on 100 Armour Rd., just north of Regina, Sask.

The show opens both days at 10 a.m. and will remain open to the public until 5 p.m. on Oct. 19 and 3 p.m. on Oct. 20. Admission is $3 for adults; $5 for a two-day pass; $1 for children aged 13-16; and free for children aged 12 and under.

Other activities will also be organized by the club’s youth group, the Coinhawks.

For more information about the Regina Coin Club, visit reginacoinclub.com.

George Manz is a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association and the president of the Regina Coin Club.

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