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What’s in a finish?

Every coin has a “finish”—a final bit of texturing and polish to give it shine and visual interest. Not so long ago, coins had just two kinds of finishes: brilliant or frosted (or some combination of those). Today, coins can have a multitude of textures and patterns—applied to the smallest areas of a design with pinpoint accuracy. To show those finishes in action, we’ve put together a special 2020 Numis-tastic! set that gives Canada’s familiar 25-cent caribou design five alternative treatments with the following finishes:

Brilliant uncirculated

This basic finish is used on most of Canada’s standard circulation coins. With a brilliant uncirculated finish, both the engraved design (relief) and the background (field) are shiny.


This finish was designed to show off the most stunning engraving. It’s usually reserved for prestige coins such as Black History Month: Willie O'Ree. Proof-finished coins have a flawless, mirror-like polish on the background to set off the relief. Engraved designs can be treated with a variety of frosted finishes, each specially selected to accentuate each feature.

Matte proof

This finish is unique to the Royal Canadian Mint. It’s similar to a standard proof, only with a satin finish on the background instead of a high-shine polish. It gives coins a slightly more aged appearance while still allowing for various textures on the relief portion.

Reverse proof

This finish is much like the regular proof finish except (as the name suggests) reversed: the background is matte while the engraved relief shines with a glass-like polish. It’s like “portrait mode” for a coin because the background recedes to keep the focus on the subject.


This finish was originally designed to shine a spotlight on the Mint’s extraordinary technical capabilities. It features precisely machined matte lines for the background and a highly detailed finish on the relief. Originally, the relief elements had an exclusively brilliant finish, but today our specimen coins feature a wide range of frosting and textures.

At the Mint, we’re always developing new technologies and techniques to tell Canadian stories and bring coin designs to life. Don’t forget to check out our Numis-tastic! caribou set—and watch for future coin innovations every year.

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