This is Big. Really Big.
Intrigue… rarity… master artists… a public first… one coin’s legacy.
It might be small, but the affection for Canada’s 10-cent coin featuring a fishing schooner is big.
Ever since this design was introduced in 1937, it has delighted Canadians with a potent reminder of their rich maritime history, and their strong connection to the sea. Proud Nova Scotians were quick to claim the new design as the famous Bluenose, although official documents merely referenced “a fishing schooner under sail.”
The debate raged for years. It wasn’t until photographs from Emanuel Hahn’s estate surfaced and proved that the famous sculptor did indeed use the Bluenose for his design, that the official description was amended to include the world famous racing schooner.
Spared by a German U-Boat.
World famous she was. The Bluenose’s fame spread around the world, the respect and affection for her was so great that a German captain refused to sink her during the Second World War. Instead, he raised his U-Boat within shouting distance and ordered the Bluenose back to port, warning that she would not be spared a second time. There are numerous versions of this story, but one thing is certain — she stayed afloat.
3x larger — and grander still!
The Bluenose made the dime one of Canada’s most beloved coins. And she is grander than ever as she proudly sails on this 2-ounce pure silver coin enhanced with selective gold plating.
But that’s not all. Look at the date, and you will see a tiny, very rare, and collectible mark.
The maple leaf that only appeared once.
The year was 1948.
India had just gained its independence which meant the Latin inscription ET IND: IMP: on Canada’s circulation coins had to be removed since the King was no longer the Emperor of India.
Although the Royal Canadian Mint had begun making its own dies in 1943, new designs or modifications for the obverse were still being managed by the Royal Mint in England. It would take months for new master tools to arrive, and the demand for coins was high. The solution: continue minting the 1947 dime, but add a small maple leaf after the date to identify those coins with the outdated inscription. This mark is unique to the circulation coins that were issued that year.
Historic anomaly №2.
Something similar occurred a few years prior in 1937.
King George VI had just ascended to the throne after the abdication of his brother Edward VIII, and the Royal Canadian Mint was waiting for matrices with the effigy of the new King to be shipped from overseas. Reserves of the 10-cent coin were running low, so an emergency measure was implemented — strike the 1936 coins with the effigy of King (George V), but distinguish these coins by adding a small raised dot at the bottom of the wreath below the date.
This dime became known as the “1936 Dot.”
According to the Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins, 200,000 were issued, but only five 1936 Dot Dimes have ever been found. All of them were specimen strikes which adds to the speculation that this particular coin never made it into circulation. The Catalogue also cites the sale of one (specimen) 1936 Dot Dime that fetched a princely sum of several thousand dollars.1
David Bergeron, a curator at the Bank of Canada’s National Currency Collection in Ottawa, does not believe these coins are true “specimens” in the way today’s collectors would interpret the word. As the annual issue of a standard circulation coin, Bergeron theorizes these coins were not struck from separate dies, but were the first few dozen coins minted from brand new dies. He believes they are circulation strikes, albeit in pristine uncirculated condition.
What happened to the other 1936 Dot Dimes? The mystery continues…
The coin that fuelled philanthropy.
Canada’s dime also ensured the continuity of families affected by polio in the 1950s.
At the time, a dime had the purchasing power of today’s loonie, and mothers across Canada went door to door collecting dimes to fund research for a cure. The March of Dimes had a direct impact on the development of a vaccine, and the mothers carried on, building a support network for people with physical challenges that endures to this day.
By 2001, the philanthropic work of Canadians equaled 578,000 full-time jobs, and the International Year of Volunteers was celebrated with a special commemorative design on the 10-cent coin — a numismatic interpretation of the original “marching mothers” with rays of sunshine signifying the hope that philanthropy brings to the world.
A Canadian master and his famous enigmatic style.
It’s no mystery that Alex Colville (1920–2013) is one of Canada’s most renowned artists. His distinctive, enigmatic images strike a chord with the viewer, luring them deeper to uncover its greater meaning.
Colville’s celebrated works can be seen in art galleries across Canada, in New York and Europe and even in the 1980 movie thriller The Shining. However, many Canadians don’t realize is they can also see his masterpieces in their pocket change as he was commissioned to redesign all of Canada’s circulation coins in celebration of the Centennial in 1967. — .
Got any coins from 1967?
Every circulation coin from that year features an Alex Colville design — simple but striking images of Canadian wildlife issued as part of the nation’s Centennial celebrations.
A mackerel was chosen for the dime. And, in true Colville style, the reason for selecting this beautiful, streamlined fish also included one cryptic phrase — “a symbol of continuity.”
To find its full meaning, one has to go deeper, out to sea, where huge schools of mackerel swim towards the shore and northward along the east coast — an abundant food source that has ensured the continuity of coastal communities for hundreds of years.
Hope. Canada’s first publicly designed, and selected dime.
For Amy Choi of Calgary (Alberta), hope is found in the Canadian ideals of peace, co-operation and diversity. In 2015, her design was one of 10,000 submissions received by the Royal Canadian Mint for the My Canada, My Inspiration contest in celebration of Canada’s 150th.
After notable Canadians like Rick Hansen and Chris Hadfield finished the difficult task of selecting 25 finalists, more than 1 million votes were cast by Canadians to select commemorative designs for all of Canada’s 2017 circulating denominations.
The dime became the canvas for Choi’s design. Wings of Peace expresses her hope that one day, offering a maple leaf will be as symbolic as offering an olive branch.
The legacy is in the art.
Jamie Desrochers, a Product Manager at the Mint remembers the teams’ experiences working with the My Canada, My Inspiration designs, “It was really inspiring to see the talent, creativity and thoughtfulness of Canadians everywhere, many of whom are not trained as artists. The engravers were impressed how well the sketches and ideas translated into coin designs, and the beautiful result when the dime was crafted as a 1-ounce collector coin.”
With deeper, more refined relief, proof finish and other enhancements, a numismatic issue completely transforms a circulation coin into a work of art.
“This is where the engraver’s skill and artistry truly shine. The beauty of Colville’s clean lines, the character of the Bluenose, take on a whole new quality on these collector coins. These designs have been reissued over the years, but never before has the story of Canada’s dime — its intrigue, rarity, mastery and historic firsts — been told through one legacy set.”
1W.K. Cross; A Charlton Standard Catalogue, Canadian Coins, 60th Anniversary Edition (2006); The Charlton Press, Toronto, Ontario