Why Coins Continue to be One of the World’s Most Enduring Collectibles - Ever.
The 2018 Commemorative Silver Dollar celebrates the 240th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s arrival at Nootka Sound. Like all explorers who charted new lands for Britain’s admiralty, Cook was also tasked with finding new opportunities for trade, and discovering potential new sources of wealth such as fur, food and the ultimate prize — silver and gold.
Precious metals. Their ageless allure, and humanity’s endless pursuit, are the reasons why numismatic coins remain at the pinnacle of collecting year after year.
For millennia, silver and gold assured the owner of wealth and prestige, but in 1935, Canada’s new silver dollar demonstrated that a coin could represent something more. It was The King’s Silver Jubilee, and as the Royal Mint in London (England) invited the Dominions to join the celebration with commemorative silver medals, Canada announced it would issue a silver dollar.
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Until 1935, every Canadian coin had been designed in London, and its tools and dies shipped to Ottawa for minting, but time was short, and Canada quickly moved to create its first all-Canadian design — a voyageur and Native guide paddling a canoe.
It was a radical new approach. Never before had Canada’s currency captured the spirit of its wilderness, and the adventurous industry that lay at the very root of its creation. The public adored the new coin, and the silver dollar quickly became a cornerstone of coin collecting in Canada. The 2018 Commemorative Silver Dollar honouring Captain James Cook is the 59th issue to maintain that tradition, and features selective gold plating that was introduced in 2005 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Canada’s national flag.
Silver dollars with this prestigious touch of gold can only be acquired through the annual Proof Set, an upscale presentation of Canada’s circulation coins that was inspired by increased collector demand for Specimen Sets.
Specimen Sets were never intended for sale to the public, but were given to visiting dignitaries as “specimens” of the quality craftsmanship they could expect from the Mint. Collector interest in Specimen Sets sparked in 1937, two years after the voyageur silver dollar when all circulation coins began featuring truly Canadian designs, and intensified further with the centennial issues of 1967. The distinct specimen finish (brilliant relief on a parallel lined background) became a fixture with the numismatic coin programme for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games (Montreal). Soon thereafter, the Proof Set took coin collecting to next level by offering Canada’s circulation coin designs in sterling silver* with the ultimate finish of frosted details on a brilliant background.
But silver was not the only precious metal in play.
Gold refining had been a major part of the Mint’s operations since 1911, and by the 1960s, it was one of the world’s largest players. Gold coins were becoming an increasingly popular alternative to bullion, and in 1976, the Mint issued two gold coins as part of the Summer Olympic coin programme. Every year since, these 14-karat and 22-karat gold coins have been providing collectors with a convenient means to acquire gold in the form of limited works of art that celebrate distinctly Canadian themes, such as the 250th Anniversary of Tecumseh’s birth as commemorated by the 2018 14-Karat Gold Coin.
Combined with the annual Commemorative Silver Dollar, collectors can steadily amass a liquid, and ever-expanding gallery documenting the Canadian experience, while the Specimen and Proof Sets showcase the yearly evolution of Canada’s circulation coins with a classic beauty that will stand the test of time.
For thousands of years, coins have been the heart of commercial transactions, and the ancient craft that has long been used to produce them endures as a modern, ever-evolving art form. Today’s commerce may witness fewer and fewer cash transactions, but coins capture the essence of the people and nations behind them in a way that no credit, debit or electronic transfer ever could.
*except the one-cent and one-dollar coins