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What is it About the Maple Leaf, Anyway?

Re-tracing the history that inspired greatness for Canada’s national symbol

For the past half-century or so, stories have circulated about tourists stitching the Canadian flag onto their backpacks to benefit from the goodwill that is often directed at citizens from this friendly and welcoming land.

Interestingly, this practice seems to have coincided with the introduction of Canada’s new flag in 1965, and many could argue the international rise in the maple leaf’s fame was fuelled by the flag’s dynamic new design. The maple leaf was central. It was big, bold and red. And people took notice.

 

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5 oz. Pure Silver Convex Coin — Maple Leaves in Motion

 

But why a maple leaf?

The maple leaf has been a fixture on Canadian coinage since the beginning, only disappearing from our pocket change when the 1-cent coin and its sprig of maple leaves was withdrawn from circulation in 2013.

Throughout the 1800’s, the maple leaf was the subject of poems and songs, and the emblem of choice for journals, sports teams, academic associations, and various organizations. Montreal’s first mayor, Jacques Viger, called the maple leaf, “the king of our forest… the symbol of the Canadian people.”

In 1927, when Conn Smythe named his newly acquired hockey team the Toronto Maple Leafs, he is reputed to have said that he chose the maple leaf because Canadian soldiers had worn it during the Great War. It meant more to the men than anything else, and Smythe hoped his team would wear it with the same honour, courage and pride.

 

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Pure Silver Rose Gold-Plated Maple Leaf Quartet — Thirty Years (1988–2018)

 

How could a single leaf mean so much? What is its greatness that inspires people so?

Like many things Canadian, the answer lies in nature, and the rich cultural heritage of the Aboriginal people who lived throughout North America long before the first Europeans arrived. Countless tribes, particularly those from central North America to the eastern seaboard, had to endure the severe challenges of winter. And for them, the maple tree was key.

As the maple’s sap began to flow in spring, it provided a potent elixir for people who were depleted after months of cold and dark, and perhaps at the end of their food reserves.

Science today has confirmed the valuable trace minerals, vitamins and micronutrients in maple water, as well as its syrup (albeit with a much higher sugar content!).

The sap also signalled that warmer days lay ahead. Maple water was considered a gift from the Creator and/or cultural hero, and many traditions revolved around maple sugaring. The Anishnabe calendar includes Sugar Moon, and Algonquian beadwork often features maple leaves.

The maple tree sustained Canada’s Aboriginal people, who in turn, sustained the Europeans by sharing its healing nourishment. The maple also provided precious firewood and building supplies. As settlers struggled to survive, the great tree was benevolent, potent and pure.

 

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2 oz. Pure Silver Gold-Plated Coin — SML Tribute to 30 Years

 

So, when the Royal Canadian Mint entered the bullion market, it made perfect sense to brand its coins with the tried and true maple leaf. 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the Silver Maple Leaf, and these three commemorative products celebrate its international prestige with the first-ever selective gold plating on a 2-ounce SML coin with a laser-engraved background that delivers a holographic effect, an inventive quartet of square fractional coins that come together to form a selectively plated maple leaf, and an elegant two-coin set featuring a distinctive finish for each of its 1-ounce coins.

 

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1 oz. Pure Silver 2-Coin Set — 30th Anniversary of the Silver Maple Leaf

 

Centuries after the first Europeans arrived, the Land of the Maple Leaf continues to sustain people from around the world with freedom and opportunity. Ask anyone, and they’ll likely say the maple leaf represents a land of hope and astounding natural beauty.

One such treasure is autumn’s colourful landscape that lures tourists and Canadians to the great outdoors each year. As one marvels at nature’s grand finale before winter, one has to reflect upon the First Peoples, and how they too, must have been awed by the crimson leaves that swirled about on the wind. This spectacle is a gift of creation that is beautifully captured on our largest dome-shaped coin ever. It is a masterpiece of movement and light, a testament to the enduring beauty of the maple leaf — and its ever-evolving greatness.

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