Dr. Sol Taylor

The Royal Canadian Mint

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
Saturday, July 25, 2009

One hundred kilos of pure Canadian gold sell for a cool million, give or take.
he Royal Canadian Mint, known in French as Monnaie Royale Canadienne, produces the coinage of Canada.
    The RCM is a highly innovative operation, having generated some novel concepts in coinage. It introduced the first color images on coins: the Remembrance Day commemorative 25c coin with a red poppy in the design. It patented the physical vapour deposition (PVD) technology to coat coinage dies to extend their useful lives well past that of chrome-plated dies.
    In 2008, the RCM was named one of Canada's Top 100 Employers. In 2006 there were approximately 700 employees at the RCM.
    All of Canada's coinage was produced in England until 1908, when the original RCM opened in Ottawa with 61 employees. In 1911 it included a refinery to produce the gold for coinage.
    At first, Canada issued a small number of gold coins, which were the same as British sovereigns up to 1916. A "C" mintmark distinguished these coins from their British mates.
    The Ottawa facility, built in classical fortress-like style, passed from British control to Canadian control in 1931.
    The Mint produced military medals used for service in World War II. A few commemorative coins were issued before Expo '67 including a 1935 silver dollar honoring the 25th anniversary of King George's reign, a 1939 silver dollar commemorating the royal visit of George VI (and family), and a 1951 5-cent coin noting Canada's nickel mining production.
    Since Expo '67 and its seven-coin commemorative set including a $20 gold coin, the RCM has issued many different commemorative circulating as well as special collector coins including gold issues up to $300 in denomination.
    The earlier proof sets from the 1940s to 1950s are quite valuable collector items today. Canada's silver dollars from 1935 to 1967 are very desirable collector items with very scarce dates in 1947 and 1948.
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    In 1969 the RCM opened its silver refinery and enabled silver in various forms to be refined for coinage. In November 1971 a new modern facility was built in Winnipeg to produce the circulating coinage for the country, while the old obsolete Ottawa facility would focus on commemorative issues. The first Winnipeg issues came out in 1976.
    The Winnipeg facility is open to the public for guided tours. Many mint products are for sale at the facility.
    Under contract with many countries, the RCM produces circulating as well as collector coinage for diverse countries as Hong Kong, China, Macau, Barbados, New Zealand, Iceland, Indonesia, Thailand and Uganda. Some coins are strictly collector gold commemorative and others are regular low-denomination circulation coinage.
    The Mint's revenue as reported in 2006 figures showed income from domestic coinage of $131.2 million (Canadian dollars); foreign coins, $25.3 million; numismatic sales, $56.7 million; and bullion sales and refinery income, $280.7 million. The seignorage — i.e., the profit of coinage, equaling the difference between production cost and face value — came to $93.1 million in 2006 for the Crown.
    The size of the circulating coinage has been the same as the United States — one cent through silver dollar from 1920 to 1967. Since then, the dollar coin has been reduced in size and the paper dollar was replaced in 1987 by the so-called "loonie" dollar coins.
    The $2 bill was replaced in 1996 by the $2 "toonie" coin, which is bimetallic — another innovation of the RCM.
    The RCM issues one-ounce pure gold Maple Leafs to compete with similar gold bullion coins of South Africa, the United States and Australia.
    In 2007 the RCM issued a total of five huge 100 kilogram gold coins with a nominal value of $1 million. These are the largest coins produced by any mint. The previous title of the world's largest coin was held by the Austrian Mint's 100,000 euro gold coin, struck a few years earlier. Only 15 of these 31-kilo coins were minted, and they sell for $153,000 (Canadian).
    The RCM holds titles for many firsts and coins of the year. The first hologram coin was issued in 1999, in a five-coin set. A square silver coin was issued in 2006. A 5-ounce .9999 silver coin set was issued in 2006 honoring the four seasons.
    Most minor coins are pure nickel and thus magnetic, which is why they usually won't work in U.S. vending machines.
    Many places close to the Canadian border readily accept Canadian coinage, even when there is a difference in exchange value, just as U.S. coins readily pass throughout Canada.