Are you interested in collecting coins from the Great White North?
Whether you are a Canadian, traveller or avid coin collector, you will find Canadian coins quite exciting due to their rich history, aesthetic appeal and affordability, even for the new hobbyist.
In this article, you will find a list of the most valuable Canadian coins. As you will discover, rare and error-type coins tend to fetch the most. Finding these special gems, however, requires time, patience, and a bit of luck.
So, let’s jump in and discover the most valuable Canadian coins released into circulation and those made especially for collectors.
Brief History of Canadian Coins
Many years before the Europeans arrived in North America, the indigenous population relied on barter trade to carry out day-to-day transactions. In particular, shells and belts, also known as wampum, were the dominant transaction mode; monetary trade was virtually nonexistent.
Society began trading using animal skins, and much later, copper tokens became a major e-commerce medium. As the years went by and e-commerce evolved, the indigenous communities devised various transaction methods, including pieces of playing cars, which have remained popular for close to a century.
By 1763, Britain had colonized a large part of North America and found there was basically an absence of coins in these vast yet primitive provinces. The colonialist found it difficult to conduct free and fair commerce because without money, evaluating the value of commodities was quite the challenge.
There was a great need for currency of some type, and the colonists did not hesitate to introduce new money. Initially, all kinds of merchants produced and used their own tokens and half-penny tokens made from brass or copper, but this disorganized system led to unfair e-commerce practices.
Eventually, the British set up a unified, streamlined monetary system in Canada. The first legal tender introduced in the Province of Canada included the Spanish silver dollar, the U.S. gold ten-dollar gold coin, and the British Sovereign.
In 1858, the British Royal Mint struck the first coinage for the Province of Canada. This initial offer included five, ten and silver twenty cents and a one-cent coin made from copper. In subsequent years, other provinces acquired their coinage in the form of silver and copper coins. Nova Scotia got its first coins in the 1860s, followed by New Brunswick. Manitoba, British Columbia and Prince Edward Islands joined the Confederation in the 1870s, acquiring their coinage.
Canada established its Mint in 1908 in Ottawa and struck its first gold coin that year. This first coin had a similar design to the British sovereign, so the Mint placed a C mint mark on the reverse to distinguish the two.
Now, let’s take a look at the most valuable Canadian coin.
Most Valuable Canadian Coins Worth Money
The 1911 silver dollar is one of the most important coins in Canada’s history and has been the world’s most expensive coin for many years.
The Canadian Royal Mint only struck three examples for unexplained reasons. These included two silver dollars and one bronze dollar.
Hobbyists, coin enthusiasts and history buffs can find one of the silver and bronze coins struck in 1911 at the Currency Museum in Ottawa. The only remaining coin was one silver, snatched up at a 2003 auction for about 1 million dollars.
Technically, there are no more 1911 Canadian silver dollars in circulation, collector’s rolls, or home banks, making this coin extremely rare and impossible to find.
The 1936 dot coins are popular among collectors because of their interesting history. Toward the end of 1936, King VIII unexpectedly renounced his throne, which saw GeorgeVII take over as king.
The Canadian Royal Mint did not have dies with King George VII’s portrait to make new coins in 1937. Therefore the Mint decided to strike a few coins with the 1936 date and a small raised dot underneath the date to show that the new coins featuring King George VII were actually struck in 1937.
Ultimately, only the 1, 10 and 25-cent pieces coins were struck with the distinguishing dot. The rarest of these three is the 1-cent dot coin; only three examples are known to exist in gem condition.
In 2010, one 1-cent coin example of the 1936 dot variety was sold for a whopping $400,000.
Only three denominations were struck with the “dot.” These are 25-cents, 10-cents and 1-cent pieces. The 1936 “dot” 1-cent coin is the rarest of them all, with only three mint state examples known to exist. One example sold at a 2010 coin auction for over $400,000!
The 1960 large date 10-cent coin is among the rarest and most valuable Canadian coins. As mentioned, errors can drastically increase the value of Canadian dollars, and the 1969 large date error is one such example.
The error occurred when mint workers used dies with a large date to strike some 1969 Canadian 10-cent coins.
On the obverse is the image of a sailboat with the date appearing on the left. Regular 1969 10-cent coins have a small date, so if you notice a significantly large date, you probably have a valuable error coin. Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait appears on the reverse.
Only 20 examples have been graded. When these rare pieces appear on auction, they can fetch as much as $10,000, but this figure can increase to $25,000 depending on the coin’s grade.
4. 1948 King George VI Coin
The current Canadian dollar, also known as a loonie, was introduced into circulation in 1987.
Before that, the dollar comprised 80% silver and featured King George on the Obverse while two men paddling a canoe appeared on the reverse.
The 1948 King George dollar is rare, and its silver content adds value. One such example was sold for $1,600 at a Heritage auction.
The various provinces all had their separate coinage before joining the Confederation. These early coins are exceptionally old and, therefore, quite valuable, depending on the coin’s grade.
The 1872 Newfoundland two-dollar coin was minted before the province joined Canada, making it a key date. Most of these coins will be in a low circulated grade, but if you find one graded About Uncirculated, it might be worth some good money.
These old coins can fetch as much as $400 in lower circulated grades, but this amount can increase to as high as $1,200, depending on the grade.
Under King George’s rule, the British Royal Mint struck 5-cent coins in fine, sterling silver. The coin’s composition changed to pure silver in 1858 under the reign of Queen Victoria. Nicknamed ”fish scale,” the 5-cent coin was small with a shiny surface and the pride of many Canadians.
Many years later, in 1922, the Mint changed the coin’s metal composition again owing to inflation and high silver prices. Nickel replaced silver, and the 5-cent coin was redesigned into a larger, chunkier coin.
As you might expect, the George V 5-cent coin is extremely rare; you will hardly find it in circulation. The coin’s silver composition also led to hoarding, which removed many of these coins from circulation.
While the 1918 King George V 5-cent coin may not fetch thousands of dollars, this old coin has been sold for as much as $250 at auctions, which is many times more than its face value.
7. 1957 Queen Elizabeth II Dollar
The 1957 Queen Elizabeth II dollar draws considerable interest among collectors fascinated by the “missing dress strap’’ error.
A close look at the coin will reveal some wear and tear around the queen’s dress strap, making it seem like the strap is missing.
This small yet peculiar error adds significant value to this modern loonie, with examples selling for up to $12,000 in AU58.
The Gold Maple Leaf coin takes the throne as the most valuable Canadian coin. In 2007, this gold coin was actioned for $5 million in 2010.
The Mint struck only six examples of the coin, which weighs an astounding 100 kilograms and measures 50 centimetres in diameter. The obverse design features a crownless Queen Elizabeth II, while a modernized maple leaf appears on the reverse.
The Royal Canadian Mint struck six Gold Maple Leaf coins and sold them to private individuals. One of the private buyers, Boris Fuchsmann, lent his coin to the Bode Museum in Germany, but someone stole the coin from the Museum. The thief’s identity and the coin’s whereabouts remain unknown despite several suspects being arrested.
9. The Emperor
The Mint struck three silver dollars in 1911, but this was never released into circulation, making this one of the rarest in Canadian coin history. The public nicknamed these coins Emperor, King and Prince due to the design on the obverse.
Private collector George Cook purchased the Emperor coin in 2003 at a public auction for a whopping $1.1 million. After he passed away in 2018, his heirs sold the coin for $734,000, and it was later offered to the Bank of Canada Museum to preserve what is described as ”Canada’s most important coin.” The three coins were minted more than 100 years ago, but they can all be found at the Museum.
The Canadian five-cent coin was initially small, light and made from silver. But at the start of the 1920s, with the increase in silver prices, legislation called for replacing the silver 5-cent coin with a large coin that didn’t contain precious metals.
By the time these changes were taking effect, the Mint had already begun producing silver five-cent coins with the 1921 date on them. But, production was stopped mid-way to give way for production of the new 1922 nickel five-cent coins.
The Mint melted almost all the silver 5-cent coins it had struck earlier, leaving only about 400 examples, some of which still survive. These 1921 King George V silver 5-cent coins are obviously very scarce and can fetch at least $4,500 even in low-grade circulated condition.
At the peak of the recession in the 1920s, there was a need for coins of a larger denomination. In 1921, the Mint struck the first half dollar, producing about 206,000 pieces. But interestingly, the Mint never released most of these coins into circulation, instead opting to smelt them.
The silver content from the smelted silver half-dollar pieces was used later in 1929 to produce half dollars when demand for new coinage had increased.
Due to the events in 1921, only a few of the silver 1921 King George V half dollars survived. When they come up for auction, these extremely rare Canadian half-dollar coins sell for as much as $30,000.
The Maple Leaf series is the Mint’s flagship program of the iconic maple leaf coinage. The Mint strikes the Gold, Silver and Platinum Maple Leaf coins each year.
Compared to silver and gold, platinum can be very difficult to find and mine, so the Mint can afford to produce only a few Platinum Maple Leaf coins. This coin was struck consistently from 1988 to 2002, but production halted between 2003 and 2008.
It is not uncommon for the Platinum Maple Leaf to fetch more than $1,000 at auctions.
Canadian coinage has a long and varied history, which makes collecting the country’s coins all the more interesting. The best coins to pay attention to are rare, such as those discontinued or hoarded in large numbers. The 1921 King George 5-cent and half-dollar coins are a good example of rare coins now among the most valuable Canadian coins.