March 25, 2013
Every year about this time, I begin adding modern world coins from the previous year to the set composites in the PCGS Set Registry. I'm working on 2012 coinage now. One would think this would be a somewhat easy process, and for some countries, it is. Not so with Canadian coins. For a number of years, the Royal Canadian Mint has produced large numbers of commemorative issues. And, like most Mints, does not keep a complete accounting on their website of all the coins released during the year. Likewise, most catalogues are released mid-year so current year coinage is generally only partially complete, if that. This results in hours of research. I'm not complaining. I love going through catalogues and inventories online, recording all the new issues and the various specifications. It's fun to see what the world mints have created.
The RCM releases some wonderfully designed coins every year. Their technology allows them to design with color, gemstones, reverse proofs, specimen grades, and high reliefs, in addition to circulation strikes, prooflikes and proofs. Coins can be found in cupronickel, steel, silver, gold, platinum, and palladium. Denominations range from the penny through $2500 1 kilo gold. And, like recent years, 2012 was a spectacular and prolific year for the RCM.
One of the highlights of 2012 was the termination of the Canadian penny. The Canadian government determined that the manufacturing cost was more than the penny was worth and so the denomination came to an abrupt end in spite of its popularity with collectors. Of the standard issues, two circulation strikes were issued, one in copper plated zinc, and a second in multi-ply plated steel (magnetic). Both coins have the RCM logo under Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse and the maple leaf twig design on the reverse. The steel issue also comes in proof, prooflike, and specimen grades.
A number of "Farewell to the Penny" silver commemorative issues were released in addition to the regular coinage. One issue displays the maple leaves in gold plate and another issue has unique pink gold plated maple leaves. A wonderful set of five pennies in proof silver with a mintage of 5,000 was released. Each coin bears an obverse and reverse design from years past:
A five ounce silver proof penny with a low mintage of 1,500 and a proof penny containing 1/25 ounce of gold were also released. Another silver coin in specimen grade with a face value of $20 rounded out the commemoration of the "Farewell to the Penny."
These issues are just the tip of the iceberg. During 2012, the RCM released a number of coins celebrating Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee, the War of 1812, the Calgary Stampede, the Titantic, the Year of the Dragon, the popular Calendar in the Sky series, and about 50 other single-coined commemorations! This is not to mention the regularly issued denominations of which the twenty-five cents, fifty cents, dollars, and two dollars all have commemorative issues. And, let's not forget all the maple leaf and bullion issues which also had some wonderful designs. Very popular are the Moose $5 and $20 silver and $200 and $2500 gold coins designed by wildlife artist, Robert Bateman.
The Mint also experimented with its colored photoluminescent or glow-in-the-dark technology by producing the large sized twenty-five cent Pachyrhinosaurus Dinosaur in Specimen condition. This cupronickel coin was initially retailing for an astounding $150! Just released for 2013 is the Quetzalcoatlus, the second in a four coin series using the same technology. Both issues are currently sold out at the RCM.
The use of Swarovski crystal, which began a few years ago, continued in 2012. It can be found on a number of different issues including the beautiful colorized silver $20 proof Sugar Maple Crystal Raindrop and the Rhododendron Crystal Dew Drop. The Royal Canadian Mint is not the only Mint to embed crystals, but they may be one of the first. It is a testament to the Mint's willingness to experiment and create modern coin sensations that appeal to a large number of collectors.
While I like a number of the issues released by the RCM, I have to say my favorite from 2012 is the $20 proof silver Aster with a Venetian glass Bumble Bee. (In 2011, the first issue of Venetian glass was released featuring a glass ladybug.) The aster and bee are colorized using the Mint's proprietary colorization technology. But, what makes this coin special is that the bee is made from handblown Murano Venetian glass. For those collectors just getting started, the coin also comes in a large sized cupronickel quarter for a fraction of the cost of the $20 silver piece. While the quarter doesn't display the Venetian glass bee, the colors, in purple, yellow and green, are just as vibrant.
During my research, I've spent a great deal of time on the Royal Canadian Mint's website which you can visit here. You can purchase coins directly from the Mint, but note that the prices are all in Canadian dollars. If you spend over US$2000, you will need to supply your SSN or IRS number. In addition, there are a number of dealers in the United States who are authorized to sell Royal Canadian Mint products. Browsing the RCM store, you'll see that just three months into 2013 the Mint has already released a large number of new issues. Just looking at the $10 silver Twelve-Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly, done in glorious color set against a hologram, tells me that the RCM will continue to innovate and create classic and interesting numismatic treasures. Yes, I can see that my research to compile all the 2013 Canadian coins will be just as challenging as it is today for 2012 coins.