The 1965 and 1966 Queen Elizabeth II Canadian Dollars inspire much enjoyment and challenge for series enthusiasts and variety collectors. These mid-1960s silver dollars carry some of the earliest numismatic portraits of Queen Elizabeth II donning her extravagantly bejeweled tiara, updating the original portrait of the newly coronated young queen that debuted on Canadian coinage in 1953. But they also depict something else of numismatic note: ornamental beads in a variety of sizes.
These beads, seen on the periphery of the obverse design along the rim, serve a purely decorative purpose and are not integral to the portrait of the queen. However, many collectors of Canadian Dollars are bedazzled by the varieties arising from these beads. Making these mid-1960s Canadian Dollars even more fascinating – and complex to collect – is that the various bead styles are also combined with variations in the shaping of the numeral “5” of the coin’s date on the reverse.
All told, combining business strikes and prooflike strikes, there are at least a dozen distinct varieties among the 1965 and 1966 Canada Dollars. Interestingly, similar varieties involving the bead sizing are found on 1965 Canadian One-Cent and Five-Cent coins, while font variations in the “5” are additionally exhibited on the Canadian Cents.
Big Beads, Blunt Digits
Why were there so many different varieties among the 1965 and 1966 Canada Dollars? It all comes down to trial and error. Technical flaws cropped up when striking began for the new portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, designed by Mary Gillick. Originally, the 1965 Queen Elizabeth II Dollars were struck bearing the Small Beads variety. However, this motif, featuring a flat field, proved to be harsh on the dies and led to a short die life.
Adjustments were made making the field more concave and upward sloping toward the rim, resulting in the Medium Beads variety. Finally, Royal Canadian Mint officials fine-tuned the obverse, further sharpening the dished concavity of the fields and increasing the size of the beads, producing the Large Beads variety. Along with these changes, which are seen on both the 1965 and 1966 dollars, there were also refinements to the shaping of the “5” on the 1965 dollars. Some of these coins bear a “5” with a bluntly edged tail, others showcase a pointed tail on the “5.” The “Blunt 5” is known among only the Small Beads and Large Beads varieties, while the “Pointed 5” is paired with all three bead varieties.
There are many major varieties counted among the 1965 and 1966 dollars, including:
- 1965 Circulation Strike Small Beads, Pointed 5 (Type I)
- 1965 Circulation Strike Small Beads, Blunt 5 (Type II)
- 1965 Circulation Strike Large Beads, Blunt 5 (Type III)
- 1965 Circulation Strike Large Beads, Pointed 5 (Type IV)
- 1965 Circulation Strike Medium Beads, Pointed 5 (Type V)
- 1965 Prooflike Strike Small Beads, Pointed 5 (Type I)
- 1965 Prooflike Strike Small Beads, Blunt 5 (Type II)
- 1965 Prooflike Strike Large Beads, Blunt 5 (Type III)
- 1965 Prooflike Strike Large Beads, Pointed 5 (Type IV)
- 1966 Circulation Strike Large Beads
- 1966 Prooflike Strike Large Beads
- 1966 Prooflike Strike Small Beads
While few records exist providing details on precisely how many of each variety was made, the rarest of all these pieces are the 1966 Small Beads Dollars. Virtually all 1966 Canada Dollars are of the Large Bead variety, though an unknown mintage of perhaps fewer than 500 are mules pairing a Small Beads obverse with a 1966-dated reverse and were somehow struck at the Hull facility of the Royal Canadian Mint – how these mules came to be is unknown but suspected to be intentional.
All 1966 Small Beads Canadian Dollars are very rare. Ranking as among the rarest and most desirable of all Canadian Dollars, they are far scarcer than even the popular key dates of 1945 and 1947. Prices for 1966 Small Beads Dollars graded prooflike by PCGS generally exceed $2,000.
Telling The Varieties Apart
The differences between the Blunt 5 and the Pointed 5 are perhaps easier (and involve fewer numismatic and financial stakes) than in trying to tell the Small Beads, Medium Beads, and Large Beads apart from one another. Thankfully, there are highly visible diagnostics available on these coins for ascertaining the varieties related to the “5” and the beads.
On the Small Beads variety, the rear jewel on Queen Elizabeth’s tiara appears well attached to its setting. Also, the apex of the letter “A” in “REGINA” on the lower right of the obverse points between two of the beads.
The rear jewel on the tiara appears virtually detached from its setting.
As with the Small Beads variety, the rear jewel appears attached to the queen’s tiara on the Large Beads piece. However, the apex of the “A” in “REGINA” points directly to a bead.
The tail of the “5” in the date appears to have a somewhat rounded end.
The tail of the “5” features a sharp, upward point.
The diagnostics listed above are distinct but nuanced, and they often cause great confusion and frustration for collectors and dealers – even those who are decidedly experienced numismatists. PCGS recognizes and attributes each of these important Canadian Dollar varieties and is included with grading of 1965 and 1966 Canadian Dollars.
Collecting The 1965 & 1966 Canadian Dollars
While some hobbyists assemble Canadian Dollars by year and bypass the major varieties, a great many enthusiasts pursue the different 1965 and 1966 varieties as budgets allow. One of the most common paths collectors take with these varieties is to incorporate a complete set of the 1965 Canadian Dollars, as these are generally not cost prohibitive and collectively represent the various bead sizes encountered on the Canadian Dollars of the era. Collectors of greater financial means also include the 1966 varieties, which encompass the rare 1966 Small Beads Dollars.
Those who venture into collecting Canadian Dollars encounter many other varieties that are similar to the 1965 and 1966 notables mentioned here. Hobbyists who study 1967 Canadian Dollars will also find small- and large-bead varieties on the reverse of this popular coin bearing a flying goose to honor the centennial of Canada’s confederation.
Additionally, there are numerous varieties involving the presence of Queen Elizabeth’s shoulder strap on 1953 and 1954 Canada Dollars, the details of the water lines on the various 1950s dollars, and the strength of detail in the Northern Lights on the Voyageur reverse of the early 1960s. With so many interesting and colorful varieties to their name, it’s no wonder Canadian Dollars have long been one of the most popular series for collectors throughout North America and around the world!
- “Canadian One Dollar Varieties.” Saskatoon Coin Club.
- Cheek, Ron. “Queen Elizabeth II on Canada’s Silver Dollars: 1953-1967.” FUN Topics, Volume 64, Edition 3 pp 14-19. Florida United Numismatists, 2019.
- Haxby, James A. A Guide Book of Canadian Coins and Tokens. Whitman Publishing, 2012.
- Michael, Thomas and Tracy L. Schmidt. Standard Catalog of World Coins. Krause Publications, 2019.
- “Small or Large Beads 1966 Canadian Canoe Dollar?” CoinSite.