Poppy palaver: The coin that came in from the cold

Donning cloaks and drawing daggers, the Royal Canadian Mint issued the first colour coin for circulation, the Canadian 2004 Coloured Poppy 25c. Given that Australia has just had its first circulating colour coin issue the 2012 $2 Remembrance Day commemorative – which also features a poppy and has been garnering a lot of attention – what better time to explore the inadvertently clandestine past of Canada’s infamous ‘Spy Coin’?

Issued in 2004, the Canadian quarter featured a brand new technology for circulating coins; colour! This unique concept so startled some travelling American army intelligence contractors that in 2007 they not-so-intelligently feared the coins were some sort of advanced espionage tool powered by nanotechnology. For those of us not embroiled in the world of tiny gadgets and secret agents, nanotechnology is any technology that manipulates matter on an atomic or molecular scale, usually meaning the manufacture of very tiny devices or structures. The contractors feared that the coins had some kind of tracking or listening device embedded in them, with some going so far as to claim that some of the dastardly coins had been planted on them! The confusion caused somewhat of an international incident and a flurry of concerned emails on both sides.

Cook Islands 2012 $10 Nano Earth - The World In Your Hand Silver Proof

Eventually the mess was sorted out and American spies accepted that the coins were nothing more than an innovative tribute for Remembrance Day, honouring fallen soldiers, much like Australia’s recent $2 featuring a colour poppy. What may startle some spies today is the existence of a coin that really does feature nanotechnology! The 2012 $10 Nano Earth Silver Proof has a tiny yet extremely detailed map of the world embedded in it.

It’s so tiny, in fact, that you need a microscope to fully appreciate it in all its detail! The legal tender coin also features a full colour picture of the earth and is struck from 50g of sterling silver. Given the remarkable nature of the coin and a mintage almost smaller than the map itself – at only 1000 struck worldwide – this coin is sure to make a perfect conversation piece over a martini (shaken, not stirred, of course)! If you are interested in securing your own cutting-edge ‘spy’ coin, there are a limited supply at Downies.com – and don’t forget to pick up a microscope while you’re at it!

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The Penny has dropped: Canada to stop minting the 1 cent piece

In a major break with tradition, Canada is doing away with the humble penny. Citing cost of production and weakened buying power due to inflation, the Canadian Government is to phase the 1 cent piece out of circulation from February 2013. 2012 is the last year the penny will be struck for circulation and the change is causing quite a stir amongst numismatists, for a number of reasons. It’s also leading some to speculate that the Australian 5 cent piece could be next.

A coin with a fascinating history, the Canadian penny denomination was, from 1858 to 1908, struck in England and shipped to Canada for use in circulation. The penny would ultimately become one of Canada’s first domestically produced coins, with the recently opened Royal Canadian Mint first striking the denomination in 1908. With several dates from the penny series attaining notoriety due to interesting background events or great rarity, this denomination has gained a significant following worldwide. For example, a 1923 King George V penny in Brilliant, Uncirculated condition could potentially realise upwards of $2,000 at auction, signifying interest in the history of the Canadian penny.

Canadian Penny - Reverse

Perhaps the most famous example of that history is the 1936 dot cent. After the Death of George V in early 1936, dies were made that featured King Edward VIII, for use in 1937. Upon Edward’s abdication those dies became unusable, so the existing 1936 dies were used, with the addition of a dot under the date to distinguish them. Once new designs were available, the 1936 dot cent was destroyed. With only three known to exist and a recent sale fetching $400,000, it’s a prime example of the important place in numismatics of lower denomination coinage generally, and the Canadian Penny in particular.

Despite this rich history, the financial reality is that the 1 cent piece in Canada has proven too costly to produce. With a production cost 1.6 cents per coin, plus the cost of handling the millions of coins in circulation borne by banks and businesses, the Canadian government has decided to ditch the nation’s lowest denomination coin.

This change has driven demand for commemorative sets, as any change in circulating currency is, rightfully, watched very closely by numismatists worldwide. Demand for Canadian pennies of all kinds will only increase as they become progressively scarce.

This end of an era is part of a growing trend followed by a number of countries to remove their lowest face-value coins from circulation, and it raises the question: should Australia stop producing the 5 cent piece? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Canada 2011 $100,000 Spirit of Haida Gwai 10 Kilo Gold Proof

A pioneer in numismatic excellence, the Royal Canadian Mint has achieved the unthinkable – crafting to absolute perfection the world’s first 10 kilogram .99999 pure gold coin!

Proudly Canadian, this captivating design features the late Bill Reid’s masterpiece; ‘The Spirit of Haida Gwai’, across its mammoth 180mm diameter reverse. A prestigious legal tender issue and a fine tribute to artistic expression, the 2011 $100 000 Spirit of Haida Gwauu is the highest denomination 10 kilo coin. With just 15 coins crafted for collectors of fine art and numismatic innovation, each coin is hand polished from the purest gold in the world.

A testament to Canadian workmanship for further information on this coin or other Canadian issues, please contact our VIP Client Liaisons Toll free on 1300 789 VIP (847) or email vip@downies.com

2012 Coin of the Year awards! And the nominees are…

Perhaps one of the most prestigious award ceremonies for numismatics, the American Numismatic Association in accordance with Krause Publications, has just announced the nominations for the 2012 Coin of the Year awards.

With categories ranging from most historically significant and best contemporary events to most inspirational, innovative and artistic releases seen throughout 2010 comes an array of designs that undoubtedly enticed the global.

Amongst the most popular coins nominated – judged on commercial sales, international appeal, artistic calibre and the indefinable qualities of ‘popularity’ – included Canada’s Poppy, United Kingdom’s Countdown to London Olympics (2011  and 2012  issues still available)  and Tuvalu’s Deadly and Dangerous Eastern Brown Snake (2009 Saltwater Crocodile still available ).

A collection of diversity and intrigue, head on over to Coinweek.com to view the full list of nominations.

The way of the future…

Following in the footsteps of 18 other countries, Canada has just announced their first release in a new line of Polymer Banknotes – the new $100 bill. Developed from a single sheet of polymer plastic, this iconic new series has been developed in a bid to win the battle against counterfeit currency.

The latest in a long line of new polymer banknotes that can be traced back, at least in part, to the very first Australian polymer banknote, the 1988 $10 Bicentennial note, Canada will join Australia, New Zealand, Romania and Vietnam to be the next country to fully convert to polymer.

Enhanced with an abundance of security features, the new $100 note is expected to be issued into circulation by the end of the month. With an aim to have the fifties, twenties, tens and fives circulating by the end of 2013, the new currency is expected to last twice as long as the existing notes and can be recycled upon destruction.