The Canadian government started producing the small one cent coin in the year 1920. This penny is similar to the United States penny. The front side has King George V on it. The back side has two maple leaves and the date. Sir E.B. MacKennal designed the obverse, and Fred Lewis designed the reverse sides of this coin. It weighs 3.24 grams, and the diameter is 19.05 millimeters. This penny also has a plain edge. The metal alloy is .995 copper, .030 tin, and .015 zinc.
In the year 1937, King George VI was placed on the obverse of the Canadian penny. The designer of the front side was T.H. Paget. The reverse side was changed to the maple twig, which was designed by G.E. Kruger-Gray. From 1937 through 1942 the metal composition remained the same. From 1942 through 1952 the metal alloy changed to .980 copper, .005 tin, and .015 zinc metals. The weight of this coin remained the same as the King George V penny.
In 1947, India was granted it's independence from England. This caused a major issue for the Royal Canadian Mint. The letters ET IND:IMP needed to be removed from the obverse side of the penny. The dies for this coin were not ready. 1947 cents were made for the 1948 cents with a small maple leaf after the 1947 date. When the dies were completed for 1948, the 1947 maple leaf coins were discontinued.
Queen Elizabeth II was designed by Mrs. Mary Gillick for the obverse side of the 1953 penny. The reverse side remained the same. The weight and metal alloy did not change for this new design. The Queen is wearing a laurel wreath in her hair on this type of coin.
In the year 1965, Queen Elizabeth's portrait was changed to make her look older. This series has her wearing a tiara in her hair. The obverse design was created by Arnold Machin. The metal alloy and weight was not changed.
The year 1967 marked the one hundred year anniversary for Canada's confederation. The reverse was changed to a rock dove in flight. Alex Colville made this design. All denominations for this year had different designs. A twenty dollar gold piece was also minted for just collectors.
The tiara portrait was made smaller in 1979. In 1980, the one cent coin became thinner at 1.38 millimeters. The weight was reduced to 2.8 grams, and the diameter to 19.00 millimeters. The metal alloy stayed the same. From 1982 through 1989, the penny was modified to a twelve sided plain edge. The diameter was slightly increased to 19.1 millimeters. The weight was reduced to 2.5 grams. This saved the Royal Canadian Mint over one million dollars a year to produce this coin.
The crowned portrait of Queen Elizabeth was introduced in 1990. This design was from Dora dePedery-Hunt. She had become the first Canadian to design the Queen's portrait. 1992 became the one hundred twenty fifth birthday of Canada. The dates 1867-1992 were placed onto the reverse side for this year. In 2003, Queen Elizabeth's portrait changed once again to show her with a more mature look. The crown was removed for this series.