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BellaOnline's Coin Collecting Editor


The Canadian Quarter Dollar

Guest Author - Raymond F. Hanisco

The history of the Canadian Quarter has been a rather long evolving process dating back to the Currency Act of 1841. That was the start of it all; when Canada established which of the foreign coins would be considered as legal tender. Nine years later, the Currency Act was amended to give the Governor General the power to have coins struck for circulation in Canada, and it authorized banks to produce coins. The real battle over Canadian coinage erupted with the Currency Act of 1850. It seems that Canada wanted its coinage to correspond denominationally to that of its neighbor, the United States, and Canada’s protectorate, Great Britain, was not about to let that happen. Finally, on August 30, 1850, Great Britain agreed to Canada’s demands, however the change to the decimal system of coinage would only occur as soon as it was convenient for the Crown, and Canada had to agree, any new coinage needed to be approved by the British Government first. For the next eight years, there was a lot of correspondence between Canada and Great Britain, but not a single Canadian coin was produced.

On January 1, 1858, it became convenient for England to pass an act, which placed Canada on the decimal system, and by July, the first Canadian Coins were struck by the Royal Mint for delivery in August. The new Canadian coins were the 1˘, 5˘, 10˘ and 20˘. It was not until 1860, that the government decided to replace the 20˘ piece with a 25˘ piece. In March 1867, royal approval is given to The British North American Act, which allowed the Canadian Parliament legislative control over their coinage, and in 1870, the Dominion of Canada issued its first quarters.

The designer of the first Canadian coinage was Leonard Charles Wyon of The Royal Mint. He received approval on in designs in 1858. Oddly, the design for the obverse was not suitable for British coins, but was perfectly acceptable for Canadian coinage. The design for the obverse of the first Canadian Quarters featured a portrait of Queen Victoria facing left. She has her hair in a bun, tied with a ribbon, and she is wearing a tiara crown. The legend positions the word “CANADA” at 6 o’clock and read “Victoria Dei Gratia Regina” (Victoria, by the grace of God, the Queen) around the perimeter of the coin. The reverse shows a Maple Leaf wreath with a crown at the 12 o’clock position and a ribbon bow in the 6 o’clock position. In the center of the wreath is the denomination and date.

In 1901, the Ottawa Mint Act is sent to Great Britain for approval, and approval is granted. It provided for the establishment and funding of a branch of the Royal Mint to be build in Ottawa. Construction began in 1905, and the mint was formally opened on January 2, 1908.

In order to appreciate the full concept of the Canadian Quarter, its intricacies and modifications, let’s look at it from three basic viewpoints; specifications, obverse design, and reverse design. This way it keeps things simple.


DATE: 1870 to 1910
COMPOSITION: .925 Silver, .075 Copper
WEIGHT: 5.81 grams
DIAMETER: 23.62 mm

DATE: 1910 to 1919
COMPOSITION: .925 Silver, .075 Copper
WEIGHT: 5.83 grams
DIAMETER: 23.62 mm

DATE: 1920 to 1952
COMPOSITION: .800 Silver, .200 Copper
WEIGHT: 5.83 grams
DIAMETER: 23.62 mm

DATE: 1953 to 1967
COMPOSITION: .800 Silver, .075 Copper (the Royal Canadian Mint does not specify the other 12.5%)
WEIGHT: 5.83 grams
DIAMETER: 23.88 mm

DATE: 1967 to 1968
COMPOSITION: .500 Silver, .500 Copper
WEIGHT: 5.05 grams
DIAMETER: 23.88 mm

DATE: 1968 to 1999
COMPOSITION: .999 Nickel
WEIGHT: 5.05 grams
DIAMETER: 23.88 mm
NOTE: In 1978 the thickness of the coin was reduced from 1.6 mm to 1.58 mm

DATE: 2000 to Present
COMPOSITION: .940 Steel, .038 Copper, .022 Nickel plating
WEIGHT: 4.4 grams
DIAMETER: 23.88 mm


This portrait was used from 1870 to 1901. The Queen is facing left. She has her hair in a bun, tied with a ribbon, and she is wearing a tiara crown. The legend positions the word “CANADA” at 6 o’clock and read “Victoria Dei Gratia Regina” (Victoria, by the grace of God, the Queen) around the perimeter of the coin.

The effigy of King Edward VII faces right, and appears on the quarter from 1902 to 1910. Surrounding his portrait is the legend “Edwardvs VII Dei Gratia Rex Imperator” (Edward VII, by the grace of God, the King and Emperor).

Appearing on the quarter from 1911 to 1936, King George V’s portrait faces right. Surrounding his effigy is the legend “Georgivs V Dei Gra: Rex et Ind: Imp:” (George V, by the grace of God, the King and Emperor of India). For part of 1911 the words “Dei Gra” were left off the dies, at first through error, but it was followed by a proclamation, which was later reversed. These coins have become known as the “Godless” coins by collectors.

The left facing portrait of King George VI appeared on the quarter from 1937 to 1952. The Latin inscription surrounding his portrait reads, “Georgivs VI D:G:Rex et Ind:Imp:” and in 1948 it was modified to read, “Georgivs VI Dei Gratia: Rex”. The reference to being the Emperor of India was removed when India became an independent member of the British Commonwealth in 1947.

There have been a number of portraits of Queen Elizabeth II throughout her tenure. All of her effigies are facing right.
1953 to 1964 – portrait at age 29 – Two varieties in 1953, with and without strap
1965 to 1989 – portrait at age 39
1990 to 2002 – portrait at age 64
2003 to present -- in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth a new effigy was created to reflect a more contemporary image of the Queen. This issue features the Queen without her crown.

All issues carry some form of the Latin legend, when translated reads, “Elizabeth II, by the grace of God, the Queen.”


1870 to 1936
The design depicts a Maple Leaf wreath with a crown at the 12 o’clock position and a ribbon bow in the 6 o’clock position. In the center of the wreath is the denomination and date. The inscription “CANADA” was moved to the reverse in 1902. Special varieties of note are: 1906 - large crown and small crown; 1936 – dot appearing below the knot in the bow.

1937 to 1972, 1974 to 1991, 1993 to 1998, 2001 to present
In an effort to modernize the circulating quarters, this Emmanuel Hahn design was adopted in 1937. The design is of a bust of a Caribou with the legend of “CANADA” and the date on the perimeter, and the denomination located between the antlers. Special varieties worth noting are: 1947 – dot after the 7 in the date, and the 1947 maple leaf.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation, this quarter features a special Alex Colville design, a bobcat.

To honor the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, these quarters display a Mountie with flag in traditional uniform upon his trusty steed. The design is that of Paul Cederberg.

To celebrate the 125th birthday of Canada, the mint issued a new quarter each month. There are a total of 12. There is one for each province, which equals ten, and one for each of the two territories. The order of issue was New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Newfoundland, Manitoba, Yukon, The Province of Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

1999 & 2000
To celebrate the Millennium, the Royal Canadian produced commemorative issues both in 1999 and 2000. New quarters were issued each month of each year. The 12 issues for 1999 are entitled A Country Unfolds, Etched in Stone, The Log Drive, Our Northern Heritage, Les Voyageurs, From Coast to Coast, A Nation of People, The Pioneer Spirit, Canada Through a Child’s Eye, A Tribute to First Nations, The Airplane Opens the North and This is Canada. The 12 issues for the year 2000 are Pride, Ingenuity, Achievement, Health, Natural Legacy, Harmony, Celebration, Family, Wisdom, Creativity, Freedom and Community.

This special edition quarter circulated along with the Caribou quarter. The main feature is a large Maple Leaf.

There are other reverse designs worth noting. The St. Croix ship on the 2004-quarter, as well as the 2004 Canada Day Quarter with a Moose design created by an 11-year-old boy. From my understanding, the Royal Canadian Mint will be providing the coin collector an ever-growing number of design changes in the years to come. It will be interesting to see what they are planning. I would like to personally thank Dave Sirianni of Universal Coin in Ottawa, Ontario for his assistance.
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Content copyright © 2015 by Raymond F. Hanisco. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Raymond F. Hanisco. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Gary Eggleston for details.


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