Nickel (Canadian coin)

Nickel (Canadian coin)
Value 0.05 CAD
Mass  3.95 g
Diameter  21.2 mm
Thickness  1.76 mm
Edge smooth
Composition 94.5% steel,
3.5% Cu,
2% Ni plating
Years of minting 1858–present
Catalog number
Canadian Nickel - obverse.png
Design Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada
Designer Susanna Blunt
Design date 2003
Canadian Nickel - reverse.png
Design Beaver sitting on a log
Designer G.E. Kruger Gray
Design date 1937

The Canadian five-cent coin, commonly called a nickel, is a coin worth five cents or one-twentieth of a Canadian dollar. It was patterned on the corresponding coin in the neighbouring United States. The denomination was introduced in 1858 as a small, thin sterling silver coin colloquially known as a "fish scale."

The larger base metal version was introduced in 1922, originally as 99.9% nickel metal. These coins were magnetic, due to the high nickel content. Versions during World War II were minted in copper-zinc, then chrome and nickel-plated steel, and finally returned again to nickel, at wars' end. A plated steel version was again made 1951–54 during the Korean War. Rising nickel prices eventually caused another switch to cupronickel in 1982 (an alloy similar to the U.S. nickel), but more recently, Canadian nickels are minted in nickel-plated steel, containing a small amount of copper.

From 1942 to 1963, Canadian nickel coins were produced in a unique 12-sided shape. Originally this was done in wartime to distinguish the copper-zinc coins from pennies, but in later years during this period, this distinctive shape was also retained when the coin was produced in 99.9% nickel or in chrome-plated steel.



The first Canadian five-cent coins were struck by the Royal Mint in London as part of the introductory 1858 coinage of the Province of Canada. The coins were the same size and general composition as the corresponding American coins of the time, so the five-cent coin was based on the half dime. Although the American denomination was introduced as a larger copper-nickel coin in 1866, and the 5 cent silver was retired in 1873, the Canadian five-cent coins remained small and silver until 1922.

All Canadian coins (including five-cent coins) were struck in England at the Royal Mint (no mint mark) and the Birmingham Mint (H mint mark) until 1908, when the Ottawa branch of the Royal Mint opened. With the exception of some 1968 dimes struck at the Philadelphia Mint, all Canadian coins since 1908 have been minted in Canada.

Due to a rise in the price of silver, Canadian coinage was debased from sterling silver (925 fine) to 800 fine in 1920. In 1922, silver was removed entirely from the five-cent coin, replacing it with a coin of roughly the same dimensions and mass as the American nickel. However, unlike the American coin, which was 75% copper and 25% nickel, the Canadian coin was pure nickel, as Canada was the world's largest producer of the metal. This coin has since been known almost universally as the nickel.

The five-cent coin of Newfoundland, on the other hand, remained silver until the end of the Newfoundland coinage in 1947.

The nickel's composition has changed several times, most notably during World War II and the Korean War when nickel was redirected to the war effort, where it was essential for armor production. In the latter part of 1942 and throughout 1943, the coins were minted in tombac, a copper-zinc alloy; in 1944 and 1945, and again from mid-1951 to 1954, coins were made of steel which was plated twice, first with nickel and then chromium. The plating was applied before the blanks were struck, so the edges of these coins are dull or even rusted. The composition was returned to pure nickel after both wars. More recently, in 1982, the same copper-nickel alloy used in the American coin was adopted in the Canadian coin, with the ironic result that the nickel then contained less nickel than any other circulating Canadian coin except the cent. Since late in 2000, the nickel is now generally made with plated steel. Since the plating is now done after the blanks are punched, the edges of the modern coins receive the plating. Portions of the 2001 and 2006 issues were struck in cupro-nickel, and can be identified by the lack of the letter P under Queen Elizabeth's portrait, and their non-magnetic quality.

Starting with the 1942 tombac coins, the nickel was made dodecagonal, presumably to help distinguish it from the cent after it tarnished in circulation. Tombac was removed from the nickel in 1944 (to be replaced by steel, as noted during the Korean war) but the coins in Tombac, steel, or 99.9% nickel all remained twelve-sided until 1963.

1921 five-cent coin

Five-cent coins dated 1921 are among the rarest and most collectible Canadian circulation coins, known as "The Prince of Canadian Coins." Estimates of the number of specimens known range between 100[1] and 400. In May 1921 the government of Canada passed an act authorizing the change to the larger nickel coin, and subsequently the majority of the 1921 mint run was melted down.[2] The coin believed to be the finest known specimen (PCGS MS-67) sold for US$115,000 in a Heritage auction in January 2010.[1]

The only rarer Canadian circulation coin is the 1921 fifty-cent coin, with a population of approximately 75. The 1911 dollar coin is rarer still, with only three examples known, but it is a pattern coin that was never released for circulation.

Commemorative nickels

Although not strictly a commemorative, the "Victory nickel", struck from 1943 to 1945, was the first non-standard circulating Canadian coin other than commemorative dollars; the reverse features a flaming torch and a large V that stands for both Victory and the coin's denomination. The rim denticles were replaced by the phrase "We win when we work willingly" in Morse Code. This design was re-used in 2005 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of V-E Day.[3] Almost uniquely in the history of Canadian coinage, the reverse was engraved to scale by Thomas Shingles; most coin designs are engraved at a much larger scale and reduced with a pantograph.

In 1951, a special commemorative five-cent piece depicting a nickel refinery was struck to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the metal's initial discovery by Swedish chemist Axel F. Cronstedt. Due to the onset of the Korean War, production of this commemorative was halted to preserve nickel for the war effort, resulting in a second non-commemorative 1951 "nickel" made of plated steel.

In 1967, all the circulating coins received a special reverse for the Canadian Centennial; the nickel featured a rabbit.

In proof sets issued since 1996, the five cent coin is made of sterling silver. Some commemorative five cent coins are also made of sterling silver.

Commemorative editions

Year Theme Artist Mintage Special notes
1943–1945 Victory Thomas Shingles 24,760,256 (1943), 11,532,784 (1944), 18,893,216 (1945) Intended to stimulate the war effort. The message "We Win When We Work Willingly" is engraved in Morse code on the rim of the coin.
1951 Discovery of Nickel Stephen Trenka 12,642,641 200th anniversary of the discovery of nickel. Features a nickel refinery.
1967 Canadian Centennial Alex Colville 36,876,574 Features a hopping rabbit.
2005 Victory Anniversary Thomas Shingles 148,082,000 60th anniversary of the end of WWII.
Victory Nickel
The 2005 Victory Nickel

History of composition[4]

Years Mass Diameter/Shape Composition
2000–present 3.95 g 21.2 mm, round 94.5% steel, 3.5% copper, 2% nickel plating
1982–1999 (some production until 2006) 4.6 g 21.2 mm, round 75% copper, 25% nickel
1963–1981 4.54 g 21.21 mm, round 99.9% nickel
1955–1962 4.54 g 21.21 mm, 12-sided 99.9% nickel
1951–1954 4.54 g 21.21 mm, 12-sided chrome-plated steel
1946–1951 4.54 g 21.21 mm, 12-sided 99.9% nickel
1944–1945 4.54 g 21.21 mm, 12-sided chrome-plated steel
1942–1943 4.54 g 21.21 mm, 12-sided 88% copper, 12% zinc ("tombac")
1922–1942 4.54 g 21.21 mm, round 99.9% nickel
1920–1921 1.167 g 14.494 mm, round 80% silver, 20% copper
1858–1919 1.167 g 14.494 mm, round 92.5% silver, 7.5% copper

See also


  1. ^ a b [1]
  2. ^ Haxby, J.A.; R.C. Willey (2003). Coins of Canada (21st edition ed.). Toronto: Unitrade Press. ISBN 1-894763-09-2. 
  3. ^ World War II Victory Nickel re-issued in Canada.
  4. ^ Royal Canadian Mint – Designs, Specifications and Mintages of 5-Cent Coins

External links

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