Anyone familiar with the tiny letters KG on the reverse side of the Canadian one- and five-cent coins will know that they are the initials of George Edward Kruger-Gray, the talented British designer and engraver who lived from 1880 to 1943. In addition to creating the designs of the two highest-mintage Canadian coins, his artwork appeared on coins of Australia, Bermuda, Cyprus, Britain, Jersey, Mauritius, New Guinea, New Zealand, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia.
Following the death of George V in January, 1936, the Canadian government set up a competition for designs for a new set of coins. A total of 77 designs were submitted to the government by 12 Canadian artists, but all were rejected. The mint then commissioned Emanuel Hahn of Toronto, and George Kruger-Gray of the Royal Mint in London, to create new designs. Hahn created the classic 10-and 25-cent pieces for 1937, and Gray designed the one-, five- and fifty-cent coins. (His 50-cent coin was replaced by a Canadian design in 1958.)
As attractive as our one-cent design may be, botanists tell me that the maple twig as depicted on the cent design is an impossibility of nature. Our 1937 coin designs were the product of a country that was still very much influenced by Britain and the British Empire. The new designs by a non-Canadian were well-received by the Canadian public in 1937, according to the mint reports of the era.
If a British coin designer, or one resident in other country, were to design a circulating Canadian coin today, the uproar would be heard from one end of the country to the other. Kruger-Gray's designs have served Canada well for 64 years, but it's time to replace them with home-grown artwork. Canada issues many attractive commemorative coins every year. They prove that there are more than enough talented artists in this country who could replace the maple leaves and beaver on our two smallest coins with home-grown versions.
Canadian coins must be designed by those who were either born here or have chosen this country as home. We have long passed the stage where our coin designs have to be created for us by the "mother mint" in England.
Toronto's Charlton Press has just released three new reference books of interest to collectors of coins and tokens. The 55th edition of the Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins has just hit book and coin stores at a record 352 pages. Newly revised, with all prices updated and new issues added, the latest edition covers the history of coinage in Canada from the 1600s to the year 2000. It contains all the Millennium twenty-five cents coins. including the errors the mint made by mismatching dies in September and November, 1999. The book is a Canadian best-seller year after year, and one which belongs in the library of every coin collector.
The new edition of the Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Colonial Tokens supports the ever-increasing demand for information on the tokens used in Canada from 1800 to 1860. A shortage of circulating legal tender in that era forced local governments and merchants to devise their own coinage for commerce. Colonial tokens have come into their own in the marketplace, and are demanding increased respect. At auctions in the last year, one token listed in the book sold for almost $10,000, and another was hammered down at $11,000. The third new release from Charlton Publishing is the second edition of the Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Communion Tokens. From 1770 to the early 1900s, communion tokens were used in Canada to identify members of a specific congregation who were entitled to the privilege of taking communion. These tokens have now become popular collectibles, and a complete listing with values and photos is contained in the 284-page Charlton catalogue.
All of the new Charlton catalogues are available from coin and bookstores across the country.