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Honouring the 1911 Canadian Silver Dollar

(The following copyrighted item by Robert Aaron first appeared in The Toronto Star, and is reprinted here with permission of the author.)

No Canadian coin has been the subject of more publicity, myths, rumours, legends and inaccuracies than the famous 1911 silver dollar. Even though it is not a coin, but a pattern or trial piece, and has no legal tender status (since it was never proclaimed by the federal cabinet), it has always captured the fancy of the Canadian public and numismatic community. This is due in no small part to its mysterious origins and the high prices it has commanded since it burst on the numismatic scene in 1960. Today, only three of the 1911 patterns are known to exist. In honour of the 90th anniversary of its creation, the Royal Canadian Mint has minted a new silver dollar carrying the design of the original coin but with the dates 1911-2001.

The history of the proposed coin is fascinating. In 1910 the Canadian government decided to issue its first silver dollar coin, and instructed the Royal Mint in London to prepare the necessary dies. The coin was to carry the image of the new king, George V.

By the time the dies had been prepared in 1911, the Canadian government had changed its mind about issuing the coin, but three patterns had already been struck in London. One silver strike remained in the collection of the British Royal Mint until it was given to the Bank of Canada collection some years ago. A second strike, in lead, was sent to the Canadian government and lay forgotten in the files of the finance department until it was discovered in 1977.

The third specimen was retained by the master of the British Royal Mint at the time, Sir William Grey Ellison-McCartney. When McCartney retired from the mint in 1912, he took it with him when he went on to become governor of Tasmania. McCartney died in 1924 and the 1911 dollar passed on to his three children.

In 1960, London dealer Peter Seaby went on a coin buying trip to Australia, and came back with the 1911 dollar which he purchased from the McCartney family.

Seaby sold it in the early 1960s for $1,600, and in 1965 it was purchased by John McKay-Clements, a prominent collector and one-time mayor of Haileybury, Ont., for the astounding sum of $55,000. Each subsequent sale, and there have been many of them, has made headlines in the numismatic community. It became the first Canadian coin to sell for $1 million when purchased by Kansas City dealer Jay Parrino for one of his clients, a wealthy American coin collector. Since 1965 its ownership has crossed the Canadian border ten times.

Now collectors of Canadian coins can share the magic and mystery of the 1911 dollar pattern with a look-alike silver dollar which carries the added date 2001 after the original 1911 date.

Instead of her grandfather, George V, Queen Elizabeth II now graces the coin's obverse. Total mintage is only 25,000 copies.

Available from coin dealers and distributors of Royal Canadian Mint products, the 1911 restrike silver dollar is expected to be a complete sell out.


One of the most phenomenal products of numismatic research in this country has just been published by Charlton Press. Fifteen years in the making, and more than 500 pages in length, the Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Exhibition, Fair and Carnival Medals by William K. Cross is the first comprehensive catalogue of its type ever published in Canada.

It contains photographs and technical details of all the foreign, dominion and provincial exhibitions held in or relating to Canada since 1789.

The hundreds and hundreds of exhibition medals are ordered by province, starting with Prince Edward Island and continuing to Vancouver Island, B.C. All 12 chapters list medals that have been seen, researched and recorded in past works, auctions, archives and collections.

The chapter of Ontario medals covers the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, the Canadian National Exhibition, the Central Canada Exhibition and the Western Fair, along with other provincial fairs and various souvenir medals.

Only 250 copies are available from coin dealers, Charlton Press (1 800 442 6042) or click the following link:

The Charlton Press

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