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It's Fun Being An Expert

Tom Becker

Great satisfaction can be gained from being the “know-it-all” even if this knowledge is confined to a very specific topic. The opportunity to gather this interesting specialized knowledge should be obvious to coin collectors. I'm continually amazed at how few of them take advantage of what is so available. Perhaps a bit of encouragement in the form of an example will stimulate a few collectors to learn all there is to know about a particular coin that interests them?

A coin that has held my interest since its release in June of 1982 is the Constitution Commemorative dollar. It's numismatic significance starts with the Constitution Commemorative being the first commemorative dollar made to circulate along with the regular voyageur dollar coin minted that year. The obverse design of the commemorative is very different from that of the regular issue giving the coin further distinction.

I find it curious that the Constitution Commemorative was not made available as part of any of the Royal Canadian Mint's various collector sets but was distributed as a single item with a method of manufacturer labeled by the mint as “select uncirculated”. Despite the Constitution coin's historical significance, the number of coins produced to satisfy collector demand was far less than that of the silver dollar produced to celebrate the centennial of the founding of the city of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Even if I stop here, I've got some important questions to answer before I can hope to become the 1982 Constitution Commemorative expert. Why was a regular dollar coin issued along with the commemorative? Why was the Constitution coin not included as part of Royal Canadian Mint collector sets and why was it created for collectors in something called “select uncirculated” instead of proof? To be the Constitution coin expert I should probably also know why this nationally significant event was commemorated only on a nickel dollar instead of being afforded the status that comes with a large silver coin?

After finding the answers to those questions and others that will likely crop up during my research, I can then turn my attention to artistic and historical matters. That the coin refers to both Confederation and the Constitution suggests to me it's purpose was to serve as a dual commemorative celebrating related and yet different events that took place more than 100 years apart. Is the Constitution dollar unique in this regard? It's a question I should be able to answer.

I'm fascinated by the splendid work of the designer Ago Aarand. It's common knowledge that he designed the reverse of the coin based on a famous painting, but how did he manage to create such a faithful rendition in such a tiny space? The design brings to mind the question, how many real people have ever appeared on a single coin? I'd be surprised if the Constitution dollar doesn't hold the record, but if I want to be the expert I need to know for sure.

Examining the coin prompts me to learn more about the original painting, the history behind Canada's Confederation and the men who are known as the Fathers of Confederation. It would be great fun to point to a person on the Constitution coin and be able to identify them. That the coin is primarily intended to commemorate the new constitution means I should to learn something about the creation of that document and the people who were involved in the process.

Hopefully, my brief review of the Constitution dollar illustrates that when studying Canadian coins even a little curiosity and investigation can lead to hours of enjoyable and productive research. Make no mistake. There is nothing trivial about such scholarship. Some of the most respected numismatists have devoted many years to learning more about coins than what the technical grade might be or the coin's market value.


Tom Becker is a regular contributor to the Canadian Coin Reference Site, you can direct your questions directly to Tom easily by or visit Tom's website @


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