The "King" of Cana­dian Coins Cana­dian 50 Cents 1921

Montreal Times - - News -

In light of the on-go­ing com­mem­o­ra­tions of the 100th an­niver­sary of World War I, now seems like an ap­pro­pri­ate time to look back on the cir­cum­stances that pro­duced Canada’s most prized nu­mis­matic rar­ity: the 1921 fifty cent piece. The war years saw pro­duc­tion at the Ot­tawa Mint in­crease dra­mat­i­cally.A boom­ing Cana­dian econ­omy ne­ces­si­tated the vast ex­pan­sion of coinage pro­duc­tion, in­clud­ing all sil­ver de­nom­i­na­tions from the five cent piece to the fifty cent piece.

Af­ter the war came to a close, large stock­piles of ear­lier-dated sil­ver coins re­mained on-hand. But as a post-war de­pres­sion be­gan to set in, the pub­lic de­mand for sil­ver coinage de­clined con­sid­er­ably. That was es­pe­cially for large de­nom­i­na­tions like the fifty cent piece.

Mint records show that more than 200,000 fifty cent coins were struck in 1921 de­spite the lack of de­mand for them. Rea­sons for their pro­duc­tion are un­known, although re­searchers have sug­gested they were made so vis­i­tors to the Mint could ac­quire an ex­am­ple if they so de­sired. Be­tween 1921 and 1929, only 28,000 fifty cent pieces were dis­trib­uted, vir­tu­ally all of them dated 1920. The 1921 pieces sat in stor­age un­til 1929, when the need for fifty cent coins be­gan to pick up.

By then Mint per­son­nel had two op­tions. They could re­lease the large hold­ings of fifty cent pieces from pre­vi­ous years or strike new coins. They fig­ured the pub­lic might be sus­pi­cious if the coins they de­manded in 1929 were all back-dated by nearly a decade. In re­sponse, the Mint melted nearly half a mil­lion fifty cent coins, us­ing the sil­ver to strike new 1929 fifty cent pieces. Nearly the en­tire mintage of 1921 was de­stroyed in the process.

The es­ti­mated sur­vival rate for the 1921 has re­mained con­sis­tent over the years. Be­tween 50 and 100 pieces are be­lieved ex­tant. Ex­am­ples sur­vive in a wide range of con­di­tions, from heav­ily cir­cu­lated to per­fect mint con­di­tion. The finest known pieces were likely set aside by Mint em­ploy­ees aware of the im­pend­ing rar­ity of the 1921. To­day, even low-grade spec­i­mens re­al­ize tens of thou­sands of dol­lars at auc­tion, and the finest rep­re­sen­ta­tive has brought more than $300,000.

While there are rarer Cana­dian coins in the ab­so­lute sense, none match the sto­ried his­tory of the 1921 fifty cent. Its legacy as the “King of Cana­dian Coins” makes it a true piece of nu­mis­matic roy­alty, one that will con­tinue to reign for years to come.

1921 50 cents Cana­dian coin

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