What happened to all the 1921 Canadian 50 Cents?
1921 Canadian 50 Cents – 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 Canadian 50 Cents.
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.
Michael Joffre is an avid Numismatist, and President of Carsley Whetstone & Company Inc. a Montreal coin dealer with a history dating back to 1928. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.carsleys.com, or 514-289-9761
By: Michael Joffre – mtltimes.ca