By Michael Joffre – mtltimes.ca
All of us (coin collectors that is), have a favourite coin. For some it is a very rare piece for which only a few are known, for others it may be something with great historical significance, personally, I really like the Canadian 1973 25 cent piece. Let me explain more about this coin…
Those of you rummaging through your change will have surely noticed many strange looking 25 cent pieces over the last couple of decades. Canada has certainly taken a fancy to introducing neat looking quarters for all kinds of reasons. If we travel back to 1973, this will have been only the second time our country put a commemorative design on the 25 cent piece (the first being the bobcat coins of 1967). Coinage in the late 60`s and early 70`s was undergoing a tremendous amount of change. In 1968 the introduction of nickel coinage began, and large amounts of coins were produced to replace the old silver ones. At the same time coin collecting was at its peak, with millions of collectors worldwide and many rare coins trading at all time record prices. Inflation was rampant, and the price of everything seemed to be going up fast.
The 1973 25 cent was produced during this period. It was designed to commemorate the centennial of the founding of the R.C.M.P. In 1873. The obverse (date side) has an image of an R.C.M.P. Officer on horseback holding a flag, with the dates 1873 1973 on either side., and a small maple leaf above the head of the horse. The reverse has the image of a youthful looking Elizabeth II. It is in my humble opinion one of the nicest circulating coin produced in our lifetime.
The mintage was relatively large at around 136 million pieces, and many can still be found with a little luck in your change, even after almost 40 years. The regular version of this coin is really only worth face value in circulated condition, and maybe a few dollars for a nice uncirculated one. There exists however two different varieties of the head side (obverse). In the 1973 Canada reduced the size of the bust of Elizabeth, and made it more detailed…but for some reason a very small percentage of the 1973 25 cent coins actually have the older larger sized bust on the obverse. In the hobby this is called the large bust variety.
No official (that I’ve seen anyways) numbers were released on how many large bust quarters were minted…but they are VERY scarce as issued coins and it must only number in the thousands. When these do turn up they are almost always in circulated condition. High end uncirculated ones are extremely rare. In EF condition expect to pay about $200 retail for one…for an MS63 example likely $500 to $1,000.
After reading the above, there are probably a few of you who are going to raid the old change jar to see if you have one of the rarer types. Here are a few tips to help you. Firstly, it is very unlikely you have one. I would put the odds at probably 1 in 100,000 or so. So if you have a few 1973 quarters do not expect to find the rare one. Secondly, here is an easy way to tell the small and large bust apart…on the obverse of the large bust the beads look like they are touching the rim, on the small bust there is a little bit of space. If you examine yours and are not sure, go get a 1972 25 cent (not rare) for comparison. The 1973 large bust variety will have the same bust, and beads near the edge as a 1972.
For those of you who have mint sets from 1973, it is also possible to find the large bust 25 cent here as well. For some reason they are much more common in mint sets than as actual circulating coins. Probably 1 in a few hundred sets contain the large bust coins. These can retail for $200 to $400 and are well worth checking. Unfortunately, on the double dollar sets, quite a bit of effort is required to see the obverse side, as the coins were put into the red velvet case only face up. It is very easy to damage the coins when removing them…so be careful.
For those who want to read some of my previous articles, please visit www.montrealcoinexpert.com
Michael Joffre is owner of Carsley Whetstone & Company Inc. a firm that buys and sells rare coins and related collectables. He is always interested in buying older coin collections. CWC also carries a full line of books and collecting supplies, available in stock in their retail store. Michael can be reached at 514-289-9761, or at firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information please visit