Nickel (Canadian coin)

Last updated

Value0.05 CAD
Mass3.95 g
Diameter21.2 mm
Thickness1.76 mm
Edgesmooth (plain)
CompositionNickel-plated steel
94.5% steel,
3.5% Cu,
2% Ni plating
Years of minting1858–present
Catalog number
Canadian Nickel - obverse.png
Design Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada
Designer Susanna Blunt
Design date2003
Canadian Nickel - reverse.png
Design Beaver sitting on a rock
Designer G.E. Kruger Gray
Design date1937

The Canadian five-cent coin, commonly called a nickel, is a coin worth five cents or one-twentieth of a Canadian dollar. It was patterned on the corresponding coin in the neighbouring United States. It became the smallest-valued coin in the currency upon the discontinuation of the penny in 2013. Due to inflation, the purchasing power of the nickel continues to drop and currently the coin represents less than 0.5% of the country's lowest minimum hourly wage.

In many national currencies, the cent, commonly represented by the cent sign is a monetary unit that equals ​1100 of the basic monetary unit. Etymologically, the word cent derives from the Latin word "centum" meaning hundred.

Canadian dollar Currency of Canada

The Canadian dollar is the currency of Canada. It is abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or sometimes CA$, Can$ or C$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies. It is divided into 100 cents (¢).

Penny (Canadian coin) Canadian coin worth one cent of a dollar

In Canada, a penny is a coin worth one cent, or ​1100 of a dollar. According to the Royal Canadian Mint, the official national term of the coin is the "one-cent piece", but in practice the terms penny and cent predominate. Originally, "penny" referred to a two-cent coin. When the two-cent coin was discontinued, penny took over as the new one-cent coin's name. Penny was likely readily adopted because the previous coinage in Canada was the British monetary system, where Canada used British pounds, shillings, and pence as coinage alongside U.S. decimal coins and Spanish milled dollars.


The denomination (i.e., the Canadian five-cent piece) had been introduced in 1858 as a small, thin sterling silver coin, that was colloquially known as a "fish scale," not a nickel. The larger base metal version made of nickel, and called a "nickel," was introduced as a Canadian coin in 1922, originally as 99.9% nickel metal. These coins were magnetic, due to the high nickel content. Versions during World War II were minted in copper-zinc, then chrome and nickel-plated steel, and finally returned again to nickel, at the end of the war. A plated steel version was again made 1951–54 during the Korean War. Rising nickel prices eventually caused another switch to cupronickel in 1982 (an alloy similar to the US nickel), but more recently, Canadian nickels are minted in nickel-plated steel, containing a small amount of copper. Due to the aforementioned rise in nickel prices, since 1982, five-cent pieces composed of 99.9% nickel have been slowly removed from circulation to be melted by the Royal Canadian Mint. Only cupronickel and modern multi-ply plated steel five-cent pieces are considered "circulation coins". [1] As a result, pre-1982 five cent pieces are often sought by collectors.

Sterling silver alloy of silver containing 92.5% by mass of silver and 7.5% by mass of other metals, usually copper

Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other metals, usually copper. The sterling silver standard has a minimum millesimal fineness of 925.

A base metal is a common and inexpensive metal, as opposed to a precious metal such as gold or silver. A long-time goal of alchemists was the transmutation of a base metal into a precious metal. In numismatics, coins often derived their value from the precious metal content; however, base metals have also been used in coins in the past and today.

Nickel Chemical element with atomic number 28

Nickel is a chemical element with the symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile. Pure nickel, powdered to maximize the reactive surface area, shows a significant chemical activity, but larger pieces are slow to react with air under standard conditions because an oxide layer forms on the surface and prevents further corrosion (passivation). Even so, pure native nickel is found in Earth's crust only in tiny amounts, usually in ultramafic rocks, and in the interiors of larger nickel–iron meteorites that were not exposed to oxygen when outside Earth's atmosphere.

From 1942 to 1963, Canadian five-cent coins were produced in a distinctive 12-sided shape, evocative of the British threepence coin. Originally this was done to distinguish the copper-coloured tombac (copper-zinc alloy) coins, from pennies. However, the characteristic shape was retained for another nineteen years after 1944 when this coin was later produced in 99.9% nickel and chrome-plated steel.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north­western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north­eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Threepence (British coin)

The British threepence (3d) coin, usually simply known as a threepence, thruppence, or thruppenny bit, was a unit of currency equaling one eightieth of a pound sterling, or three old pence sterling. It was used in the United Kingdom, and earlier in Great Britain and England. Similar denominations were later used throughout the British Empire, notably in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Tombac copper-zinc alloy

Tombac, as it is spelled in French, or tombak, is a brass alloy with high copper content and 5–20% zinc content. Tin, lead or arsenic may be added for colouration. It is a cheap malleable alloy mainly used for medals, ornament, decoration and some munitions. In older use, the term may apply to brass alloy with a zinc content as high as 28–35%.

The coin is produced by the Royal Canadian Mint at its facility in Winnipeg.

Royal Canadian Mint

The Royal Canadian Mint is a Crown corporation, operating under the Royal Canadian Mint Act. The shares of the Mint are held in trust for the Crown in right of Canada.

Winnipeg Provincial capital city in Manitoba, Canada

Winnipeg is the capital and largest city of the province of Manitoba in Canada. Centred on the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, it is near the longitudinal centre of North America, approximately 110 kilometres (70 mi) north of the Canada–United States border.


The first ever Canadian five-cent coins were struck by the Royal Mint in London as part of the introductory 1858 coinage of the Province of Canada. The coins were the same size and general composition as the corresponding American coins of the time, so the five-cent coin was based on the half dime. Although the American denomination was introduced as a larger copper-nickel coin in 1866, and the five-cent silver was retired in 1873, the Canadian five-cent coins remained small and silver until 1922.

Royal Mint minter of coins in the United Kingdom

The Royal Mint is a government-owned mint that produces coins for the United Kingdom. Operating under the name Royal Mint Ltd, the mint is a limited company that is wholly owned by Her Majesty's Treasury and is under an exclusive contract to supply all the nation's coinage. As well as minting circulating coins for use domestically and internationally, the mint also produces planchets, commemorative coins, various types of medals and precious metal bullion. The mint exports to an average of 60 countries a year, making up 70% of its total sales. Formed over 1,100 years ago, the mint was historically part of a series of mints that became centralised to produce coins for the Kingdom of England, all of Great Britain and eventually most of the British Empire. The original London mint from which the Royal Mint is the successor was established in 886 AD and operated within the Tower of London for approximately 800 years before moving to what is now called Royal Mint Court where it remained until the 1960s. As Britain followed the rest of the world in decimalising its currency, the Mint moved from London to a new 38 acres (15 ha) plant in Llantrisant, Wales where it has remained since.

Province of Canada 1841–1867 UK possession in North America

The Province of Canada was a British colony in North America from 1841 to 1867. Its formation reflected recommendations made by John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham in the Report on the Affairs of British North America following the Rebellions of 1837–1838.

Coins of the United States dollar were first minted in 1792. New coins have been produced annually and they make up a valuable aspect of the United States currency system. Today, circulating coins exist in denominations of 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, and $1.00. Also minted are bullion and commemorative coins. All of these are produced by the United States Mint. The coins are then sold to Federal Reserve Banks which in turn are responsible for putting coins into circulation and withdrawing them as demanded by the country's economy.

All Canadian coins (including five-cent coins) were struck in England at the Royal Mint (no mint mark) and the Birmingham Mint (H mint mark) until 1908, when the Ottawa branch of the Royal Mint opened. With the exception of some 1968 dimes struck at the Philadelphia Mint, all Canadian coins since 1908 have been minted in Canada.

A mint mark is a letter, symbol or an inscription on a coin indicating the mint where the coin was produced.

Birmingham Mint

The Birmingham Mint, a coining mint, originally known as Heaton's Mint or Ralph Heaton & Sons, in Birmingham, England, started producing tokens and coins in 1850 as a private enterprise, separate from, but in co-operation with the Royal Mint. Its factory was situated in Icknield Street, on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter. It was created by Ralph Heaton II, using second-hand coin presses bought from the estate of Matthew Boulton.

Ottawa Federal capital city in Ontario, Canada

Ottawa is the capital city of Canada. It stands on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of southern Ontario. Ottawa borders Gatineau, Quebec; the two form the core of the Ottawa–Gatineau census metropolitan area (CMA) and the National Capital Region (NCR). As of 2016, Ottawa had a city population of 934,243 and a metropolitan population of 1,323,783 making it the fourth-largest city and the fifth-largest CMA in Canada. In June 2019, the City of Ottawa estimated it had surpassed a population of 1 million.

Due to a rise in the price of silver, Canadian coinage was debased from sterling silver (925 fine) to 800 fine in 1920. In 1922, silver was removed entirely from the five-cent coin, replacing it with a coin of roughly the same dimensions and mass as the American nickel. However, unlike the American coin, which was 75% copper and 25% nickel, the Canadian coin was pure nickel, as Canada was the world's largest producer of the metal. This coin has since been known almost universally as the nickel.

The five-cent coin of Newfoundland, on the other hand, remained silver until the end of the Newfoundland coinage in 1947.

The nickel's composition has changed several times, most notably during World War II and the Korean War when nickel was redirected to the war effort, where it was essential for armour production. In the latter part of 1942 and throughout 1943, the coins were minted in tombac, an 88% copper-12% zinc alloy that got its name originally from the Indonesian/Javanese word for brass or copper. In 1944 and 1945, and again from mid-1951 to 1954, coins were made of steel which was plated twice, first with nickel and then chromium. The plating was applied before the blanks were struck, so the edges of these coins are dull or even rusted. The composition was returned to pure nickel after both wars. More recently, in 1982, the same copper-nickel alloy used in the American coin was adopted in the Canadian coin, with the ironic result that the nickel then contained less nickel than any other circulating Canadian coin except the cent. Since late in 2000, the nickel is now generally made with plated steel. Since the plating is now done after the blanks are punched, the edges of the modern coins receive the plating. Portions of the 2001 and 2006 issues were struck in cupronickel, and can be identified by the lack of the letter "P" under Queen Elizabeth's portrait, and for their non-magnetic quality.

Starting with the 1942 tombac coins, the nickel was made dodecagonal, presumably to help distinguish it from the cent after it tarnished in circulation. Tombac was removed from the nickel in 1944 (to be replaced by steel, as noted during the Korean war) but the coins in Tombac, steel, or 99.9% nickel all remained twelve-sided until 1963.

All of these coins were lighter than the US version, which is minted to be as close as possible to five grams. Canadian 99.9% nickel five-cent coins are nearly 0.5 gram lighter than this, and its present steel coins are a full gram lighter than US "nickels."

1921 five-cent coin

Five-cent coins dated 1921 are among the rarest and most collectible Canadian circulation coins, known as "The Prince of Canadian Coins." Estimates of the number of specimens known range between 400 and 480. In May 1921 the government of Canada passed an act authorizing the change to the larger nickel coin, and subsequently the majority of the 1921 mint run was melted down. [2] The coin believed to be the finest known specimen (PCGS MS-67) sold for $115,000 U.S (this does not include taxes) in a Heritage auction in January 2010. [3] It was then sold by the Canadian Numismatic Company for $160,000 (this does not include taxes) to a private collector in early 2012.

The only rarer Canadian circulation coin is the 1921 fifty-cent coin, with a population of approximately 75. The 1911 dollar coin is rarer still, with only three examples known (2 are made of silver and 1 is made of lead), but it is a pattern coin that was never released for circulation. One in silver and one in lead are in the Ottawa currency museum. The other silver 1911 $1 is in a private collection since 2003 when it was sold by Heritage auctions for the sum of $690,000 U.S (this does not include taxes). It now has a value of $1.25 million. There are rumours that it will be donated to the Ottawa currency museum once the current owner dies.

Types and specifications

Definitive types
ImageYearsMass [4] Diameter [4] Composition [4]
CANADA, QUEEN VICTORIA 1893 SILVER 5 CENTS COIN b - Flickr - woody1778a.jpg CANADA, QUEEN VICTORIA 1893 SILVER 5 CENT COIN a - Flickr - woody1778a.jpg 1858–19011.16 g15.5 mm92.5% silver, 7.5% copper
CANADA, EDWARD VII 1906 -5 CENTS a - Flickr - woody1778a.jpg CANADA, EDWARD VII 1906 -5 CENTS b - Flickr - woody1778a.jpg 1902–19101.16 g15.5 mm92.5% silver, 7.5% copper
CANADA, GEORGE V 1917-5 CENTS a - Flickr - woody1778a.jpg CANADA, GEORGE V 1917 -5 CENTS b - Flickr - woody1778a.jpg 1911–19211.17 g15.5 mm92.5% silver, 7.5% copper (1911–1919)
80% silver, 20% copper (1920–1921)
Canada $0.05 1936.jpg 1922–19364.54 g21.21 mm99.9% nickel
Canada $0.05 1937.jpg 1937–19424.54 g21.21 mm99.9% nickel
Canada $0.05 1942.jpg 1942–19454.54 g21.3 mm88% copper, 12% zinc ("tombac") (1942–1943)
Chrome plated steel (1944–1945)
CANADA, FIVE CENTS 1946 -NICKEL a - Flickr - woody1778a.jpg CANADA, FIVE CENTS 1946 -NICKEL b - Flickr - woody1778a.jpg 1946–19524.54 g21.3 mm99.9% nickel (1946–1951)
Chrome plated steel (1951–1952)
Canada $0.05 1964.jpg 1953–19644.54 g21.3 mmChrome plated steel (1953–1954)
99.9% nickel (1955–1964)
Canada $0.05 1968.jpg 1965–19814.54 g21.3 mm99.9% nickel
Canada $0.05 1989.jpg 1982–19894.6 g21.2 mm75% copper, 25% nickel
Canada $0.05 1992.jpg 1990–2001, 2006
(No "P"
on obverse)
4.6 g21.2 mm75% copper, 25% nickel
Canada $0.05 2003.jpg 1999–2003
(With "P")
3.95 g21.2 mm94.5% steel, 3.5% copper, 2% nickel plating
Canadian Nickel - reverse.png Canadian Nickel - obverse.png 2003–present
(With RCM logo
on obverse)
3.95 g21.2 mm94.5% steel, 3.5% copper, 2% nickel plating

Commemorative nickels

Although not strictly a commemorative, the "Victory nickel", struck from 1943 to 1945, was the first non-standard circulating Canadian coin other than commemorative dollars; the reverse features a flaming torch and a large V that stands for both Victory and the coin's denomination. The rim denticles were replaced by the phrase "We win when we work willingly" in Morse Code. This design was re-used in 2005 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of V-E Day. [5] Almost uniquely in the history of Canadian coinage, the reverse was engraved to scale by Thomas Shingles; most coin designs are engraved at a much larger scale and reduced with a pantograph.

In 1951, a special commemorative five-cent piece depicting a nickel refinery was struck to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the metal's initial discovery by Swedish chemist Axel F. Cronstedt. Due to the onset of the Korean War, production of this commemorative was halted to preserve nickel for the war effort, resulting in a second non-commemorative 1951 "nickel" made of plated steel.

In 1967, all the circulating coins received a special reverse for the Canadian Centennial; the nickel featured a rabbit.

In proof sets issued since 1996, the five cent coin is made of sterling silver. Some commemorative five cent coins are also made of sterling silver.

Commemorative types
ImageYearThemeArtistSpecial notes
Canada $0.05 1943.jpg 1943Victory (Tombac)Thomas ShinglesIntended to stimulate the war effort. The message "We Win When We Work Willingly" is engraved in Morse code on the rim of the coin.
Canada $0.05 1945.jpg 1944–1945Victory (Steel)Thomas ShinglesIntended to stimulate the war effort. The message "We Win When We Work Willingly" is engraved in Morse code on the rim of the coin.
1951Discovery of NickelStephen Trenka200th anniversary of the discovery of nickel. Features a nickel refinery.
Canada $0.05 1967.jpg 1967Canadian CentennialAlex ColvilleFeatures a hopping rabbit.
Canada $0.05 1992.jpg 1992Canada 125125th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.
Canada $0.05 2002.jpg 2002Golden Jubilee50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's reign.
Canada $0.05 2005.jpg 2005Victory AnniversaryThomas Shingles60th anniversary of the end of World War II. The rim of this edition is smooth. It does not have the denticles the 1943–1945 edition had.
2017Canada 150Gerald Gloade150th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada. Features a beaver influenced by the northeastern woodland Algonkian heritage. The theme of the coin is "Our Passions".

See also

Related Research Articles

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  1. Royal Canadian Mint Act R.S.C., 1985, c. R-9: Section 6 – "Non-circulation Coins" and "Circulation Coins"; Part 1 – "Non-circulation Coins"; Part 2 – "Circulation Coins"
  2. Haxby, J.A.; R.C. Willey (2003). Coins of Canada (21st ed.). Toronto: Unitrade Press. ISBN   1-894763-09-2.
  3. "Canada: George V 5 Cents 1921,... Canada | Lot #20069". Heritage Auctions.
  4. 1 2 3 "Industrious, enduring–the 5-cent coin". Royal Canadian Mint. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  5. World War II Victory Nickel re-issued in Canada.