Silver Content of Canadian Coins

By | July 3, 2015
1949 Canadian Silver Dollar

1949 Canadian Silver Dollar

The silver content of Canadian coins has changed with time. During the 1850s, a series of laws were enacted that established a monetary unit for the Province of Canada which was based on the gold dollar of the United States of America. Like that of the USA, Canada’s dollar was divided into 100 cents. The coins minted for the Province of Canada beginning in 1858 included silver pieces valued at five cents, ten cents and twenty cents.

The quarter and the fifty-cent piece did not appear until 1870, by which time the issuing authority was now the Dominion of Canada. Perhaps acknowledging that the American silver dollar did not circulate to any great extent, Canada declined to issue this denomination until 1935.

Ongoing Changes in Canadian Coin Composition

The rising price of silver spelled doom for its use in circulating Canadian coinage after the mid 1960s. Canadian dimes and quarters dated 1967 were produced in both the normal .800 fine silver and in a reduced .500 silver. The latter continued into 1968 for these two coins, but a non-silver composition was phased in that year. The production of silver halves ended abruptly with the centenary issue of 1967, and later pieces were of nickel. That was the end for Canada’s rich history of circulating silver coins.

For collectors  of Canadian silver coins, the toughest issue is with the 1967 and 1968 coins.  In 1967 the Canadian mint shifted production from 80% to 50% on some of the coins.  It can be difficult to discriminate between the two. And in 1968 they moved from 50% silver to 99% nickel, removing any silver value for the post 1968 coins.  However, that shift was made mid year as well and many 50% silver quarters and dimes were minted, as well as the nickel ones.  The way to test is with a magnet.  If the coins sticks, it is nickel, if not, it is silver.

1959 Canadian Half Dollar

1959 Canadian Half Dollar

Suggestions for Collectors and Investors

1893 Canadian Five Cent Coin

1893 Canadian Five Cent Coin

Clearly, if you are looking for high silver content, stick with those silver coins minted by Canada dated before 1920.  These were minted as sterling, with 92.5% silver content.  Dollars, half dollars, quarters and dimes from 1920 – 1966 have a reduced silver content, 80% by weight. This compares to the 90% silver content in pre-1965 U.S. dimes, quarters, halves and silver dollars.

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4 thoughts on “Silver Content of Canadian Coins

  1. Shawn

    Hi!
    I did not know they changed in 67.
    Thanks so much for the heads up on using a magnet to check between silver and nickel.
    I wonder how much if any of these coins are still possibly in circulation today?
    Also, do you see silver holding steady, rising or falling in the next year?
    I bookmarked your site, I want to check out some of your other articles!

    Shawn>>

    Reply
    1. Mike Post author

      Hi Shawn,

      Yes indeed the Canadian coins changed their composition away from silver shortly after the U.S. did in the 1960s. Occasionally one can still find a silver dime or quarter in general circulation, but it is becoming quite rare. Interestingly, my wife found a U.S. silver war nickel in change just last week. Keep looking at your change.

      As far as predictions of the price of silver, I’m afraid my crystal ball is not functioning as well as I would like. All fun aside, We don’t know when the price of precious metals will rise but we have very good ideas about what catalysts can cause it. Have a look at this post.

      Reply
  2. Jolie

    Cool bit of history there about Canadian coins! I did not know that little tip about testing with a magnet. Thanks for the date range as well. Do you know if the mint or the government started to try and recover old coins at any point, or did they just leave them in circulation for collectors to snap up?

    Reply
    1. Mike Post author

      Hi Jolie, In the mid 1960s when the US and Canada stopped minting silver coinage the price of silver was rising and everybody know it. Many collectors and investors added to their holdings. Some laypersons even stated hoarding silver coins. In short order, silver coins became rare, except in the vaults of governments and in the possession of collectors and investors.

      Reply

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