All About Canadian Gold Coins

Posted on October 06, 2022

How can any gold coin compete with our American gold eagles, anyway? There shouldn't be any competition...

In truth, U.S. Mint simply isn’t as innovative or cutting-edge as the two leaders in the industry. The title of world’s greatest mint goes either to Perth Mint (previously discussed), or our neighbors to the north, Royal Canadian Mint (RCM).

Whereas the Perth Mint unequivocally went for size with its massive coins (a few of which are even in circulation), the Royal Canadian Mint wants to be known for quality and technology. After cranking out circulation coinage for over a century, RCM first struck a 0.9999 pure gold coin in 1982. This was rather a big deal! Circulation gold coins of the past were never made of pure gold. It’s just too soft to stand up to everyday wear and tear. Before 1982, “three nines fine” or 0.999 purity, the equivalent of 24k, was as good as gold got.

Four nines still wasn't enough, so RCM’s engineers went back to their sliderules and achieved five nines fine gold or 0.99999 purity in 1998. (Obsessive much?) Five-nines pure gold remains unique to Canadian gold coins – and they don’t trot it out every day! Keep in mind the IRS requires precious metals IRA-allowable coins and bars to only have 0.995+ purity.

The RCM also calls its flagship coin series “the most secure bullion coins in the world.” Micron-sized anti-counterfeiting details that are even designed accordingly. They can't even have the coin looking bad under a microscope…

Canadian maple leaf gold coins

The flagship we mentioned is the Canadian maple leaf gold coin. Among our customers, it's American gold eagle vs. Canadian maple leaf. Just a few decades ago, though, the Krugerrand was the world’s most popular gold coin. The Canadian maple leaf was launched in 1979 as a competitor to the Krugerrand (and an investment-grade gold coin still available after anti-apartheid sanctions against South Africa sidelined the Krugerrand…)

One more thing: like the gold American eagle, the Krugerrand is unusual in that it’s not a pure gold coin (both use a 22k or 0.9167 pure gold alloy for durability). The Canadian maple leaf gold coins were the first modern coin to be made of pure gold.

A little-known detail about the maple leaf is that it has 1/20 oz and even tiny 1g versions. If you can get your hands on these unusual weights, good for you! They’re pretty hard to find (probably because they’re really affordable) and collectors are pretty much always looking for them.

Canadian gold maple leaf coins, relative sizes

The so-called fractional gold coins of 1/4 oz and 1/10 oz weights came out in 1982, just three years after the “standard-weight” 1 oz gold coin was minted. Even way back then, a whole ounce of gold was just too expensive for a lot of people who wanted to buy gold coins. (Interestingly, it wasn’t until 1986 that a 1/2 oz weight was put on the market.)

As for the design, it remains a matter of personal taste. Do you like one or more of the following: Canada, maple leaves, Queen Elizabeth II? If yes, you'll probably like the coin. The craftsmanship is absolutely unparalleled. Personally I never get tired of admiring Walter Ott’s trompe l'oeil maple leaf design. Even so, patriotism forces me to side with with Lady Liberty and the American eagle over herbage and a monarch.

But the maple leaf is far from Canada’s only gold coin…

Other gold Canadian coins of note

One thing every numismatist finds out fairly soon is that the RCM really likes its wildlife-themed coins. And it isn’t afraid to go exotic, as in the case of the 2020 Kermode “Spirit” Bear coin. What's a spirit bear? Nothing spectral, just another animal you're highly likely to encounter on your way to the grocery in the wilds of Canada. This critter, we’re told, is a sort of albino black bear called “ghost bear” or “spirit bear” by First Nations peoples (and probably a few very confused prospectors).

The Call of the Wild five-nines-fine gold coin series, you guessed it, boasts RCM’s highest purity. Here, the designers definitely let loose in a good way, featuring various animals roaring, squawking and... hey, there's even an eagle in there. Here you thought eagles on coins were limited to the U.S. didn’t you? (Honestly I’m surprised they dared to use OUR national bird on their gold coins… what’s next, a U.S. Mint oak leaf?)

And for those wanting a more traditionally Canadian design, there's always the twin maples gold coin. Despite the comparatively lesser purity and a higher premium due to limited-mintage rarity, this coin tends to rank as one of our top selling gold coins. Our customers like it, and they’re smart enough to buy from us, so it must be good.