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Apt Pupil or Slow One?
October 18, 2010

We often look north to Canada for new numismatic ideas.

The 50 state quarter program that started in 1999 was a direct copy of the 1992 Canada 125 program that honored that country’s provinces on the 125th anniversary of confederation.

Where the American program lasted 10 years, the Canadian program dispatched the honors much more quickly, hitting the then 12 provinces and territories at the rate of one per month.

Canada has also eliminated the $1 bill and the $2 bill and replaced them with coins. It is now nearly a generation since the paper $1 came to an end in 1987.

This is something the United States has not chosen to copy.

Canada has also chosen to issue coins to collectors in obsolete denominations or denominations never before issued. These have become commonplace, so the Royal Canadian Mint must see these as money-makers.

The United States has copied the never-before-issued approach in things like the First Spouse half-ounce $10 gold piece. It is neither struck to the pre-1934 standard as the 1984 $10 Olympic coin was nor to the new half ounce $25 standard of American Eagle coin series.

When the new silver five-ounce, three-inch America the Beautiful coins arrive, we will have a coin with a face value of 25 cents wildly different from both the clad and silver proof quarters American collectors are used to.

How long will it be before we see the resurrection of the half cent, large cent, two-cent piece, the nickel and silver three-cent pieces and the 20-cent piece in U.S. collector sets?

There was an attempt made to put a $3 gold piece to honor the Old Mint in San Francisco in 2006, but in the end the commemoratives were a standard silver dollar and $5 gold piece.

We have not copied everything that Canada has done. Is this a matter of a permanent difference in approach, or just that the United States hasn’t gotten around to it yet?

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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