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The Globe and Mail

From 1858 to 2012, the penny's changing face

Canada's one-cent coin hasn't changed too much over the years, but there were some stark face changes throughout its history.

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From its inception in 1858 until 1920, Canada’s 1 cent coin feature a wreath of maple leaves entwined in vine around the edge. It was designed by Leonard C. Wyon, was 25.5 mm in diameter and weighed 5.67 grams. The reverse featured Queen Victoria. The first penny was struck in London by the British Royal Mint. Canada wouldn’t get a mint branch of its own until 1908 when one opened in Ottawa.

Bank of Canada

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From 1920 to 1936, a new design graced the penny. Designed by Fred Lewis, these coins featured a maple leaf on each side of the words “one cent.” The coins got smaller with this iteration, with a diameter of 19.1 mm and a weight of 3.24 grams, and featured King George V on the reverse.
In 1931, the Mint adds the word “Canadian” to its name becoming an independent institution.

Bank of Canada

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According to the Mint, a version of 1936 penny, that has a small dot below the date, is the most valuable of any in the coin’s history. The Mint believes there are only three in existence and each one is worth over $400,000.

Bank of Canada

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The penny was minted with its current design of a two maple leaves on a twig in 1937. It was designed by G.E. Kruger-Gray - who is also responsible for the design of the modern-day nickel. The weight and size of the coin did not change.
In 1982, the coin was given its 12-sided shape to help the visually impaired identify it, but the edges were made smooth again in 1997 when the coin begain being made with copper-plated zinc or steel.

Bank of Canada

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To mark the country’s centennial, the Mint struck a special anniversary penny that featured a dove on the front. The face was designed by artist Alex Colville.

Bank of Canada

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The last Canadian penny was struck at Mint headquarters in Winnipeg, which opened in 1976, on May 4, 2012, and circulation of the coin ceased nine months later. Since the British Royal Mint opened a branch in Ottawa, 35 billion pennies have been minted.

Royal Canadian Mint

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