CANADIAN SILVER DOLLARS

Mint Reports

Although hardly in the nature of literary caviar, the Mint Reports are an absolute necessity to anybody who attempts to make a serious study of Canadian coinage. They may he considered a kind of outline which has to he carefully filled in to make complete sense. Details are given in some instances and are largely wanting or even left out of others. The undoubted rarity of the series is the 1935 Report.

Evidently put out in haste and under work pressure, the first Report is a mimeographed production of no impressive appearance but whoever typed it did neat and careful work. It will he recalled that the Royal Canadian Mint officially began on December 1st. 1931. This being true, we should then suppose that there would be a 1932 Report, hut such is not the case. Instead, we are given abstracts for 1932, 1933, 1934 and which are attached to the 1935 Report. Recapitulations of statistical information are given which begin with 1908. It will be remembered that 1908 established the Ottawa Mint as a branch of the Royal Mint and this complicates the situation.

Those who wish information about Canadian coinage during the 1908 to 1931 period must consult the records of the Royal Mint since no separate Reports were put out for Ottawa. In the same manner, the Mint Reports of the United States are the work of Philadelphia and the activities of Denver, San Francisco, and New Orleans are included in them. Royal Mint Reports are also needed for any information going hack to 1858, the first year of coinage for Canada of official nature.

One of the most annoying information gaps centres about the coin distribution figures which are wanting for the dollars of the first series, figures which do not begin until 1941. We can only suppose that in the beginning the Mint did not think such statistics of any particular importance.

Regular millesimal fineness tables begin with the 1936 Report and the 1935 Report lacks one. However, it does give the figures in a different way. Since the year 1935 lacked a half dollar there is naturally no figure for it.

For some unknown reason, die usage information is anything but complete for the first series dollars and this deficiency extends to the other coins. Only incidentally is the die average for the dollars of 1935 given. Averages for other coins go without mention except for the bronze cents. Regular information on the die averages begins with the 1940 Report and there is consequently a four year gap.

Use of obverses and reverses goes without mention for the first three years. In the 1938 Report we are given a table of information on this point and it continues without fail thereafter.

One thing that is a decided puzzle is the erratic nature of the table figures on die usage. As will be noted, until the year 1935 is reached, differences are not great. Practically no information is given for the first series dollars although we do know that dies of high grade steel were used. We are assured that the chromium plated dies proved superior. Yet if we go on the submitted figures the steel dies of the first years obtained good results.

Both 1954 and 1955 show a sharp upward turn for no reason that is given in the Reports. The 1957 and 1958 Reports show an increase almost impossible to understand; that is, acting upon the presumption that there was no decided change in the dies of any kind. As far as appearance is concerned, the dollars of the very high average years look just as good as their sister coins of other years and they show no evidence of being inferior in any way.

Occasional bits of information are given which have to be investigated.

For example, and as before mentioned, the Parliament dollars were distributed in part through the postal system. Although no figures were given, I did obtain them through the kindness of the Deputy Postmaster General, G. A. Boyle, and was duly appreciated. Nothing is said about the dollars that were returned but we must assume that they were eventually taken up by the banks.

There is no separate 1940 Report. It is included as part of the 1939 Report and we are informed that it was done to save paper. Being done in this way it is the bulkiest of the Reports.

Anybody who expected to get much information about the designers of Canadian coins from the Reports would be severely disappointed. This is another thing which is hard to understand. Sir Bertram Mackennal and Percy Metcalfe are not mentioned in the 1935 and 1936 Reports and this caused me a great amount of trouble, especially with the latter. On the other hand, considerable attention is paid to Emanuel Hahn. Nobody complains about this but surely the designer of the obverse deserved attention of some kind if nothing more than mention of his name. All other designers are mentioned and details of an interesting kind frequently enough given.

Lack of information can often enough give rise to embarrassing situations. In the very early history of my research on the designers I wrote a letter to Philip Spier enquiring about possible sources of detailed information and was told, much to my disappointment, that the only person who had such knowledge was in Australia on vacation. Not until much later did I find out that it was Fred Bowman. However, a letter was then directed to the Mint and I was given a list of the dollar designers.

In the list sent me, the name of Percy Metcalfe does not appear and Sir Bertram Mackennal is given credit for the 1955 obverse. As might be supposed, I took it for granted that such was the case and thought no more about it. When much later the matter came up again Fred Bowman asked me if I knew that Percy Metcalfe designed the 1935 obverse? I had to answer that I was entirely ignorant of it. This brings us back to the Mint again.

Not for one moment is it to be supposed that anything but an honest attempt to give correct information was made. In this case, as far as I can see, the records were at fault. Had Percy Metcalfe been mentioned in the 1935 Report, as I feel he should have been, this error would not have been made. As it was, the Mint was misled and through no fault save lack of documentary evidence. Also, had his initials appeared on the coin the mistake would not have been made.

Once in a while a difference in terms used make trouble. For instance, the Mint very nearly always refers to proofs as specimen coins. There is nothing at all wrong with this except that the first term is more widely used than the second among people familiar with coins. A novice might well be pardoned if he did not happen to know the exact nature of a specimen coin. When any choice of terms is involved, the one most familiar should naturally be used.

Of all coins given attention in the Reports, possibly the 1951 commemorative nickel comes in for as much as any. Rightly so, for it is one of the most peculiarly appropriate coins for an anniversary ever minted. However, the name of A. F. Cronstedt, the Swedish discoverer of the element, goes without mention and the more curiously inclined would have to look it up in case of its not being known.

Perhaps some of the criticism that I have offered may appear to be ungracious and carping, but it is not meant to be so. Official documents cannot escape the human element and therefore they are not perfect although we often feel they can sometimes be improved.

Greatly to be lamented is the lack of the Mint Reports. Their value apparently dawned upon many when it was too late and complete sets are few indeed with but three north of the border and one south of it. Even the Canadian Numismatic Association does not have all the Reports. This lack of Reports may have done no great harm, but surely it has done no good. Numismatic research depends upon such documents and is crippled without them. It is my belief that collectors should more generally familiarize themselves with works of such nature. In any event, a single copy of a Canadian Mint Report is enough to give the enquiring collector a good idea as to what they are like, and the price of a quarter is low enough.

Canadian law requires the Mint Master to submit to the Minister of Finance on or before the 31st day of March a Report setting forth all the activity of the previous year. In his turn, the Minister of Finance must submit the Report to Parliament forthwith, or should Parliament be not then sitting, within 15 days after the commencement of the next ensuing session. Letters requesting Reports, when desired by those who collect, should be directed to the Queen's Printer at Ottawa with the sum of 25c in Canadian currency.

The appended tables have been studied with the greatest care and have been checked several times. Errors are always possible, but it is my sincere hope that none of any serious nature have been made.

 

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