In the middle of the 19th century, Canadian coins were still being struck in England—a mint in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, would not open until 1908, prompted in part by the 1896 discovery of gold in Canada’s Yukon Territory.

As a part of the British Commonwealth, Canada had every reason to expect the obverse of its coins to feature the busts of somber-looking monarchs, but the personality of the country was allowed to shine through on the reverse. Thus, cent pieces from the late 1800s are ringed with maple leaves. Other coins, such as nickels and quarters from the years between the World Wars, pair the predictable bust—in this case of King George VI—with a beaver and a moose, respectively.


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