A new Whitman Publishing book, 100 Greatest Canadian Coins and Tokens, by Dr. Harvey B. Richer, debuted this summer at the annual convention of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association in Ottawa, then at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Chicago. The 160-page hardcover coffee-table volume is available from bookstores and hobby shops and online (including at Whitman.com). Here, Kenneth Bressett, Editor Emeritus of the Guide Book of United States Coins, reviews the book and shares insight on his own connections to Canadian numismatics.
100 Greatest Canadian Coins and Tokens is a delightful repast by author/teacher Harvey B. Richer. In it, we come face-to-face with a plethora of choices as to which exactly are the greatest of all Canadian coins and tokens. The results of his investigation have not been determined solely by chance or by personal opinion, but through the careful consideration of recommendations provided by a substantial cadre of seasoned numismatists. The book also presents a treasure trove of background information to solidify the factors that were considered when determining the winners.
Professor Richer has not only laid this intriguing meal before us, but has added to it a concise history of Canadian numismatic items ranging from primitive trade beads to some of the Royal Canadian Mint’s latest innovations, designs, concepts, and assorted novelties. And he has left his readers with the option of selecting which of these would be their personal recommendation for inclusion among the hundred greatest, or perhaps even at the top of the list. Given so many qualifying attributes, selecting a winner presents a conundrum.
Undaunted by the challenge, and guided by the detailed descriptions and historical background Richer’s careful research provides, I recalled my personal interest in Canadian coins and history, as well as collecting opportunities presented in the past. Growing up in New England, with immediate family and relatives living close to the Canadian border, gave me ample opportunity to become very familiar with the cultures and coinages of both the United States and our neighbors to the north. It was not at all uncommon for us to use Canadian and U.S. coins interchangeably, in small quantities.
I vividly remember frequent trips across the border with my parents for visits or shopping, and as a youngster I was able to set aside enough of the small cents and five-cent coins to complete a date set of each from circulation. Some of the higher-denomination coins were available, but too expensive for my pre-teen budget.
One particularly thrilling prize that I did not pass up was a Very Fine specimen of the 1936 Dot quarter. My all-time favorite, however, came later when the 1944 and 1945 Victory coins became available. They were inspirational, attractive, and patriotic at a time when we needed it most. As well as having a novel and exciting design, they contained a secret message in Morse code! What youngster would not hold such a coin dear regardless of its value or rarity? That’s the kind of coin that surpasses all other qualities of greatness, and it is still my favorite.
With my early exposure to all such coins, my enthusiasm for them has never waned. And, with a solid background and interest in Canadian coins and history from about age 5, I continued to delve deeply into all aspects of numismatics. By 1950 I was aware of the formation of the Canadian Numismatic Association and was eager to join as one of the first members from the United States. (Today I am the only such member still active in the Association’s 72nd year.)
Later, in 1960, my first assignment as numismatic editor for Whitman Publishing was to work with Jim Charlton on his Standard Catalog of Canadian Coins Tokens and Paper Money, where I assisted him in adding pictures, mintages, and updates for many years.
For me those treasured experiences were the beginning of a lifetime interest in numismatics that has now been reinforced through reading Professor Richer’s latest book. I invite you to continue on and be ready to enjoy a most delightful involvement in learning all about Canada’s most celebrated coins.