Canadian One Cent Obverse Designs


This page shows the major die designs since Canadian coins were introduced in 1858. It does NOT cover "die blunders", where dies were re-punched with different years (and the previous number is visible below the current number), or where cracks appeared in the dies causing unwanted lines to appear in the coin. It also does not cover date doubling or special coins created for the collector market. All of the coin designs displayed here were manufactured for general circulation as legal tender.

NOTE: Click on any photo to load a much larger version of the same photo

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1858-1859
Queen Victoria

The 1858-1859 1-cent coin features the design of Leonard C. Wyon of the Royal Mint. It portrays a young Queen Victoria wearing a laurel wreath. In actual fact the Queen was decidedly older and pudgier in the 1850s, so it is considered that the image on the coins of this year portrayed the idealized image of the Queen.

The obverse was re-designed, again by Leonard C. Wyon of the Royal Mint for 1876, showing a more mature and portly Queen Victoria wearing a diademed crown.
Slightly different versions of this design were used until her death in 1901.

Note: A large number of subtle changes were made to the dies between 1858 and 1901. An excellent summary of these varieties are discussed here:
Collecting Victorian Varieties by By Rob Turner FCNRS


1876-1901
There are six different obverse varieties found on 1 cent coins between 1876 and 1901.
Views of three key sections of the obverse for each variety can be found below the overall view section.

1876H, 1881H, 1882H, 1884 (OC1)

Victoria (Diademed Portrait)

The obverse was re-designed, again by Leonard C. Wyon of the Royal Mint for 1876, showing a more mature and portly Queen Victoria wearing a diademed crown.
Slightly different versions of this design were used until her death in 1901.

Victorian Obverse known as "OC1".
The acronym is explained as follows:

O = Obverse
C = Cent
1 = Variant Type 1


1881H, 1882H, 1886 (OC1a)
Victorian Obverse known as "OC1a".


1882H, 1884, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1891, 1892 (OC2)
Victorian Obverse known as "OC2".


1890H Only (OC3)
Victorian Obverse known as "OC3".


1891, 1892 (OC3a)
Victorian Obverse known as "OC3a".


1892-1897, 1898H, 1899, 1900, 1900H, 1901 (OC4)
Victorian Obverse known as "OC4".


1876 to 1901 Victorian 1 Cent Obverse Varieties: Part 1 - Crown, Eye and Hair Detail
OC-1

OC-1a

OC-2

OC-3

OC-3a

OC-4



1876 to 1901 Victorian 1 Cent Obverse Varieties: Part 2 - Lips and Chin Detail
OC-1

OC-1a

OC-2

OC-3

OC-3a

OC-4



1876 to 1901 Victorian 1 Cent Obverse Varieties: Part 3 - Bust Line Detail
OC-1

OC-1a

OC-2

OC-3

OC-3a

OC-4



1876 to 1901 Victorian 1 Cent Obverse Varieties: Part 4 - OC3a Text Differences



1902-1910
King Edward VII

After Queen Victoria passed away in 1901 and King Edward VII succeeded her, G.W. DeSaulles of the Royal Mint designed a completely new obverse. It shows King Edward VII wearing the Imperal State Crown, surrounded by "EDWARDVS VII DEI GRATIA REX IMPERATOR" (Edward VII, by grace of God, King and Emperor) and "CANADA"

Effigy: King Edward VII
Composition: 95% Copper, 4% Tin, 1% Zinc.


1911
King George V

After the death of Edward VII, the coronation of George V in 1910 and the addition of India to the British Empire, a new obverse was designed by Sir E. B. MacKennal in 1911 of King George V wearing the same Imperial State Crown, surrounded with the inscription "GEORGIVS V REX ET IND:IMP:" (George V, King and Emperor of India)

To make room for the mention of India, the words "DEI GRATIA" were removed, and the word "IMPERATOR" was shortened to "IMP".

Effigy: King George V
Composition: 95% Copper, 4% Tin, 1% Zinc.


1912-1920 (Large Cents)
When the public noticed that "DEI GRATIA" meaning "By the Grace of God" had been removed from the coins of 1911 there was a tremendous amount of backlash over the "Godless" coins.

As a result the obverse was changed in 1912 to add that text (abbreviated to read "DEI GRA") back onto the coins.

Effigy: King George V
Composition:
1912-1919 - 95% Copper, 4% Tin, 1% Zinc.
1919-1920 - 95.5% Copper, 3% Tin, 1.5% Zinc.


1920-1936 (Small Cents)
In 1920 (purely for economic reasons) the Canadian government introduced a dramatically changed one cent coin. The diameter was reduced from 25.4mm (1 inch) to 19.05mm. For the first time in the history of Canadian coins the one cent piece was issued with no rim denticles or dots.

Sir E. B. MacKennal's obverse design from 1912 was continued, albeit considerably smaller to fit the new coin size.

Effigy: King George V
Composition: 95.5% Copper, 3% Tin, 1.5% Zinc.


1937-1947
King George VI

After the death of George V in January 1936, the abdication of Edward VIII and the coronation of George VI, a new obverse was designed by T. H. Paget with the likeness of King George VI (uncrowned), surrounded with the inscription "GEORGIVS VI D:G:REX ET IND:IMP:" (George VI, by the grace of God, King and Emperor of India).

Rim denticles were added back onto the coins.

Effigy: King George VI
Composition:
1937-1942 - 95.5% Copper, 3% Tin, 1.5% Zinc.
1942-1947 - 98% Copper, 0.5% Tin, 1.5% Zinc (Bronze).


1948-1952
After India was granted independence from the British Empire in August 1947, the words "ET IND IMP" had to be removed from all coins in the British Empire.

What had been previously abbreviated to read "D:G:REX" was now fully expanded to read "DEI GRATIA REX".

Effigy: King George VI
Composition: 98% Copper, 0.5% Tin, 1.5% Zinc (Bronze).


1953-1964
Queen Elizabeth II

After the death of George VI in February 1952, a new obverse was designed by Mary Gillick and Thomas Shingles with the likeness of Queen Elizabeth II when she was 27 years old, surrounded with the inscription "ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA" (Elizabeth II, by the grace of God, Queen) uncrowned but wearing a laurel wreath.

Effigy: Queen Elizabeth II, Laureate Effigy
Composition: 98% Copper, 0.5% Tin, 1.5% Zinc (Bronze).


1965-1978
Designed by Arnold Machin and Thomas Shingles, a new obverse was created in 1965 to show a more mature portrait of the Queen.
Instead of the previous effigy which showed a laurel wreath on her head, the new effigy shows her wearing a diamond tiara.

Effigy: Queen Elizabeth II, Tiara Effigy
Composition: 98% Copper, 0.5% Tin, 1.5% Zinc (Bronze).


1979-1981
In 1979 the obverse design was modified to use a smaller portrait of the Queen. The reason was to make the portrait more proportional to the coin for every denomination.

The easiest way to tell a modified tiara from an original is to look at the distance between the forward point of the lower bust and the rim dots, and the distance between the forward upper jewels on the tiara and the rim dots.

Effigy: Queen Elizabeth II, Modified Tiara Effigy
Composition: 98% Copper, 0.5% Tin, 1.5% Zinc (Bronze).


1982-1989
In 1982 the shape of the coin was altered to make identification easier for the visually impaired. The rim of the coin was changed from a round shape to a 12 sided shape. The coin reverted back to the round design in 1997.

Effigy: Queen Elizabeth II, Modified Tiara Effigy
Composition: 98% Copper, 0.5% Tin, 1.5% Zinc (Bronze).
Shape: 12 Sided.


1990-1996
A new obverse designed by Dora de Pedry-Hunt and Ago Aarand was created in 1990 showing the Queen wearing a diamond diadem and jewellery.

Effigy: Queen Elizabeth II, Diadem Effigy
Composition: 98% Copper, 0.5% Tin, 1.5% Zinc (Bronze).
Shape: 12 Sided.


1997-2003
The design from 1990-1996 was continued, although the twelve sided design was dropped and reverted back to a round coin to make manufacturing easier.

Effigy: Queen Elizabeth II, Diadem Effigy
Composition: Copper Plated Zinc.
Shape: Round.


2002 Golden Jubilee
In 2002, a special edition circulation coin was issued to celebrate the golden anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's ascension to the throne.
The date was moved to the obverse side of the coin, and changed to read "1952 2002".

Effigy: Queen Elizabeth II, Diadem Effigy
Composition: Copper Plated Zinc.
Shape: Round.


2003-2006
During the 2003 production run the obverse was changed to feature a new, more mature looking effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, designed by Susanna Blunt and Susan Taylor.

Effigy: Queen Elizabeth II, Uncrowned Effigy
Composition: Copper Plated Zinc.
Shape: Round.


2006-2009
A new stylized logo for the Royal Canadian Mint was added below the Queen's effigy.

Note no 1 cent copper plated zinc coins were issued for regular circulation in 2008, although a great number of multi-ply steel coins were produced. The only zinc 2008 one cent pieces were issued to the collector market in uncirculated, specimen and proof sets.

Effigy: Queen Elizabeth II, Uncrowned Effigy
Composition: Copper Plated Zinc.
Shape: Round.
Mint Mark: RCM Logo.


1999P-2003P
By the late 1990s the cost of copper and zinc rose to the point that it was far too expensive to continue manufacturing coins in the same way.
To save manufacturing costs a new process was developed where a steel core was electroplated with thin layers of nickel and copper. To make it easier to differentiate between traditional coins and the new plated ones, a "P" was added below the Queen's effigy on the obverse of the coin.

Effigy: Queen Elizabeth II, Diadem Effigy
Composition: Copper Plated Steel.
Shape: Round.
Mint Mark: "P".


2003-2006
During the 2003 production run the obverse was changed to feature a new, more mature looking effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, designed by Susanna Blunt and Susan Taylor. The policy of marking plated coins with a "P" continued.

Effigy: Queen Elizabeth II, Uncrowned Effigy
Composition: Copper Plated Steel.
Shape: Round.
Mint Mark: "P".


2006-2012
By 2006 all one cent pieces were manufactured using the plated steel process, so it was no longer necessary to differentiate them with the "P" marking.

Instead, the new stylized logo for the Royal Canadian Mint took it's place below the Queen's effigy.

Effigy: Queen Elizabeth II, Uncrowned Effigy
Composition: Copper Plated Steel.
Shape: Round.
Mint Mark: RCM Logo.
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