Canadian Five 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
Article Index

There are five different obverse varieties found on 5 cent coins between 1858 and 1901.
Views of two key areas of the obverse for each variety can be found below the overall view section.

1858, 1870W (OF1)
Queen Victoria

Victorian Obverse known as "OF1".
The acronym is explained as follows:

O = Obverse
F = Five cent
1 = Variant Type 1

1870N, 1871, 1872H, 1874H, 1875H, 1880H, 1891-1901 (OF2)
Victorian Obverse known as "OF2"

1880H, 1881H (OF3)
Victorian Obverse known as "OF3"

1882H, 1883H (OF4)
Victorian Obverse known as "OF4"

1883H, 1884-1889, 1890H, 1891-1892 (OF5)
Victorian Obverse known as "OF5"

1858 to 1901 Victorian 5 Cent Obverse Varieties: Part 1 - Eye and Hair Detail






1858 to 1901 Victorian 5 Cent Obverse Varieties: Part 2 - Lips and Chin Detail






King Edward VII

After the death of Queen Victoria in January of 1901, a new effigy was designed by George W. Desaulles featuring King Edward VII wearing the Imperial State>
The rim of the coin contains the words "EDWARDVS VII D.G. REX IMPERATOR" which translates to "Edward VII By The Grace Of God King And Emperor".

The designer's signature (DES) can be found below the truncation King's effigy, towards the front of the chest.

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 featuring King George V wearing the Imperal State Crown, surrounded by "GEORGVS V REX ET IND:IMP:" (George V King And Emperor of India) was designed by Sir E. B. MacKennal in 1911.

To make room for the abbreviation "ET IND:IMP:" the words "D. G." (By the grace of God) and "IMPERATOR" from the previous obverse design were removed.

When the public noticed that the "D.G." (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 back onto the coins by the original designer Sir E. B. MacKennal.

1922 - 1936
1922 was a year of major change for the five cent piece. The coin's diameter was increased from 15.5mm to 21.21mm. This was also the year that the Mint stopped manufacturing 5 cent pieces from silver, choosing pure nickel instead. Because nickel is a dramatically harder metal than silver, a number of tweaks were performed to both obverse and reverse dies to make manufacturing easier.

It was also decided (for the first time in Canadian coinage) that no dots or denticles would be used around the rim of the coin.

1937 - 1941
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).

1942 (Beaver)

1943-1944 (Victory)

The same Beaver reverse and George VI obverse design used between 1937 and 1941 was continued for all 1942 coins, but a 12 sided shape was used instead of a simple round one. This 12 sided shape would be used until 1962.
For 1943-1945, Thomas Shingles created the "Victory" reverse design to promote the war effort. Again, the same George VI obverse design was used.

Five-cent coins were made of nickel from 1922 to 1942. However, nickel's importance in the production of war materials demanded the development of another metal for coinage.

Partway through the 1942 production run Tombac, a kind of brass was chosen as the replacement material and was used until early in the 1944 production run. It was then decided to switch to nickel and chromium plated steel material

There was concern that a tarnished tombac coin would be too similar to the one cent coin, so the 5-cent coin featured 12 sides to distinguish it from the one-cent coin.

1944-1945 (Victory)
Part way through the 1944 production run it was decided to abandon the tombac material and switch to nickel and chromium plated steel material, and all but one of the tombac 1944 coins were melted down.

The steel coins used the same obverse and reverse designs as the 1943-1944 coins.

1946 - 1947
After the war ended, the Beaver reverse design was resumed, but it was decided to keep the 12 sided edge and the Paget designed obverse.

1948 - 1952
In 1948, India was granted independence from the British Empire. Because of this, the words "ET IND IMP" (And Emperor of India) had to be removed from all coin dies. The extra room on the obverse allowed the designer to restore the original text "DEI GRATIA REX" instead of the abbreviated "D.G. REX"

In 1951 and 1952 five cent coins were struck from the same nickel and chromium plated steel that was used in 1944-45, due to the Korean war requirements for nickel.

1951 Commemorative
In 1951, a special commemorative five-cent piece depicting a nickel refinery was struck to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the metal's initial discovery by Swedish chemist Axel F. Cronstedt.
The design was chosen from entries submitted to the Mint in an open competition.

Due to the onset of the Korean War, production of this commemorative was halted to preserve nickel for the war effort, resulting in a second non-commemorative 1951 "nickel" made of plated steel, using the traditional 12 sided Beaver design.

1953 - 1962
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.

Because of die polishing late in the year, a variant exists in 1953 coins where the shoulder strap cannot be easily seen.
The images below detail the differences between the two versions:

1963 - 1964
For purely economic reasons the 12 sided design was dropped in 1963, returning to the original round shape used between 1922-1936.

1965 - 1978
Designed by Arnold Machin, 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.

Two different obverse die sets were used in 1965. The differences between them is detailed Here.

1979 - 1989
Designed by Arnold Machin and Walter Ott, 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. In addition, the rim dots are further from the edge than they are on the 1965-1978 obverse.

1990 - 2001
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.

1999 - 2003 Plated
Starting in 1999, the Mint began experimenting with the use of multi-ply steel material instead of nickel alloys. This process starts with a steel core, then adds layers by electroplating nickel, then copper and finally nickel to the core.

All coins which were plated in this way have a "P" composition mark on the obverse side of the coins. The same obverse design used from 1990-2001 was repeated with these plated coins.

Although limited copies were manufactured this way in 1999 and 2000, the process did not make it's way into full production for circulation until the 2001 production year.

2002 Anniversary Plated
Anniversary of Elizabeth II Coronation
In 2002, a special set of dies were used to produce all Canadian five cent coins.
The date was moved to the obverse side of the coin, and changed to read "1952 2002". As in the 1999-2003 issues, the "P" composition mark is found on the obverse side of the coins to signify the use of multi-ply plated steel blank planchets.

2003 - 2006 Plated
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. Again, the "P" composition mark is found on the obverse side.

2003 WP
In 2003 a number of 5 cent coins were minted with the mint mark "W" (Winnipeg Mint) as well as the "P" composition mark.
These coins were inserted into Uncirculated coin sets.

2006 "No Logo"
Approximately 43 million 2006 5 cent coins were produced using cupro-nickel and without any composition mark or logo.

2006 to Current Date - RCM Logo
The same design introduced in 2003 was continued in 2007 with one exception.
Starting in 2006 it was well known that all five cent coins were made with the multi-ply steel method, so it was felt there was no need to use the "P" composition mark any more. It was replaced with a new stylized logo for the Royal Canadian Mint, which was added below the Queen's effigy (where the P used to be located).

2017 Canada150 Logo
While the standard Beaver reverse and RCM Logo obverse design was used for the classic 5 cent coin (only produced for the "Classic Canadian Coin Set"), a special series of circulation coins were produced to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

For these special circulation coins, the standard RCM logo on the obverse was replaced by the official Canada150 logo.

Also, the typeface used for the text on the obverse was changed to utilise the official "Canada150" typeface.

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