With its introduction in 1979, the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf
laid its claim to the title as the world’s premier gold bullion
coin very early on. The only gold coin for international investment that preceded the Gold Maple was South Africa’s Gold Krugerrand
, which debuted in the 1960s as an outlet for the country’s vast mineral wealth of gold deposits. Similarly, the Gold Maple Leaf frequently ranks second behind the American Gold Eagle
in annual sales totals, making it one of the most popular gold bullion coins for investors. This is true not only in Canada, not only in North America, but virtually all over the world. You can even find Gold Maple coins offered in places as far-flung as Central Asia and Southeast Asia, speaking to the high liquidity of the coin.
One of the noteworthy features or achievements of the Gold Maple is the fact that its purity was raised to “four-nines” (.9999 fine) pure gold in 1982. However, most of that year’s mintage still used the old .999 fineness standard because the change was not made by the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM)
until November of 1982. Subsequent gold coins issued from 1983 onward were struck with the new extra-pure fineness. Later on, some special editions of the Gold Maple Leaf now use “five-nines” or .99999 fine gold
. To date, the Royal Canadian Mint is still the only refining facility in the world to reach this incredible milestone. This demonstrates the remarkable quality and refining capacity of the RCM.
The standard one-ounce Gold Maple Leaf
coin is designated with a legal tender face value of 50 Dollars. This denomination is right in line with the 1 oz American Gold Eagle
, which also bears a 50-dollar denomination (in U.S. dollars rather than Canadian dollars, however). By comparison, the silver counterpart to this flagship product among Canadian gold coins
, the Canadian Silver Maple Leaf
, bears a five-dollar face value; the $5 denomination is the highest for any 1-ounce silver bullion coin (as opposed to Canadian coins
, appearing for over three decades from 1965 to 1989. Susanna Blunt’s design is the only such depiction of HM Queen Elizabeth II that has graced a legal tender in which Her Majesty does not appear with some royal headdress. (Even in Mary Gillick’s original portrait of the Queen used for coinage, which was used from 1953 to 1964, Elizabeth II is shown with a laurel wreath around her head.)
Above the Queen’s image, Her Majesty’s name “ELIZABETH II” runs across the top portion of the rim. Inscriptions along the bottom rim include the legal tender denomination “50 DOLLARS” and the year-date “2017.” Blunt’s effigy of the Queen shows her without crown or tiara but still donning a pearl necklace. The rim of the coin design is raised on both sides for the dual purpose of convenient stacking and protecting the relief of the design from excessive wear.
Walter Ott created the coin’s iconic reverse design featuring the maple leaf, the undisputed national symbol of Canada. Ott’s design is worth note for its exceptional realism. The maple leaf’s ribs and veins are clearly discernible in the relief of the design. The fine detail and realistic touch of Ott’s depiction of the maple leaf clearly lent itself to showing lifelike texture and depth in the coin design, which uses relief above the field of the coin to create an image. This is undoubtedly why this classic design has endured more than three decades—thirty-eight years—since the first Gold Maple Leaf coin
was introduced in 1979.
The issuing country “CANADA” is inscribed around the top rim above the maple leaf while the purity is indicated by “9999” on each side of the leaf. Along the bottom rim, the inscriptions “FINE GOLD 1 OZ OR PUR” are divided by the stem of maple leaf, indicating the composition of the gold coin in both English and French, as well as listing the one-ounce actual gold weight (AGW). Just above the weight, a smaller maple leaf emblem can be found. This is a special security measure that is micro-engraved. Within the outer maple leaf, the last two digits of the year of issue (“17” in this case) are placed inside the inner maple leaf. Meanwhile, the field or background of both sides of the design uses a special radial line finish that is created through laser etching. Not only is this an important security feature that makes the coins much more difficult to counterfeit, but it also imparts an eye-appealing light diffracting effect onto the surface of all Canadian Maple Leaf coins
Gold Maple Leaf Sizes
The Royal Canadian Mint offers the Gold Maple Leaf in several different sizes in order to satisfy consumer demand for affordable gold coins in small denominations that come with the same confidence and security of bullion refined by the RCM and legal tender issued by the Canadian government. In addition to the standard 1 oz size, the Gold Maple is minted in ½ oz, ¼ oz, 1/10 oz, 1/20 oz sizes. Recently, the mint also introduced a one-gram size of the coin known as the Gold MapleGram
. It is obviously a very tiny coin, measuring just 8 mm in diameter, and is frequently sold in sealed plastic assay cards that include multiples of the MapleGram coin. As the smallest-ever Gold Maple, it bears a face value of 50 Cents.
On the other end of the spectrum, the RCM also made it into the history books by issuing the largest-ever gold coin in 2007. This behemoth 100-kilo gold coin was given a $1 million denomination and was created as a way to promote products with the mint’s “five-nines” (.99999 fine) gold purity. Although only one such 100 kg (3,215 troy oz!) coin was planned, the mint received a surprising amount of demand for the product. To date, five of these giant Gold Maple Leafs have been produced: one was given to the Queen of England, two were purchased by investors in Dubai, and one that was purchased by an Austrian company was subsequently auctioned off in 2010 for £2.7 million ($3.57 million). The owner of the fifth coin is unknown.
Fittingly, on its own website, the Royal Canadian Mint rhetorically asks (and answers): “Why did the Royal Canadian Mint make the world's purest and largest gold bullion coin? Because we can.”
More About the Royal Canadian Mint
When it comes to quality in refining precious metals, the RCM ranks right at the top along with many of the famous Swiss refineries. What began in 1908 as a branch of Great Britain’s Royal Mint has developed into one of the premier government mints in the world. Unlike some state minting facilities, the RCM is also mandated to operate at a profit and does not use any taxpayer money to fund its operations. It sells precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum in the form of coins and bullion bars to the general public as a form of wealth preservation, and it also mints all of the circulating coins for the entire country of Canada.
Because Canada has a considerable French-speaking population, especially in the province of Quebec, the Royal Canadian Mint is also frequently known by its French translation, Monnaie Royale Canadienne. You will often see dual inscriptions on the gold and silver coins of Canada in both English and French, such as “FINE GOLD” and “ORO PUR” on gold coins or “FINE SILVER” and “ARGENT PUR” on silver coins.
The mint operates branch facilities in Winnipeg and Ottawa. Beyond its production of bullion and circulating currency, the mint also produces medals and tokens for particular organizations or occasions. Moreover, it has issued an impressive number of collectible coins over the years, joining Australia’s Perth Mint as one of the world’s most prolific government mints. These limited-edition collectibles often use special minting devices that add to the eye appeal of the coin, such as a proof finishes, colorized design elements, embedded gemstones (or other genuine materials), and even glow in the dark coins. The themes of these collectibles vary widely, sometimes commemorating important cultural heritages, historical events, or topics that appeal to young collectors.
On top of all of this, the RCM also has earned international esteem for its assistance in minting the coins of many other foreign countries. In total, Canada’s world-renown mint has struck coins or provided blanks to more than 70 nations around the world over the past four decades.