Still in circulation today, the five cent coin has taken over the bottom position as the lowest denomination coin in Canadian currency. The five cent coin or nickel, has seen several changes throughout the years having first been struck in 1858. The obverse side always consisted of images depicting the current royal monarch but the reverse side was quite unique with every new minting of the coin.
Reverse Side Designs
From 1858 to 1921, the reverse side of the five cent coin had an image depicting crossed maple boughs. These coins were known as fish scales due to their small size with a diameter of only 15.5 which is smaller than a dime. By 1922 the design had changed to include two maple leaves on the reverse side which was designed by W.H.J. Blackmore. The diameter was also increased at this time and this design remained through 1936.
In 1937 to 1942 as well as 1946 to 1950, 1952 to 1966 and 1968 to present, the coin featured the beaver on the obverse side. The beaver design was first created by G.E. Kruger-Gray as a way to modernize the coin in 1937. In Canada, the beaver is considered a cultural icon as well as a commodity.
From 1942 to 1963, the nickel had 12 sides and another metal was used in composition due to the war efforts. War required nickel so tombac, which is a brass, was used until 1946. From 1943 to 1945 a victory coin was minted, created by Thomas Shingles. The coin was engraved with the message ‘We Win When We Work Willingly’ in Morse code around the rim of the nickel.
In 1951, the Royal Canadian Mint decided to create a five cent piece in commemoration of the identification of nickel which took place in 1751 by A.F. Cronstedt a scientist of Sweden. In 1967, a five cent coin was created known as the centennial which was part of a collection commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Confederation. This coin was created by Alex Colville as part of a set of coins. The nickel featured a hopping rabbit on the reverse side.
In 2005, the Royal Canadian Mint released the Victory Anniversary Nickel which was created to honor the 60th anniversary of WWII’s end. The coin was designed based on the 5 cent coin created back in 1943 to help with the war effort.
Composition of the Coin
The composition of the five cent coin has changed over the years. In the beginning, the coin was mostly silver based with a small percentage of copper. By the early 1920s to 1940s, the coin was 99% nickel. For a small time the coin changed to copper and zinc, during the war efforts, then changed to chrome plated steel. By 1946, the coin was back to nickel and would be until 1951.
At this time, the coin’s composition would change back to chrome plated steel. By 1955 the coin was back to nickel composition and would remain so until 1981. From 1982 to 1999, the coin would consist of copper and nickel while 2000 to present would see the coin consist mainly of steel with a small percentage of copper and nickel plating.