The Canadian five-cent coin was introduced in Canada in 1858. The coin is commonly referred to as a nickel and was patterned after the same coin used in the United States currency. The coin became the lowest valued coin in Canada after February 4th 2013 when the Royal Canadian Mint decided to stop distributing the penny. The nickel coin began as a thin sterling silver coin and was known at the time as fish scale. In 1922, the nickel was created from actual nickel and consisted of 99.9% nickel metal.
The nickel has changed its look as well as design over the years, as well as the composition. Below are a few examples of changes to nickel coins from 1859 until 1899 to get an idea of how the nickel first began and how it soon evolved.
Early Issue Design
A standard design for the nickel was created in 1858 and remained in place after the confederation up until 1901. The coin featured an image of Queen Victoria and was the Wyon young head design. Some designs had a mintmark is struck in London, England by the Royal Mint while those produced in Birmingham, England had an H mint mark to signify their place or origin at the Heaton mint.
Two Nickel Varieties in 1874
The nickel was produced in two varieties in 1874 with the first being titled the crosslet 4. This coin has a small vertical bar placed at the back four and a larger date. The second coin is known as the plain 4 as it does not have the upright located at the four on the back and a smaller date. The plain 4 coin is harder to find than the other style.
1891 Five Cent Coin
The 1891 production of the five cent coin saw the obverse side have an upper lip on Queen Victoria that is longer than the lower lip and her eyeball appears flat. This is known as the obverse 2 version. With the obverse 5 version, the coin has an upper lip that is shortened and the eyeball of Victoria appears rounded. These subtle differences may be hard to see by the untrained eye but an obverse 5 can have significant value when added to a coin collection.
1897 Five Cent Coin
For the year 1897, there are four varieties of the nickel coin. The most common is known as the narrow 8 where the 8 of the date is narrowed. There is a wide 8 version where the number is wider while there is also a narrow 8 over wide 8 and a 7 over 7 with a standard narrow 8. The latter is the most hard to find.
Composition and Size
The five cent coin had the same composition and size from 1858 until 1901. The coin has a mass of 1.16 grams and a diameter of 15.5 mm. The coin is composed of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper.
The nickel coin of Canada is certainly a collector’s item with many varieties of the coin produced during this time frame. Any nickel coin you find from this era should be evaluated to know the true value.