The Canadian 50 cent coin is no longer commonly found in circulation. The Royal Canadian Mint only produces it in limited quantities each year to be sold directly in coin sets and rolls. Since 1937, the reverse of the 50-cent piece has borne the Canadian coat of arms. Because this year marks the coat of arms’ 100th anniversary, the Royal Canadian Mint is selling a limited edition re-creation of the original 1937 coat of arms 50-cent piece in special wrap rolls in addition to the standard 2021 50-cent coins.
What Is the History of Canada’s Coat of Arms?
The tradition of the coat of arms began in the Middle Ages. It was a means of identifying members of the same family or country. In times of war, it would be difficult to distinguish enemies from allies on the field of battle. Coats of arms were used to differentiate one army from another. While coats of arms are no longer necessary in modern warfare, they now largely serve a symbolic or traditional role, inspiring love for and pride in one’s family or one’s country.
In 1921, His Majesty King George V issued a proclamation adopting the Canadian coat of arms and describing its design. It has gone through several different iterations since then. The version originally appearing on the 50-cent coin in 1937 was a simplified version of the official design. It is this simplified design that appears in the limited edition commemorative 50-cent wrap rolls.
What Is the Symbolism of the Canadian Coat of Arms?
By design, the Canadian coat of arms closely resembles Britain’s. The rampant lion and unicorn representing England and Scotland on either side of the shield are present on both the Canadian and British coats of arms. On the Canadian coat of arms, each holds a flag. The lion holds a Royal Union Flag, also known as the Union Jack, while the unicorn holds the fleur-de-lis flag representing Royal France.
The shield is divided into four quarters representing the four founding nations of Canada. Starting from the bottom right and moving clockwise, the symbols of the four founding nations are:
- France: Royal fleur-de-lis
- Ireland: Royal Irish harp of Tara
- England: Three royal lions
- Scotland: Royal lion
The base of the shield contains three maple leaves representing Canada itself. One theory holds that the leaves represent the First Nations, the British and the French, as the three founding peoples of Canada. However, this theory remains unconfirmed.
A royal crown at the top of the coat of arms represents the monarch’s authority in Canada. This is a very prominent feature on the coin. For this simplified version of the coat of arms, many other symbolic elements have been left off.
What Else Is Different About This Coin?
A modified, more detailed version of the coat of arms has taken the place of the simplified version since 1959. This is the first 50-cent piece to bear the original simplified design in over 60 years.
The obverse of this limited edition coin is different as well. Because it is not merely a commemoration but a re-creation of the original coin from 1937, it does not bear Queen Elizabeth’s effigy but that of her father and predecessor, King George VI, who reigned in 1937 when the original coin was first struck. Around His Majesty’s effigy is an abbreviated Latin phrase that translates as, “George VI, by the grace of God, King and Emperor of India.” This phrase was standard for Canadian coins in 1937 and appeared on all denominations.
Only 10,000 special wrap rolls of this recreated Canadian 50 cent coin were minted. The Royal Canadian Mint is already sold out of them, but you can still purchase one of the limited edition rolls from Colonial Acres Coins if you act quickly.