Which Canadian Nickels Are Worth Money?
The 5-cent coin has existed in Canada in one form or another for over 160 years. Since the Canadian penny was discontinued in 2013, the nickel has been the smallest denomination of Canadian coins. It is only since the 20th century that the Canadian 5-cent coin has been known as the nickel since it was originally made from other materials. Generally speaking, a Canadian nickel is only worth five cents, but changes in the price of nickel, events in world history, and variations in minting have made some nickels worth much more.
History of the 5 Cent Coin in Canada
The first Canadian 5-cent coin was minted in 1858. It was made of sterling silver, which is an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% another metal. In the case of the first Canadian five-cent coins, the other metal was copper. The coins featured a portrait of Queen Victoria, the ruling monarch at the time, on the obverse. Their small size earned them the nickname “fish scales.” The 5-cent coin first became known as a nickel in 1922, when they were first minted from that metal.
Prior to 1942, Canadian five-cent coins were completely round. Nickel became important to military manufacturing during World War II, and five-cent coins were temporarily made of an alloy named tombac that gave them a copper colour. To avoid confusion with the penny, the nickel was given a 12-sided shape. This shape persisted after the war’s conclusion but was discontinued in 1963 when Canadian nickels became round again.
Due to an increase in the price of nickel in the early 1980s, the Royal Canadian Mint started making five-cent coins from an alloy called cupronickel in 1982. This alloy retained the colour of nickel but was made of 75% copper. Starting in 1999, the RCM switched to a steel 5-cent coin with a nickel plating, which continues to this day.
Examples of Valuable Canadian Nickels
Sometimes the value of a particular coin increases because of a significant event in world history. For example, in 1947, India gained its independence from the United Kingdom. Up to that point, the Latin wording on the obverse of the nickel described King George VI as King of England and Emperor of India. Because of India’s independence, the latter part was no longer accurate. New dies for 1948 were delayed, so more 1947 nickels were struck with a die that would place a small maple leaf next to the date on the reverse of the coin. The hastily constructed dies soon deteriorated so that the maple leaf changed to a small dot. These “dot” coins are highly prized by collectors and may sell for up to $2,500 if in good condition.
The delay in the production of new dies necessitated by India’s independence also resulted in a smaller mintage of 1948 nickels than usual, with only 1.8 million being struck in total. As a result, these coins are relatively rare and may sell for several hundred dollars. Another example of a Canadian nickel that is rare because of a small mintage is the 1938 nickel.
Variations in the minting process or in the design can result in coins with a different appearance than the rest of the mintage. These rarer coins can be valuable. Examples include the 1965 nickel with the large beads around the rim, two of the four versions of 1953 nickels, and the “King of Canadian Nickels,” the 1926 Far 6 nickel, where the “6” in the date is farther away from the maple leaf above it than normal.
Look for Rare Nickels at Colonial Acres Coins
Part of the fun of collecting rare coins is the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of locating a piece that is difficult to find. Start your search at Colonial Acres.