Using This Site as a Price Guide to Canadian Coins.
While our site is not intended as a price guide for Canadian coins, what you will find listed here is our selection of coins for sale. We don't have everything in every grade, but our selection is broad enough that you may find it useful for getting a general feel for the values of many Canadian coins. Trying to value one's coins by comparing to the prices on websites can be confusing at first as it is not as simple as "this date - that much". Value depends on quality, defined mostly by the amount of wear. Many common coins in average circulated condition will have no value beyond what you can spend them for, or the value of any gold and silver they contain. The same can be true for even scarce coins in very poor condition.
If you have a coin we do not list, do not assume it is rare. It might be it is common and we just don't have one to list right now. It might be because we have many of them but none of enough value to bother listing in the quality in which we have them. If you see a coin listed here at a very high price, and you have the same coin you also cannot automatically assume yours is also an expensive coin unless it is also in the same condition (grade). An example would be a 1943 half dollar which if we had one in MS-64 would be listed at $200, in MS-60 at $75.00, in XF-40 at $10.00 and below XF-40 it would be in our scrap silver bin and not listed on our website. If you have a 1943 half dollar (a very common coin in circulated condition), you need to be realistic about the quality (grade) of the coin to make any comparison of value.
Grading terms, and our Grading Standards.
You will find that every coin we have for sale has a grade (description of quality) just before the price. Most experienced collectors understand what these coded descriptions mean, but for the novices we have provided the following information to give a basic understanding of what they mean. Please remember that grading standards are not absolutely fixed, and not all dealers grade exactly the same way. But these are the standards we use, which we believe you will find to be very conservative. More images will be added soon to help explain things more clearly.
Each grade has two parts, a letter or letters and a number. The letter and numeric grades mean the same thing but within any grade there is a range and the numeric part qualifies it as being average or nicer within the grade range, with the higher the number the higher the grade. For example a VG is a well worn coin, but a VG-10 will be slightly less worn than a VG-8.
For every type of coin there are definitions of what must be still visible on the coin to make a particular grade. It is not possible here to provide the definitions for every type of coin, so this is just to give you a basic idea of the amount of wear to expect for a given grade. The easiest coins with which to illustrate this are Canadian George V (1912 to 1936) coins (although the 5 cent and dollar coins must be treated slightly differently). The basic principles of grading as a description of the amount of wear apply to all coins, but learning to do so accurately for many different types of coins requires years of experience :
Note the band of the crown just above his ear, delineated by distinct upper and lower lines. There are three complete jewels including a center diamond shape and two squares, plus two more partial jewels at the ends but you can ignore those for now, and 8 pearls in pairs separating the jewels. There are also six small pearls up the centerline of the top of the crown. On George V coins the grade is determined by which of these jewels, pearls and band lines are still visible on the coin, as these are the highest points which wear first.
MS-60 (Mint State-60) are coins with no wear on them, even under 10 power magnification. All of the jewels and pearls are not only clear, but very sharp. But this does not mean a perfect coin. During the minting process coins receive a lot of handling as they drop from the dies into buckets of other coins, are poured through counting machines, and poured into bags to be shipped to the banks where they are then rolled for distribution (at least until the 1970's it was done that way). At every step of the way they touch other coins and receive tiny marks commonly known as bag marks, and an MS-60 has quite a few of these bag marks, but no wear. In the MS range things get complicated as there are 11 different MS grades from MS-60 to MS-70, which are defined by many factors including the number of bag marks (the fewer the higher the grade), the position of the marks (a heavy bag mark on the cheek or in front of the face detracts more points than one hidden in the hair or crown). Above MS-64 things like die state (the first coin from a brand new die looks nicer than the 100,000th coin off a well-used die), the amount of lustre, strength of strike, etc, become important and even experienced collectors spend many years learning to grade coins at that level, which means it cannot be taught on a site like this. Coins in the MS range can also be referred to as Uncirculated abbreviated as UNC or BU (brilliant uncirculated).
AU-50 (About Uncirculated-50) refers to coin with wear similar to that shown above (which is actually an AU-55) with only traces of wear on the highest points. No major or minor details can be worn through completely and as you can see above, the six pearls up the center line of the top of the crown are all not only separate and distinct but relatively sharp (as is the rest of the coin in general). While it is not obvious on the image, there are traces of wear on the two pearls in front of the center diamond, and on the bottom two pearls up the center line at the top of the crown, which are the highest points on the coin,s design, and any wear means it cannot be called a Mint State coin. AU is normally divided into AU-50, 55 and 58. AU-58 is a coin with only microscopic wear and which probably would have been MS-63 or better without it. By the time a coin has circulated enough to wear to AU-55 you begin to see a light haze of contact points in the fields between the portrait and the lettering, caused by random contact with other coins leaving microscope marks in those areas. AU-50 and AU-55 are differentiated by the amount of that haze, and the amount of wear on those high points, which cannot be illustrated on an image and requires some experience to judge accurately with the coin in front of you. On newer coins you would expect to see a significant lustre on an AU-50 (at least on silver coins), but this is not necessarily required for earlier coins.
XF-40 or EF-40 (Extra Fine-40) refers to a piece similar to that above with no significant details worn away, but the high points of the finer details show clear visible wear. You must be able to see all of the jewels and all 8 of the beads on the band, but the 2 beads in front of the center diamond can be weak (you can just barely make them out on this image, but on this coin they are slightly clearer). The 6 beads up the center line of the crown may be still distinct but can begin to merge (other than on silver dollars) just as the bottom two have on this coin. There is beginning to be wear on other parts of the coin such as the decorations on the King's shoulder, which helps distinguish a nice XF from a low end AU. A novice might think this coin is nearly perfect and thus overgrade it, but experienced collectors will notice the wear easily. No lustre is necessary on an XF-40 or XF-45 coin, but often there will be some. It should be noted that the rules are slightly different for George V nickels which are often weakly struck with only 4 or 6 pearls visible even in mint state, so grading the XF and better nickels requires a specialized knowledge. XF is divided into XF-40 and XF-45 with an XF-45 being sharper than an XF-40. It should be noted that the coin imaged for this grade has what are known as hairline scratches from being cleaned. This is a major flaw that reduces the value, and when listing such a coin should note the hairlining as part of the grade description.
VF-20 (Very Fine-20) refers to a coin like that above where some finer details have begun to wear through but only at the higher points. You just be able to see at least 2/3 of the center diamond which can be weak but visible, and at least five of the eight pearls on the band must be visible, but the two in front of the center diamond can be totally gone as they are on this coin (there are six visible on this coin, although one is weak). VF is divided into VF-20 and VF-30 with the distinction a combination of how much of the center diamond is visible and exactly how many pearls are visible. A VF-20 has at least 2/3 diamond with 5 to 6 pearls and a VF-30 has a nearly full diamond with 6 or 7 pearls visible.
F-12 (Fine-12) refers to a coin like that above where the major details are clear but minor details are now showing significant wear. The most important feature is that the bottom edge of the lower line of the crown band is visible all the way across, although it can be very weak with the center visible only at some light angles. None of the center diamond or any of the other jewels and pearls need be visible for a F-12 (the coin above has some of them so is a fairly nice F-12), it is that lower band line that is important. F is divided into F-12 and F-15, with the F-15 being slightly nicer with at least a hint of the center diamond and at least four pearls visible. By the time a coin has been in circulation to wear down to a grade of fine, you should expect some minor knocks or abrasions, but large ones as one sees on the King's collar on this coin, should be mentioned alongside the grade and do affect the coin's value.
VG-8 (Very Good-8) refers to a coin like that above where the major details are just starting to wear through and most of the minor details are well worn. There is still some internal detail of the portrait visible, and the band of the crown is completely worn through in the middle but at the ends at least 30% of the band is present between the two ends combined. The center diamond, jewels and pearls on the band are now completely gone. VG is divided into VG-8 where at least 30% of the band is visible, and VG-10 which requires at least 60% of the band to be visible.
G-4 (Good-4) refers to a coin atleast as good as the one above and which will probably be slightly nicer (this is the most wear a G-4 can have). Less than 10% of the crown band is visible, but all of the lettering around the head is still there with no letters merged into the rim by even a tiny amount. Some lettering in the center of the back of the coin can be worn through, but all 4 digits of the date must be visible at least weakly. G is subdivided into G-4 which is worn to where the portrait is little more than an outline as above (you might see part of the ear and eye) but no part of the band need be visible. G-6 has some minor internal portrait details and will show part of the ear and eye with 10 to 20% of the crown band visible. But the defining difference between this and the next lower grade is that all lettering around the head must be visible. Every die from which these coins were struck was slightly different and some dates wear differently than others. 1915 quarter portraits wear more rapidly than other dates, which is why this example in G-4 has less portrait visible than the aG-3 1919 quarter below. Most other dates in G-4 would have more portrait detail.
aG-3 (about good-3) refers to a coin which is so worn that parts of the lettering around the portrait merge into the rims, and the rims may be worn flat in places. You might not even see the entire outline of the portrait, although on the example above you see quite a bit. You must be able to determine the date even if only faintly by the last two digits. The most important part of this grade is the merging of the lettering around the portrait into the rims (even if by only one letter). Each date may wear slightly differently, with the example above having more portrait detail than normal for this grade. Only very rare dates have any value to collectors in this grade, an even then at a fraction of what even a G-4 would bring.
Fair-1 refers to a coin like the 1935 dollar above that is so worn you can barely identify the type, and even the date is not visible (making the coin worthless to even the most basic collector). Only fragments of inscription are visible at the top, the truncation of the portrait has merged into the edge, and on the reverse only traces are visible with the date completely worn away. We know it is 1935 because the traces of inscription that are visible can only be from that date. A Fair-2 is only very slightly better than a Fair-1 and might have a little more showing on the reverse, but the difference is not very important.
These grading standards are based on those set down in the original 1965 Charlton grading guide book. If you have the newer edition published about the year 2000, you will notice that for the lower grades (VF-20 and below) these are much stricter than in the newer edition. We believe these are the correct standards and grade our coins to them. We do not agree with those shown in the new edition, but there are many dealers and newer collectors who use them. We cannot say they are wrong, just that we don't agree with them.
The basic concepts of grading via the amount of wear on these George V coins can be applied to any coin, although for every type of coin there is a different set of definitions of what will still be visible on each grade. As some of the examples above discuss, even some dates within a series may wear differently, so you must take what is above as just a general guide line to help you understand the basic idea of grading. This page will not make you an expert grader of these coins, and learning to grade a wide variety of coin types takes years of experience. This should give you a reasonable idea of what to expect of non-illustrated coins you order from our site, each of which has its grade listed just before the price.
The grading above refers to what happens to coins as they circulate, but not all coins start out as MS (Mint State) coins. Mint State is not the only style of striking that exists and it is important to understand the differences.
MINT STATE sometimes abbreviated as MS, refers to coins intended to issue through the banks for normal circulation and which went through all of the normal mint handling process that leave "bag marks" on coins. Even as they were issued at the banks they were usually far from perfect coins with the average grade in an original roll from the 1960's and earlier MS-60 to MS-63. Fine finding MS-64 or better coins can be difficult.
PROOF-LIKE sometimes abbreviated as PL, is an odd category. These are coins minted for special mint sets made for sale to collectors, and not intended for circulation. The mint never claimed they were anything other than choice MS coins, but are very early strikes from fresh dies and were selected out for the sets as nice coins before going through the entire mint handling process so tend have have higher lustre and fewer bag marks than MS coins. However they are not perfect mark-free coins and average PL-64 to PL-66 right out of the sets. Any experienced collector or dealer will know one when he see's one. The term Proof-like was invented by dealers to differentiate these from normal MS coins, for reasons I will discuss below. Proof-like sets were first sold to the public in 1954, although single PL coins earlier than 1954 do exist.
Specimen which is sometime abbreviated as SPEC or just SP. Specimen coins were also minted for special mint sets but are different from PL coins in that the dies are specially finished to give the coins either a higher lustre or sometimes a specific matte finish, and the coins are double struck to give sharper images, normally higher sharper rims, and design meet the fields at a sharper angle. Specimens have been made since the beginning of Canadian coinage, and early sets were used for official government presentations, although in 1908, 1937 and 1967 sets were made for sale to collectors. Starting in 1971 specimen sets made to sell to collectors became a standard part of the mints product line, and such sets are today generally very common. Like proof coins, specimen coins were never intended to circulate so did not go through any of the standard mint handling systems that put bag marks on MS coins. Thus specimen coins are relatively mark free and start off in the SP-66 to SP-68 range.
PROOF which is sometimes abbreviated as PR. Proof coins are also struck only for special mint sets and are struck to a higher standard then regular MS, PL or Specimen coins. Canadian Proof coins are struck on selected blanks from dies with carefully polished fields, and frosted images and letters, then double struck to give them amazing sharpness. Each coin is carefully handled and packaged right off the die to keep them virtually mark free. These coins razor sharp coins with frosted images and lettering against the mirror like background (an ultra-cameo effect) are very beautiful and average in the Proof-66 to Proof 68. The earliest Canadian proof coins were struck in 1973 for the Montreal Olympic, but normal denominations were first struck in 1981. Canadian coins before these with this cameo affect are not proofs, but we have seen them incorrectly called such. Not all world proof coins, including many US coin, do not have frosting but do share the mirror like fields.
It is important to understand these distinctions, because for any given date that exists in more than one striking type, the three types are not priced the same. Where Pl's, Specimens or Proofs from sets exist in large numbers (generally true for PL after 1952, Specimen after 1970 and most Canadian Proof coins), while these special set coins are nicer looking they are also easier to find than upper end MS coins (generally MS-64 or higher) and so the MS-64 and higher coins can bring a much higher price. An example the 1967 Canadian dollar, which can be found in PL-65 from a standard PL set, or Specimen-65 or better from one of the black boxed specimen sets, can easily be bought for not much more than the value of the silver in them. An MS-65 1967 dollar is very difficult to find and might sell in the $500 range. We occasionally see people trying to sell PL and Specimen coins for far more than they are worth, claiming they are MS coin. Such people are either totally inexperienced, or are committing fraud.
Much to our dismay, the standard references are now referring to many of the newer coins from mint sets not as Proof-likes, but as "non-circulating Mint State" (abbreviated NCMS) or as "numismatic Brilliantly uncirculated" (abbreviated numismatic BU). We feel this is going to cause nothing but confusion among collectors, so we neither like nor approve of these terms for them. The old term Proof-like to designate coins made specifically for standard mint sets cannot cause this confusion, which is precisely why it was invented in the first place. On this web site we will refer to all such coins make specifically for mint sets as either Proof-likes, Specimen or Proof, which ever is appropriate to the coin.
WARNING ABOUT FAKES
There were recently some relatively high-quality die-struck fakes of Canadian coins made in China and often sold on Ebay, mostly by sellers in China. While Ebay has done a fairly good job of cleaning up this problem, some still appear from time to time, and many are already out there having been sold before Ebay stepped in to stop them.
The dies are probably made by a spark erosion process, and are most likely produced in China. The 1875 quarter below is an example I was shown recently :
When viewed under a microscope, these coins have very odd surface textures and heavy die polish marks in odd places, but when viewed in hand or via a digital image, they are fairly deceptive. For many types they did not have access to genuine coins of the rare dates, so started by making a die from a more common date of the type, then modifying the date on the die to make it a rare date. This usually results in the modified digit being slightly off shape from what an original would be. We have seen some 1921 5 cents where the last 1 had been modified and was too thick compared to the other digits.