Collecting the George V Canada Dollar: A Comprehensive Review

The allure of vintage coin collection holds a special place in the hearts of numismatists and historians alike, particularly those with an interest in the rich tapestry of Canada’s monetary heritage. Among these treasures, the George V Canada dollar emerges as a focal point of fascination due to its significant historical context and rarity. Minted during the reign of King George V and produced by the Royal Mint, this canada dollar is not just a piece of Canada’s past but a tangible connection to The era of the British Empire’s vast reach, making it an indispensable asset for collectors and enthusiasts aiming to possess a piece of history.

This article comprehensively reviews the George V Canada dollar, spanning from its historical origins to its design and features, and further examines the rarity and value that make it a prized item among collectors. By delving into the specifics of collecting these coins, readers will gain insights into the nuances of numismatics related to this period. The journey through the annals of Canada’s coinage will not only illuminate the significance of the canada dollar coins minted during King George V’s era but also provide a roadmap for collectors aspiring to enrich their collections with these exceptional pieces.

Historical Context and Overview

The History of George V Silver Dollar

The Canadian silver dollar, known in French as “Dollar argent du Canada,” was first issued by the Royal Canadian Mint in 1935. This issuance commemorated the Silver Jubilee of King George V. The coin’s reverse design, sculpted by Emanuel Hahn, features a voyageur and a person of Indigenous descent paddling a birch-bark canoe, with the faint lines in the background representing the Northern Lights. This iconic design was used on the dollar until 1986. Notably, in 1911, the silver dollar was not struck for production; however, three trial strikes were produced by the Royal Mint in London—two in silver and one in lead. These coins, classified as pattern coins, were unique and not intended for circulation.

Significance in Canadian History

The introduction of the Canadian silver dollar marked a significant shift in the nation’s coinage. Prior to 1935, Canadian coins predominantly featured simplistic designs with the reigning British monarch on the obverse and a standard layout on the reverse. The debut of the King George V Silver Jubilee Dollar in 1935 brought a revolutionary change with its detailed and dynamic imagery. The obverse of this commemorative coin showcased King George V in his Imperial State Crown and coronation robe, reflecting the grandeur of the occasion. More importantly, the reverse design broke from tradition, featuring a voyageur and Native American in a canoe under the Northern Lights, which became known as the “Voyageur” reverse. This design not only celebrated Canadian heritage but also set a precedent for future Canadian coinage, introducing more elaborate and culturally significant motifs.

Design and Features

Obverse and Reverse Design

The George V Canada dollar showcases a meticulously crafted obverse featuring a bust of King George V, adorned with a crown and facing left. This design, originally prepared in 1911 by Sir E.B. MacKennal, was intended for the 1911 Canadian dollar which, although never issued for public circulation, set a precedent for Canadian coinage up to 1936. The reverse of the coin, a work of art by Emanuel Hahn, presents a voyageur and a person of Indigenous descent paddling a birch-bark canoe. The backdrop subtly includes the Northern Lights, adding a touch of Canadian heritage and natural beauty to the design.

Unique Characteristics

  1. Godless Coinage: In a rush to release new coins bearing King George V’s effigy, the Royal Canadian Mint omitted the Latin inscription “DEI GRA[TIA]” (By the grace of God) in 1911. This led to the coins being termed as “Godless,” marking a unique, albeit unintended, characteristic in Canadian numismatics.
  2. Pattern Coins: The 1911 trials included two silver and one lead coin, struck not for circulation but as test pieces. These are highly prized among collectors for their rarity and the story they represent in the minting history.
  3. Die Varieties: Over the years, the George V dollar has seen various die changes. Notably, the 1947 coins continued to be minted with a small Maple Leaf next to the date to denote minting in 1948, following India’s independence and the necessary adjustment in the coin’s inscription.
  4. Material and Measurements: Initially crafted from silver, the coin measures 36.2mm in diameter and weighs 23.28g. This specification remained until the transition to nickel in 1968, which also brought about changes in the coin’s diameter and weight to accommodate the harder metal.

This detailed examination of the design and unique features of the George V Canada dollar not only highlights its aesthetic and historical significance but also underscores its value and rarity in the numismatic community.

George V Canada Dollar

Rarity and Value

Minting and Distribution

The George V Canada dollar’s rarity is significantly influenced by its unique minting history. Initially, in 1911, the Royal Canadian Mint produced a test lead coin, while the Royal Mint of London minted two silver coins. Due to the urgent need to release new coins bearing King George V’s effigy, the engravers omitted the customary Latin inscription “DEI GRA[TIA]” (“By the grace of God”). This oversight led to the production of what are now referred to as “Godless” coins, which are among the rarest in Canadian numismatics. It wasn’t until 1935 that the Voyageur silver dollar was released, making the 1911 versions extremely rare and highly sought after by collectors.

Factors Influencing Value

  1. Numista Rarity Index: The 1911 George V dollar holds a Numista Rarity Index of 69, indicating its rarity among collectors. This index, which ranges from 0 (very common) to 100 (extremely rare), underscores the coin’s scarcity.
  2. Bullion Value: The current bullion value of the coin is approximately USD 22.85, based on a silver price of 981 USD/kg. This value is purely informational and reflects the intrinsic metal value rather than numismatic value.
  3. Historical Significance: The coin’s value is further enhanced by its historical significance. As one of Canada’s rarest coins, the 1911 silver dollar was a part of the original sets intended to include a $1 coin, which instead came with an empty gap due to the federal government’s decision not to proceed with its production.
  4. Market Rarity: The 1911 $1 coin is valued at around $1,250,000. There are only three known specimens: two in sterling silver and one in lead. This rarity and the historical narrative associated with these coins significantly increase their value in the eyes of collectors and investors.

These factors collectively contribute to the George V Canada dollar’s status as a prized asset in the numismatic community, reflecting both its monetary worth and its cultural and historical value.

Collecting George V Silver Dollars

Tips for Collectors

  1. Identify Key Dates and Varieties: George V silver dollars minted in the 1920s, such as the 1920 and 1929 issues, are notable for their low mintage numbers, making them particularly valuable. Collectors should prioritize acquiring these dates. The 1920 coin, for instance, features a narrow zero variety, which is more common but still significant for complete collections.
  2. Assess Condition and Eye Appeal: The condition of the coin significantly impacts its value. Coins from the 1920s, like the 1920 and 1929 George V 50 cent pieces, often show considerable wear. Collectors should look for coins with the best remaining features, such as clearer legends and less surface wear, to enhance their collection’s value.
  3. Understand the Historical Context: Collecting coins from the reign of George V offers a tangible connection to a transformative period in British and world history. Knowledge of this era can enrich the collecting experience and provide deeper appreciation for the coins.
  4. Set a Budget: Given the rarity and potential high cost of some George V silver dollars, especially those with low mintage like the 1929 issue, collectors should set a realistic budget. This helps in making strategic decisions about which coins to pursue based on their historical significance and rarity.
  5. Connect with Other Collectors: Engaging with other numismatists can provide insights and opportunities to acquire rare coins. Forums, auctions, and coin shows are excellent places to meet other collectors and learn from their experiences.

By focusing on these strategies, collectors can successfully navigate the complexities of acquiring and appreciating George V silver dollars, enhancing both their collections and their understanding of numismatic history.


Through the exploration of the George V Canada dollar, we’ve delved into its rich historical context, distinctive design, and the factors that contribute to its rarity and value. This journey not only highlights the coin’s significance within Canada’s numismatic history but also showcases its role as a bridge connecting collectors to the past. The insights provided aim to assist collectors in appreciating not just the monetary worth but the cultural and historical value embedded in each piece. As we conclude, it’s clear that the George V Canada dollar is more than just currency; it’s a piece of Canadian heritage that continues to fascinate and inspire enthusiasts around the world.

Moving forward, collectors should consider the George V Canada dollar not just as an addition to their collection but as an investment in history. The strategies outlined for acquiring and appreciating these coins underscore the importance of knowledge, condition assessment, and community engagement in the collecting process. As collectors navigate the intricacies of numismatics, the George V Canada dollar offers a unique and enriching collecting experience, embodying a legacy that transcends its material value. This coin’s story encourages further exploration and appreciation, ensuring its place in the annals of numismatic history for generations to come.

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