Proof and Presentation Sets

 Only one set of genuine proofs is to be had among the dollars, the set of 1937 which occurs in the first series. These proofs were issued to honor His Majesty King George VI and 1,095 of them were put out, 200 of them in 1938. The sets were to be had in presentation cases or cardboard holders and were sold to purchasers through the agency of the Bank of Canada and not through the Mint.

Very early in my collecting career I began to wonder where all these sets had so mysteriously disappeared and it struck me as odd that none were ever offered for sale. And now, having investigated the subject to the best of my ability, I must confess that the total amount of my knowledge in this respect has been very little increased. It affords me small satisfaction to find that a number of others are equally puzzled. In the year of their issue, and for some time after, the Bank of Canada could have answered the question but it is now too late. Although assured by some that a number of them were in Canada, this theory did not appeal to me very much. Of course, we must naturally believe that there would be a few; it is the bulk of them that I am concerned about.

Enquiries were directed to Spink & Son and B. A. Seaby of London for information about the sets. Unfortunately, they both declared that the answer to the situation was something which they would also like to know. As nearly as I can learn, and on the basis of such small evidence as there is, the majority of them may be in England and they are not as generally in the hands of collectors as I had supposed.

As a matter of fact, my English informants are inclined to believe that a good many of the sets in England are in the hands of persons who purchased them to mark the occasion of a change in the Crown, have put them away, and have largely forgotten about them. I am further informed that coins and sets which may have been in a family for 100 years now and then suddenly appear on the market. As far as England is concerned, these sets are likely to stay out of sight since they are in the nature of family heirlooms.

At the time of my enquiry, Spink & Son did have one 1937 set in a cardboard case which was valued at $45.00 and would certainly be reasonable enough, especially in view of the fact that they are so nearly impossible to obtain. Seaby stated that no set of the kind had come within their purview during the past three years. (Current value at time of going to press $200.00.)

One collector who does have one of them is Sidney V. Hagley of Beaumont, Australia. He has an extensive collection of coins from all over the world and part of it includes a set of the Canadian dollars. I had hardly expected to encounter one there and to fail utterly in locating one closer to its original home.

Canadian presentation coins are a study of themselves and not an easy one. They are genuine proofs, not proof-likes, are struck under double pressure, are exceedingly few in number, are not officially recorded, and do not officially exist. Further, they are only given to persons who have performed some outstanding public service or who may be regarded as highly important. The person who knows the most about them, and to whom I am most indebted for information, is Fred Bowman, of Lachine, Quebec, a Canadian of decided ability in the field of numismatic research.

My first awareness of them came to me in the form of a letter from a Montreal dealer, and he told me that proofs were only given to such persons as Prime Ministers. Knowing at that time little indeed about the subject, I concluded that possibly a small joke of some kind was intended. Not until long after did I find out that presentation coins are indeed one of the varieties in the field of Canadian numismatics.

Since it happens to be of distinctive nature, the coin that is used for presentation is practically always the dollar, that is, if only a single piece is presented. We have already observed this to he true in the case of the Parliament dollars presented at the time His Majesty King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Canada. We have also noted that no other mention of such coins ever comes up again in the Mint Reports. As far as I can see, there is no particular reason why they should be a subject of mention, save on some special occasion, and this happened to be one.

We may safely assume that complete sets of Canadian presentation coins have been given to every English King and Queen on being crowned during the dollar period and that would mean three sets. The courtesy may even have been extended to Edward VIII, but I am not justified in such an assumption. In any event, it would be stranger to suppose it not true than to suppose otherwise. Common courtesy would not only call for, but would give rise to the doing of such a thing. And it matters not a whit of no mention in the Mint Reports. This is the way I look at it and I see nothing wrong about it; that is, failure of mention.

Except by accident, the holders of presentation coins are not collectors, nor is their identity any matter of public record. Of course, we are not for one moment to imagine that they are supposed to keep the possession of such pieces a secret for this would be an absurdity of the greatest kind. However, since the coins are prized gifts, they quite naturally are not offered for sale.

We may note here the peculiar status of coins that chance to be given to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. They are not her personal property in any ordinary sense of the term. Rather do they belong to the Crown and therefore in the long run to the people of England. For example, Her Majesty certainly has free use of the Crown jewels although no one supposes for an instant that they are her personal property. However, she has use of them as occasion may require.

 It is accepted that dull or frosted proofs were struck for the years 1935, 1936, 1938, and 1939. It will be noticed that the frosted proofs all belong to the first series. And all the coins so struck were used for presentation purposes. Although coins of this type are disliked by some, and are said to have been unpopular in the United States, I yet see no reason why their claim to beauty would fall too far below the other type. If true, they would hardly be the best of coins for presentation.

Some rather belated information came to me about the sandblasting machine that is employed by the Mint and was obtained for me through the kindness of Somer James, of Winnipeg. It really astonished me to discover that there was a general lack of information about the process. There is nothing at all complicated about it. I had mistakenly assumed that any one of several coins books would tell about the method employed in the production of frosted coins.

The machine used is one made by Leiman Brothers of Newark, New Jersey. It has its own low pressure compressor which supplies air at about 3 pounds to the square inch. Silica sand of 80 mesh is used for the blasting. Any medal or coin to be sandblasted is held approximately 4 or 5 inches from the nozzle to prevent pitting and to allow sand to spray over the whole surface. It was a machine of this kind, or one like it. which was used to produce the frosted proofs.

Generally speaking, the machine is not used for coins at all but has had fairly extensive use in the finish of medals, so I am informed by the Mint. Of course, it is no longer used on coins at all since the brilliant finish of the second series pieces may be considered sufficient of itself.

In 1945, 1946, and 1947 brilliant proofs were struck and again for the purpose of presentation. This is as far as we can go on what is known of the record. Nevertheless, there is nothing to prevent us from the use of a little imagination nor any reason why it should not be used.

If we know about proofs being put out for all the years given, then why should we suppose that the missing years were ignored? What we really mean is something to the effect that we have no information about them. It is a definite part of Mint routine to put out a few of such coins and they are not the cause of any trouble at all. If they did happen to occasion trouble, then the story might be a different one, but such is not the case.

And as far as denial of their existence is concerned, who cares very much about that? The Philadelphia Mint denies that such a thing as a bronze 1943 cent was ever struck. Of course the two situations are not the same because we can see the cent and I greatly fear that none of us have seen the proof dollars.

Mint usage gives coin designers certain privileges which are no more than their right and which would be expected. I am informed that a choice is allowed as to whether specimen coins given them shall be struck from polished or unpolished dies. In most cases, the unpolished were preferred. It goes without saying that any good coin designer should be able to show some very interesting examples of work.

None of the statements that I have made about proofs are in any manner to be construed as unfavorable criticism of the Mint. Indeed, I have been kindly enough treated by Mint officials and it would be ungracious of me not to acknowledge it. So I shall let the matter end on this point.  

1961 Proof Set

For the first time in 1961, the mint
issued proof sets sealed in cellophane.


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