Canadian Province Tokens and Coins

by blackspanielgallery

Canada is a country of provinces, some of which required coins or tokens prior to joining the confederation. Which provinces were they, and what did they use as money?

Canadian province tokens and coins exist, but only for some provinces. Those provinces that did have coins or tokens ceased having them minted when the province for which they were being made joined the confederation currently known as Canada.

To understand why province coins eventually became unnecessary to produce requires we understand the confederation that grew into Canada as it is today. Initially, on July 1, 1867, three British provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick joined together. The Province of Canada split into two provinces, Quebec and Ontario. These four provinces united and took the name Canada. Manitoba was added in 1870. British Columbia joined the confederation in 1871, and Prince Edward Island joined in 1873. To this core Saskatchewan and Alberta later joined the confederation, then Newfoundland eventually joined in 1949.

First Canadian Coins Preceded the Confederation

According to the coin book [Year] North American Coins & Prices, the earliest Canadian coins were one-cent coins minted in 1858.  Notice the Confederation of Canada did not exist until 1967.  How can this be?  The Province of Canada did exist and used the name Canada prior to 1867.  It can be argued that these were province coins for the Province of Canada. 

Not All Provinces Had Their Own Coinage

Some of the earlier “coins” were classified tokens.  Permission to mint money was not always forthcoming from the British government, but the minting of these pieces went on due to need.  Hence, they would need to properly be called tokens. 


Only four other provinces had coins prior to joining the Confederation of Canada.  They are New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland.


To clarify why other provinces did not have coins minted we must consider the need.  The people of the remaining provinces would have had access to foreign coins, and with sparse populations these provinces would have had no need.  Certainly, British coins would have been available to the inhabitants in some limited degree.  But, more importantly, the provinces of Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan were not yet provinces prior to joining Canada.  Manitoba was part of Rupert’s land, and the others were formed from territorial land.  They only became provinces with their reclassification by the Confederation of Canada as provinces, and were not provinces outside the confederation.

Desirable Coin or Token Collections

Because of prices of goods at the time, the need for small denomination tokens existed, but not for larger denomination tokens.   Collecting smaller denomination tokens is less expensive.  For one thing precious metal would not be used in a one-cent piece.  Another factor is pieces of smaller denominations are needed in large quantities.  So, there are tokens to be found.


Another consideration is, with the exception of Newfoundland, the series are short, making obtaining a complete set of tokens for a province possible. 


Finally, no additional province pieces, neither coins nor tokens, will be minted.  Collectors like closed sets.  Knowing the collection is complete is a desirable factor.

Where Can Information of Provincial Coins and Tokens Be Found?

A good book can be quite helpful when collecting coins and tokens.  [Year] North American Coins & Prices is an excellent book.  This book lists the pieces issued for each year and mintmark, gives number minted for each, identifies any mintmark, identifies the metal, and indicates the number of proof pieces, if any.


Because these are closed sets no longer being added to, and because the value in a coin guide is old by the time the guide is printed, it makes no significant difference which year the guide is for.  Purchasing an older issue can provide a savings.    

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island issued a bronze cent coin in 1871, including two thousand of these coins having been minted as proof.


The earlier coinage used by Prince Edward Island were one-shilling and five-shilling pieces.  These came from Spanish and Colonial Spanish eight-reales pieces, which were silver coins.  The method of making these coins was to cut a hole in the center of a large silver coin.  The coin with the hole would be countermarked, thereby making it coinage for the province.  In 1813 the plug, sometimes called the dump, would become the one-shilling piece.  The countermarked silver coin with the hole became a five-shilling piece.  Five-shilling pieces were made using eight-reales silver pieces from Lima from 1809 through 1811, and from using the Mexico City eight-reales pieces from 1791 through 1811.  In 1808 the design of the Mexican silver coin changed, so two varieties exist.


Using foreign coins was not unusual for that period.

Prince Edward Island Coin

Holey Dollar

Nova Scotia "Coins"

The Province of Nova Scotia first tokens were the half penny of 1823, followed by the penny token dated 1824.  There were years when tokens were not issued.  In 1856 the last tokens for Nova Scotia were struck. 


In 1861 both the half penny and the penny coins were minted.  These were followed by the 1862 penny and the 1864 half penny and penny coins. 


From July 1, 1867, onward Nova Scotia was part of the Confederation of Canada, although Canadian cent coins would not again be struck for several years.  In the days when provinces did not yet join into the confederation, minting would take place when there was a need, and this practice continued after the formation of the confederation.

Nova Scotia "Coins"

New Brunswick "Coins"

The first tokens with the denomination of cent and half-cent were minted for circulation in New Brunswick in 1843.  Both were again minted for 1854, the last year tokens were produced for New Brunswick.


The bronze coins of the denominations half-cent and the cent were minted in 1861, and a second minting of the cent coin occurred in 1864.


New Brunswick required coins of larger denominations.  The five cent, ten cent, and twenty cent Sterling silver coins served this purpose.  Each was struck in both 1862 and in 1864.  The actual silver weight of the of the coins of the three denominations were three hundredths of an ounce, seven hundredths of an ounce, and fourteen hundredths of an ounce, respectively. 

New Brunswick Token


Newfoundland was already established when Canada was organized in 1867.  However, it did not join the Confederation of Canada until 1949.  Indeed, it became a British Dominion in 1907, and a dependent territory of the United Kingdom from 1934 until 1949. 


The coinage of Newfoundland includes a large cent coin from 1865 through 1936, followed by a small cent coin from 1838 until the last Newfoundland coins were produced in 1947.

Sterling silver coins, 0.925 silver, of denominations five cents and ten cents were minted from 1865, with the composition changing to 0.800 silver in 1944 for the five-cent coins and in 1945 for the ten-cent coins.  Twenty-cent coins in Sterling silver were minted from 1865 through 1912, and the slightly larger denomination of twenty-five cents had a brief run in 1917 and 1919.  Fifty-cent coins of Sterling silver were produced from 1870 until 1909.

Newfoundland Coins

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Updated: 08/09/2022, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 07/15/2022

Some of the provinces did not exist as provinces before becoming part of the confederation. They were part of territorial regions of what is now Canada.

DerdriuMarriner on 07/15/2022

blackspanielgallery, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.

Your very first sentence, about not all provinces having coins and tokens, and your information under the Prince Edward Island subheading, particularly intrigue me.

Would some provinces not have needed coins and tokens because barter was in effect?

And would the Spanish and Colonial Spanish eight-reales silver pieces have been circulated as they were? Or would they have to be altered somewhat to indicate their different associations and values (something on the order of a post-it ;-D saying "I am now a five-shilling piece")?

Veronica on 07/15/2022

Absolutely fascinating to learn things. Knowledge is empowering . Ty

blackspanielgallery on 07/15/2022

One thing I came across in researching one province is there was a request to England for coins that was denied by Parliament, but an order with Heaton Mint in Birmingham was still made. There seems to be a rebellious undertone here, An unofficial coin, not technically money, would have to be called a token. I only covered what the provinces issues, there were bank tokens as well. There was a Coinage Act in England that made a difference.
While I did not go through Canadian history thoroughly, the reason Canada became a confederation and not a republic is the U.S. had just had the Civil War, and Canada did not want such a possibility, so a different form of union was made.
I suppose in a sense these coins and tokens were not that different from British tribal coins that I covered in another article.

Veronica on 07/15/2022

FASCINATING work. Thank you.

You have made me realise how little I know about Canada and its origins. the coins and token origins are totally new to me. The videos were very helpful too.

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