The Royal Canadian Mint’s silver and gold Maple Leaf coins are among the most popular and widely-recognized bullion coins in the world. They also have an established track record of sales performance. The coins are especially popular within U.S., Canadian, and British Commonwealth markets as well as in other parts of the world.
The silver version, which began in 1988, initially had a mintage of around 1 million coins, which then came down to several hundred thousand or less during the mid-1990’s. By 2006, production jumped to 2.5 million coins and by 2010, to 18 million, and even more coins are minted today.
The gold version was introduced in 1979 at a time when inflation was reaching double digits and the only gold bullion coins available were either Krugerrands, which were unpopular because of the South African policy of apartheid, or various foreign gold coins of unusual weights and fineness that investors found confusing.
The gold Maple Leaf quickly became very popular in this environment, and was soon met with competition from other coins. In response, Canada expanded the range of sizes the gold coin was minted in and also began to issue special versions for collectors.
Since then the RCM has continued to make the Maple Leaf – both gold and silver – a world leader in bullion coins through cutting-edge minting technologies.
Most bullion coins are also minted in collector versions with special finishes, but none of them has as much variety in this respect as the Maple Leaf. The basic bullion version of these coins has what is known as a bullion finish in which the Maple Leaf design appears in brilliant relief against a parallel-lined background.
In addition, the coins are issued in commemorative, colored, privy marked, hologram, piedfort (double thickness), and other special versions for collectors. For special anniversaries the RCM typically issues a larger-format silver coin such as a five-ounce or kilo coin, or issues a special fractional set.
Several times a year special collector versions of the silver coin is released such as the Maple Leaf Forever or Majestic Maple Leaf three-coin set.
The latest such coin is the Maple Leaf Reflection, which shows a Maple Leaf as it touches the water and its reflection appears briefly on the water. Like many collectible Maple Leafs, this coin uses the most advanced minting techniques such as laser frosting. It will be available soon from MCM, and there are 8,500 of them in silver and just 350 in gold.
The special versions for collectors are minted in much smaller quantities than their bullion counterparts.
Although countries that form the British Commonwealth are required to depict an effigy of the reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, on their coins, they have some latitude in terms of how the effigy is depicted. The one that appears on British coins, which recently had its fifth version unveiled and now appears on 2015-dated UK coins, is not the same as the ones that appear on Commonwealth coins from various former British colonies.
And the effigy that appears on Canadian coins is unique to coins minted by the RCM. It has three versions, including the so-called young, old, and older head effigies. These were designed respectively by Arnold Machin (1988-1989); Dora de Pedery Hunt (1990-2003); and Susana Blunt (2004- present).
The gold Maple Leafs started in 1979 with .999 pure gold fineness, and then in 1982 became the first .9999 pure gold coins, and the silver coins have been made of .9999 silver from the beginning in 1988, a higher standard than other silver coins.
Maple Leafs are among the bullion coins with the very highest purity in the world; they contain a full troy ounce of either silver or gold with no alloys; and they are typically sold for lower premiums than many other bullion coins. All these aspects make them favorites with bullion investors in part because their high purity standards make it easy to compute the exact amount of precious metal an investor owns of these coins.
In 2014, the RCM added special new security features to the silver coins, including: 1.) changing the bullion finish by adding special radial lines in the background of both sides of the coins that emanate from the center, and because of the specific width and pitch of the lines a light diffracting pattern is created and 2.) a micro-engraved laser mark (a small textured maple leaf with a two-digit number for the coin’s year of issue) to make these coins essentially impossible to counterfeit and to give investors the highest degree of confidence in the coin's authenticity if they have these features. These security features are the most advanced in the world.
The gold coins have had the micro-engraved marks since 2013, and in 2015 they also began to feature the new finish with radial lines.
ModernCoinMart carries a wide range of silver and gold Maple Leaf bullion coins, and also sells the special collector versions as they are issued.
Author Name: Louis Golino
Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst,” and in August 2021 the column received the NLG award for best column on modern U.S. coins. He has also received other awards for his writing. He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and and other publications. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.