The Royal Canadian Mint (RCM), also known as the Monnaie Royale Canadienne, is the producer of all of Canada’s circulation coins and one of the world’s major national mints. It is a fully state-owned Crown corporation operating commercially, headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. A second branch of the RCM opened up in Winnipeg in 1976. The Ottawa facility houses the refinery and the Winnipeg branch is responsible for foreign and domestic coinage for circulation. The Royal Canadian Mint has produced coins for over 60 countries worldwide. Since 1911, the Mint’s main source of revenue has been its world-renowned precious metals refinery, which produces numismatic coins, gold and silver bullion, wafers, grains, medals and medallions. The refinery at Ottawa became the world’s first to produce .9999 gold bullion coins in 1982. The most notable coin produced by the refinery is the gold and silver Canadian Maple Leaf bullion coins, one of the world’s best-selling gold coins. Royal Canadian Mint bars are accepted on the world’s major precious metal exchanges (New York, London, Tokyo, Shanghai and Dubai) and have been listed on the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) gold Good Delivery List since 1919.
History of the Royal Canadian Mint
Permission to create a Canadian branch of the Mint was granted in 1901. Coins meant to circulate in the Province of Canada were first struck in 1858 at the Royal Mint in London or the private Heaton Mint in Birmingham, England. Production was moved to Canada as the nation became more established and therefore had more demand for currency. The facility in Ottawa opened on January 2nd, 1908. The first coin they ever stuck was a gold sovereign with a “C” for Canada. Three years later, the business expanded to include bullion refining. The gold refinery was rebuilt in 1936. The mint struck its first Canadian gold coins in 1912. They were wholly Canadian products, from their raw materials to their design, featuring the first symbol of Canada to appear on a gold coin. The Ottawa mint gained its independence from the British Royal Mint in 1931, during the Great Depression. The mint’s Crown corporation status was established on April 1, 1969 after 38 years of operating as a branch of Canada’s Department of Finance. The Royal Canadian Mint now reports to Parliament through the Minister of Finance. In 1976, the RCM’s branch facility in Winnipeg opened and introduced the Maple Leaf bullion coin program in 1979, debuting the 1oz Gold Maple Leaf coin. In 1988, the 1oz Platinum Maple Leaf coins were introduced. In 2005, the RCM opened a silver refinery. In 1982, it became the first to produce 9999 bullion coins—and in 1998 achieved 99999 purity. In 2007, the Royal Canadian Mint made the Guinness World Records, certifying the creation of the largest coin in the world: the masterpiece 100 kg, 99.999% pure $1 million gold bullion coin.
In 2010, the Royal Canadian Mint partnered with the Winter Olympics to launch a three-year program of circulation and collector coins.
The Royal Canadian Mint operates as a Crown corporation under the Royal Canadian Mint Act. The Mint is classified as a Schedule III-II Corporation under the Financial Administration Act, meaning it is an organization conducting commercial operations and maintaining self-sufficiency. What this means is, the organization is essentially a government entity that is also entitled to pursue commercial enterprise with no taxpayer support. The average consumer cannot buy investment bullion coins or bars directly from the Mint but the RCM has a distribution network of dealers all around the world, including large US wholesalers such as MTB, Dillon Gage, CNT, and A-Mark. The Mint is an agent of Queen Elizabeth II, who is the current Monarch of Canada (2021). The Mint has a Board of Directors composed of a chairman, President and CEO and eight other directors. The Mint’s Executive Team has 12 members. The President and CEO is also called the Master of the Mint. President Marie Lemay was appointed in 2019 and her chairman is Phyllis Clark.
The Mint has primarily organized along with four main business functions: Canadian Circulation; Circulation Products and Solutions; Numismatics Products; and Bullion Products and Services. These business functions are supported by the corporate administrative services listed under “Royal Canadian Mint – General Services” and “Internal Services”. Canadian circulation coinage production takes place at the facility in Winnipeg, where up to 2 billion Canadian circulation coins are struck each year. The facility also developed an intricate forecasting and distribution system that ensures the availability of coins across the country in an economical and fiscally prudent manner. Valuable data on all matters related to coinage is collected by the Mint and relayed to the Minister of Finance. The numismatics products line includes collector coins, medals, medallions, and tokens for foreign and domestic clients. The Mint produces a great number of military decorations for the Department of National Defense including the Sacrifice Medal, the Canadian Forces Decoration and Clasp, the General Campaign Star, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Bars, the General Service Medal, the Special Service Medal, the Operational Service Medal, the Memorial Cross, and the Canadian Victoria Cross. It also produces military decorations for Veterans Affairs Canada, as well as long-service medals for the RCMP and artistic achievement awards for the Governor-General of Canada. The mint also produced the athletes’ medals of the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games and the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The mint produced 615 Olympic and 399 Paralympic medals at their headquarters in Ottawa for the 2010 Winter Games.
The Bullion Products and Services business function produces and markets prestigious gold, silver, palladium and platinum bullion coins, wafers and bars for the investment market as well as gold and silver granules for the jewelry industry and industrial applications. The Mint also operates gold and silver refineries that offer Canadian and foreign customers an integrated solution to gold and silver processing while creating a source of lower cost precious metals for its bullion and numismatic businesses.
Notable Coins And Numismatics
Over the years, the Royal Canadian Mint has accumulated an extensive gold and silver product catalogue. The Mint’s primary source of revenue is its bullion coin program, accounting for over 76% of the Mint’s total revenue in 2016.
The Gold Maple Leaf (GML) bullion coins and Silver Maple Leaf (SML) bullion coins are two of the world’s best selling precious metal coins. Each year, the mint produces a variety of designs for the Maple Leaf coin in gold, silver, platinum and palladium. The Royal Canadian Mint’s Gold and Silver Maple Leaf bullion coins are known around the world for their iconic design and unsurpassed purity. The Gold Maple Leaf is the world’s first 24 carat gold bullion coin and it was launched in 1979. The reverse design of the Maple Leaf coin features Canada’s national emblem, the maple leaf. The obverse features Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, created in 2003 by Canadian portrait artist Susanna Blunt. The Silver Maple Leaf was first issued in 1988 and it features the same design as the Gold Maple Leaf coin. Gold Maple Leaf coins are produced in sizes that are fractions of a troy ounce: 1 oz, 1⁄2 oz, 1⁄4 oz, 1⁄10 oz, 1⁄15 oz, 1⁄20 oz, 1⁄25 oz, and in sets that combine some or all of these weights. Silver Maple Leafs come in 1 oz, 1⁄2 oz, 1⁄4 oz, 1⁄10 oz, and 1⁄20 oz sizes.
The Platinum Maple Leaf (PtML) was also launched in 1988. The PtML is one of the purest platinum coins on the market, made of .9995 platinum and only made in a 1oz denomination. The Palladium Maple Leaf (PdML) was minted for a few years from 2005, discontinued, then resumed production in 2015. It has the same specifications of the Platinum Maple Leaf, .9995 fine purity and 1oz denominations. The Platinum Maple Leaf was the world’s best selling coin in 2012.
The Royal Canadian Mint became the first national mint to produce a 1-gram gold coin with the Canadian MapleGram. MapleGrams were introduced in recent years as an affordable option for gold investors. MapleGrams are issued in sleeve packages of 8 and 25. Conveniently sized MapleGrams allow for more flexibility when liquidating holdings.
Special edition coins have been made in honor of several important institutional milestones. Commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Gold Maple Leaf in 1989, the 25th anniversary of the Gold Maple Leaf, and the 125th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mint (1997).
In 2004–05, according to the 2006 Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins, the Silver Maple Leaf coins were sold in sets of four coins that featured two wildlife species: the Arctic fox (2004) and the Canada lynx (2005). Each coin had a different value and depicted the animals in separate poses. Color and selective gold plating have also been applied to special issues of SML. Holograms were featured on SML coins in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2005.
In 2021, PRNewswire reported that the Royal Canadian Mint celebrated the 95th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with a special coin set featuring fine silver keepsakes crafted by both the Royal Canadian Mint and Britain’s Royal Mint. The two-coin set features “elegant imagery of Her Majesty on both sides of a 1 oz. pure silver coin. The reverse displays a reproduction of The Queen Elizabeth II Equestrian Monument, sculpted by Canadian artist Jack Harman and unveiled in 1992 by Her Majesty on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. This majestic monument, showing the Queen astride her horse Centenial, presently graces the entrance to Rideau Hall, the official residence of Canada’s Governor-General. The obverse is a numismatic history showcase, with fine engravings of all four effigies of Queen Elizabeth to have appeared on Canadian coins throughout her reign.”
The Mint entered a partnership with the Vancouver Olympic Committee in 2006. In 2010, The Royal Canadian Mint manufactured the athlete medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Each gold medal is made of sterling silver and plated with 6 grams of 24k gold. The silver medals are sterling silver. The bronze medals are composed of mostly copper. Each medal weighs 500 to 576 grams and features artwork by Corinne Hunt, a Canadian artist of indigenous Komoyue and Tlingit ethnic background. Featured on each medal is one of her two contemporary Aboriginal artworks: an orca whale (Olympic) and a raven (Paralympic). During the Olympics, the medals were on display for visitors to see and hold at the Mint Pavilion in Vancouver and the Vancouver Public Library. The Mint opened an additional retail outlet in Vancouver due to the success of the Vancouver 2010 athlete medals program.
The Mint produced token for the Toronto Transit Commission from 1954 to 2006. 24 million tokens were supplied and circulation halted in 2007.
The Winnipeg coinage facility opened in 1976 and is a 59,000 square-foot manufacturing plant that manufactures both Canadian and foreign coins with the Mint’s standards for expertise and technological innovation.
Coinage has been struck at the Royal Canadian Mint for places such as Singapore, Bahamas, Bermuda, Iran, Cuba, Norway, Yemen, Colombia, Iceland, Indonesia, Thailand, Uganda, Barbados, Venezuela, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. The Mint has customers ranging from governments, treasuries and central banks. In 2005, the Royal Canadian Mint facility in Winnipeg manufactured 1.062 billion coins and blanks for 14 countries. From 1980 to 2005, the RCM has manufactured approximately 52 billion coins for 62 countries.
Bullion Production & Refinery
The Royal Canadian Mint facilitates one of the most technologically innovative and iconic gold and silver refineries in the world. The Royal Canadian Mint is one of the more unique government mints, producing not just its coin series but a series of premium investment gold and silver bars, wafers and custom products. Operating since 1911, the Mint Refinery in Ottawa began refining gold to 9999 fine purity in the mid-1960s.
The Royal Canadian Mint also maintains its own high-security precious metals vaulting and storage facilities and offers vaulting facilities to metals dealers for storing precious metals. These facilities are only for business accounts holding RCM branded bullion. The Bank of Canada, Canada’s central bank, holds gold reserves for the central banks of the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Sweden. The Bank of Canada moved its vault from its location under its headquarters building on Wellington Street in Ottawa, which is now under renovation.
The Mint sets a high industry standard for sampling and assaying with a precious metals analytical lab ranking among the world’s best. The Royal Canadian Mint laboratory boasts prestige as an active participant in the process testing program conducted by the American Society for Testing and Materials. An internationally recognized fire assay assures an incumbent industry leadership position for the Mint. “The accepted method for settlement assays on mine doré and similar materials, the fire assay is based on standard test method E-1335-96 of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Inherent in this approach is a proof correction to ensure the accuracy of the results as well as quality assurance measures, including twin and independent parallel analysis, control samples and a weight calibration program.”
Advanced spectrometric techniques are used to analyze high-purity gold and to detect impurities in feed materials. They include flame atomic absorption, graphite furnace atomic absorption, spark ablation ICP atomic emission as well as x-ray fluorescence and laser-ablation ICP mass spectrometry.
The Ottawa and Winnipeg facilities are both open to the public and run tours all year round. Royal Canadian Mint retail boutiques can be seen in Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg selling RCM branded products and collectible coins.
References and Links
 Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins 2006, p.89
 Royal Canadian Mint 2006 Annual Report, page 25
 Royal Canadian Mint 2006 Annual Report, page 27