His designs still grace our circulation coins today, but Emanuel Hahn’s numismatic legacy runs deeper
than even history remembers. In 1936, the artist submitted several concepts for new circulation coinage,
but most were set aside. Now, some of Hahn’s “coins that never were” are finally making the first-time
leap from artwork to coin in this three-coin tribute set, which pulls back the curtain to shed more light on
an important chapter in our history.
Each reverse features one of several designs proposed by Emanuel Hahn (1881-1957) for new
Canadian circulation coins issued in 1937. To remain true to the artist’s vision, the Royal Canadian
Mint’s engravers pored over every fine detail contained in one of the few resources still available
today: Hahn’s sketches, which are a part of the National Currency Collection.
The first 25-cent coin design (NCC-19188.8.131.52 - Bank of Canada Archives) features a polar bear
standing on an ice floe, its head turned toward the right side of the coin, while the open sea is visible
behind the mound. A stylistic representation of the Aurora Borealis hangs over the low horizon and
stretches across the northern sky, only yielding to the Big Dipper asterism that is a common element
on all three coins. The word “CANADA” is engraved at the top while the face value “25 CENTS” and
the updated year “2018” are engraved over the ice.
The diamond-like stars are more prominent in the second 25-cent coin design (NCC-19184.108.40.206 -
Bank of Canada Archives), which centres on a goose in flight. The side-profile view allows for the
inclusion of several details, including the flight feathers along the outstretched wings. Here again,
the Big Dipper adds a point of interest to the field, where the face value “25 CENTS”, the year “2018”
and the word “CANADA” are also engraved in the starry sky.
The five-cent coin’s reverse (NCC-19220.127.116.11 - Bank of Canada Archives) has a remarkable tie to
the present: it is Hahn’s original caribou design, the precursor to the one now synonymous with
Canada’s 25-cent circulation coin. Viewed in side profile, the ungulate moves beneath the night sky,
where the Big Dipper is clearly visible. The caribou’s antlers reach into the legend, where the word
“CANADA” is engraved alongside the year “2018”; beneath the flat landscape, an oversized “5”
winds its way through the word “CENTS”.
The obverse of each coin features the effigy of King George VI by T. H. Paget.
A unique exploration of
Canadian coin lore and a peek at the art that lies
buried in the history of the Royal Canadian Mint.