Very Brief History of Canadian Large Cents

1858 Obverse
1858 First Year of Issue - Obverse
1858 Reverse
1858 First Year of Issue - Reverse

In British North America in the first half of the 19th century each colony used coinage denominated the same as that used in England - pounds, shillings, and pence. But as trade with the United States increased, the British North American Colonies (provinces) were drawn to adopt the decimal system of their southern neighbor.

Although various legislative acts during the 1850s specified the adoption of decimal coinage, it was not until 1858 in the Province of Canada that such coinage was first issued. Other provinces followed the same lead, and the use of decimal coinage was firmly established even before the Canadian confederation.

The Province of Canada's large cents of 1858 and 1859 depicting Queen Victoria were minted in such large numbers that they were not easily absorbed by the needs of commerce. The large stocks were inherited by the Dominion of Canada at the Canadian confederation and continued to be issued by the government as Dominion cents. It was not until 1876 that more large cents were needed. Large cents bearing the portrait of Queen Victoria were struck intermittently from 1876 until 1901.

From 1902 until 1910 large cents bearing the portrait of Edward VII were struck every year. The portrait of George V saw usage starting in 1911, and was minted every year until 1920 when the large cent was abandoned.

Canadian large cents were minted both in England and in Canada. Heaton mint issues of 1876-1882 and Birmingham issues of 1890 and 1907 have an "H" mark on the reverse under the date. London mint and Ottawa mint strikings have no letter.

The Canadian large cent series has a few important varieties. In 1859 there are four different variations of the date plus a very rare striking in brass. In 1891 there are three different variations involving the size of the reverse leaves and date.

A Tribute to the Canadian Large Cent Collection of Norm Pullen

Norm Pullen, a collector/dealer from Maine, assembled what was widely regarded as the finest Canadian Large Cent collection. The collection was liquidated about 1996. His efforts spanned more than 30 years.

Although the collection has been dispersed, we can still enjoy it through photographs. There are forty-eight coins in a complete set of Canadian Large Cents including the major varieties. This tour of Mr. Pullen's collection presents twenty-four of his coins.

Click here to begin the tour of Norm Pullen's wonderful coins

All of the photos in this gallery were taken by Howard Spindel.

References and sources for more information about Canadian Large Cents

A Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins by W. K. Cross

Chronology of Events in the History of Canadian Coins by Ken Polsson

Coins of Canada by J. A. Haxby and R. C. Willey

History of Canadian Coinage by Richard Perraeult and Trevor Beresford


Copyright © 2005 Howard Spindel and the Willamette Coin Club