Insights

Two new coins from Canada mark tragic sinking of RMS Empress of Ireland 100 years ago

Colorful 50-cent, $20 coins kick off new series
By , Coin World
Published : 05/06/14
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One hundred years ago on May 29, two ships collided on the St. Lawrence Seaway in a shroud of fog. Just 14 minutes later, the RMS Empress of Ireland had sunk, taking 1,012 souls to an icy grave.

The Royal Canadian Mint remembers Canada’s largest peacetime maritime disaster with two new coins, which begin a new series of coins that will highlight three different vessels, Lost Ships in Canadian Waters. 

The RMS Empress of Ireland, an ocean liner, was destined for Liverpool when it met its fate by colliding with the Norwegian collier SS Storstad in the early, foggy hours of May 29, 1914. Of the 1,477 persons on board the Empress of Ireland, 1,012 (840 passengers, 172 crew) died.

The liner was commissioned by Canadian Pacific Steamships for the North Atlantic route between Quebec and Liverpool in England.

A Matte Proof silver-plated copper 50-cent coin and a Proof .9999 fine silver $20 coin show the doomed Empress in two different designs.

The reverse of the copper coin, designed by Yves Bérubé, shows the ship in the final moments leading up to the collision. Engraved above the field is the ship’s fog bell, which sat atop one of the ship’s masts. It is perhaps the most well-known artifact to be recovered from the ship’s watery grave, according to the RCM.

The copper coin weighs 32.82 grams, measures 42 millimeters in diameter, and has a mintage limit of 15,000 pieces. It costs $34.95 Canadian.

The silver $20 coin features a John Horton design on the reverse that shows, in color, both ships moments before the collision, framed within the coastline of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Edge-lettering displays the ship’s name, as well as the bell recovered from the wreck.

The coin weighs 31.39 grams and measures 38 millimeters in diameter. With a mintage limit of 7,000 pieces, the coin retails for $109.95 Canadian.

All prices are listed in Canadian dollars. The U.S. prices for collectors in the United States buying from the RCM fluctuate with the exchange rate, calculated at the time of purchase.    

Telephone the RCM inside the United States at 800-268-6468. In Canada, telephone the RCM at 800-267-1871. Visit the RCM website to order directly from the mint.  

Gatewest Coin Ltd., and Talisman Coins, official distributors for the RCM, carry the coin at fixed prices in U.S. dollars.

Talisman offers the $20 coin for $119.95, the $25 coin for $129.95 and the gold $200 coin for $2,599.95. Gatewest offers the $20 coin for $121.95, the $25 coin for $130.95 and the gold coin for $2,608.95.

To contact Gatewest, telephone the firm at 888-565-2646 or visit its website

Telephone Talisman at 888-552-2646 or visit its website.

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