Canada introduces 10-kilogram .99999 fine gold coin

Commemorative featuring Haida art has $100,000 denomination
Published : 10/25/11
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The Royal Canadian Mint is the latest world mint to issues a 10-kilogram gold coin, but in doing so, it has broken new ground by making it finer than any other coin of the same size.

The RCM on Oct. 20 unveiled its first 10-kilogram gold coin, which features artwork by the late Bill Reid, a Haida artist whose work includes sculpture that is featured on the back of Canada’s current $20 bank note in the Canadian Journey series (Coin World, Oct. 24 and 31 issues).

Whether merely raising the bar or setting a trend, the RCM has become the world’s first mint to strike a 10-kilogram coin from .99999 fine gold. It is also the world’s highest denominated 10-kilogram gold coin.

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii coin, which is an Ultra-High Relief Proof, was unveiled at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art in Vancouver, British Columbia. The reverse of the coin displays Reid’s sculpture, titled The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Black Canoe, which was commissioned in 1985 for the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Now-retired RCM Master Engraver Cosme Saffioti engraved the design, capturing the powerful image of a Haida canoe full of mythological creatures, real animals, and human male and female passengers. Raven and Eagle, two principal Haida images, are prominently featured.

According to the RCM, “Inspired by the imposing scale of Bill Reid’s masterpiece, [Saffioti] manually engraved a faithful recreation, using traditional techniques, to an ultra-high relief rarely achieved in the world of coin making.”

Reid’s design is “highlighted in a proof finish, contrasting the sculpture’s image in a satin finish set against a brilliant, mirror-like background,” according to the RCM.

The obverse of the coin carries the Susanna Blunt effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.

A maximum mintage of 15 pieces is available on a “mint-to-order” basis for a price determined by a combination of the gold market rate at the time of purchase, plus a premium for its manufacturing and limited mintage. Alex Reeves, the RCM’s senior manager of communications, said that premium is 22 percent.

The coins, which measure 180 millimeters in diameter, are being struck in Ottawa on the same 2,500-ton Sack & Kiesselbach press used to strike the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games medals.

The new coin was unveiled by James B. Love, chair of the Royal Canadian Mint Board of Directors, and Martine Reid, director of Research and Content at the gallery. Director Reid said that those who knew and worked with Reid would be delighted to know his design is on a Canadian coin. “Of all the materials Bill Reid worked with to create his imaginary bestiary, red cedar and gold were his favorite and he particularly loved to work with 22-karat gold for its properties: color, malleability, softness, warmth and luster,” Martine Reid said.

Bill Reid was a goldsmith-turned-sculptor, a wood carver and writer.

In 1985, Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson commissioned Reid to produce a sculpture for the then-new Canadian Embassy in the District of Columbia. The result was The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Black Canoe, which is cast in bronze and represents Reid’s largest and most complex sculpture. It stands almost 4 meters in height and weighs 4,900 kilograms.

A second casting, named The Jade Canoe, graces the terminal of the Vancouver International Airport, while the original plaster pattern of the monument is displayed at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec.

The Haida founded one of the First Nations of Canada and lived on islands off the west coast of North America.

The $100,000 coin is the second-highest denomination coin ever produced by the RCM. The only larger piece is the 100-kilogram .9999 fine gold bullion coin with a $1 million face value that was released in 2007.

To learn more about the new 10-kilogram coin, visit a special page at the RCM website,

To order the coin directly from the RCM, telephone it at 800-267-1871 in Canada or at 800-268-6468 in the United States. ■

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