Canada debuts niobium for new commemorative coin series

Space age metal adds color to coins with native Full Moon theme
Published : 07/10/11
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Canada is the latest nation to offer colorful collector coins struck from the space-age metal niobium.

Niobium is a rare soft, gray metal that is found in ore and that has also been known as columbium.

The RCM on June 16 issued the first in a four-coin series of Proof .925 fine silver $5 coins featuring a niobium insert. The four coins present the full moon in different seasons as noted in native First Peoples culture, and are colored gold, brown, blue or purple.

With special treatment, the surface layers of niobium can be made to change color, depending on the temperature to which the metal is heated.

The Austrian Mint has been the most prolific user of niobium in coins since issuing the first coin in the world containing the metal in 2003. In addition to an annual issue for Austria, the Austrian Mint has struck coins containing niobium for Latvia and Luxembourg. A few private mints have also used the element to make coins.

The RCM independently developed its own process to create the selective oxidation and achieve a ringed bimetallic core, according to Alexandre Reeves, senior manager of communications at the RCM. “We’re in a competitive business and can’t give away all our secrets, so I can provide only some detail.”

The niobium insert was struck into the core of a .925 silver coin and then selectively colored using an electrical current, Reeves said. “There was no impact on the silver parts of the coin due to our proprietary selective oxidization process,” he said.

The series of coins depicts the full moons of the Algonquin people, beginning with the Full Buck Moon and followed by the Full Hunter’s Moon, the Full Wolf Moon and the Full Pink Moon, in designs by John Mantha.

The colors reflect the theme of the coin, showing gold, brown, blue and purple, respectively.

According to the RCM, cultures around the world have recognized the moon as the guardian of nature’s cycles throughout history, the phases marking the passage of time and the rhythms of life.

“In North America, the First Nations tribes that comprise the Algonquin people utilized the lunar cycle as a celestial calendar to track time. They assigned a name to every full moon to reflect the seasonal activities that accompanied its specific cycle,” according to the RCM.

The Algonquin people lived across a vast territory from Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean, and they generated a variety of names for each full moon.

The full moon for July is known as Thunder Moon or Summer Moon, but its most common name is Buck Moon to reflect the fact that bucks in the North American wilderness are beginning to grow new antlers, according to the RCM. The coin shows a buck with new antlers standing before a full moon.

The other coins depict a hunter patiently tracking his quarry (Hunter’s Moon), a howling wolf set against a backdrop of a full winter moon (the Full Wolf Moon) and a cluster of phlox blossoming before a spring moon (the Full Pink Moon).

The Susanna Blunt effigy of Queen Elizabeth II appears on the obverse

The coins weigh 8.5 grams, including 1.4 grams of niobium, and measure 28 millimeters in diameter.

Each coin has a mintage limit of 7,500 pieces, regardless of packaging option.

The Full Buck Moon coin is now available individually for $121.95 Canadian or as part of a subscription set that will be shipped, once all four coins are released, by August. In either option, the coin will be presented in a wooden flip case.

Set subscribers will pay the same price for the final three coins in the series as for the first coin. Reeves said the RCM does not anticipate changing the price for individual sales of the subsequent issues.

Sales of the available coin are limited to three coins per household, whether purchased individually or by subscription for sets.

United States distributors for the RCM carry the various coins at fixed prices in U.S. dollars. Gatewest Coin Ltd., Brian Jenner Inc. and Talisman Coins are all official distributors for the RCM.

To contact Gatewest inside the United States, telephone the firm at (204) 489-9112 or visit it online at

Write to Jenner at P.O. Box 2466-a, Pasco, WA 99302 or telephone him at (509) 735-2172.

Visit Talisman at its website, found at, or telephone the company at (888) 552-2646 or fax the business at (314) 968-3801. ■

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