The “Emperor of Canadian coins” — the 1911 silver dollar — has a doppelgänger.
An electrotype example of the most famous rarity in Canadian numismatics highlights Geoffrey Bell Auctions’ July 20 to 22 auction. The firm is conducting the official sale for the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association convention.
The 1911 electrotype silver dollar was likely made by Charles Ready or his brother Augustus P. Ready, who were carrying on a family tradition started by their father, Robert. The Ready-made pieces were produced for display purposes in museums (Robert worked for the British Museum), the Royal Mint itself, and wherever displays were desired but the real coin could not be delivered. Electrotypes were a common form of replica widely accepted in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were made by electroplating a negative impression in a soft medium of one side of the coin to be duplicated, creating a thin positive shell. Obverse and reverse shells, backed by a solid substance, were joined together to create the electrotype copy.
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The electrotype of the 1911 silver dollar by Bertram MacKennal measures 35 millimeters in diameter and weighs 24.7 grams. It is 73 percent copper and 27 percent silver with traces of base metals.
It was probably made from one of the two struck silver specimens known. One of the two silver examples is in the Bank of Canada numismatic collection and the other in private hands.
The Bank of Canada has uniface electrotypes of the obverse and reverse of the coin, weighing 13.91 and 18.37 grams respectively. The specimen in the auction is not uniface and has an antique finish, unlike the shiny Bank of Canada electrotypes. Subtle design differences in the maple leaves and king’s crown differentiate the electrotypes. The piece Bell offers is the closest collectors will come to owning the real thing.
The 1911 silver dollar was issued during the reign of King George V. The coin is actually a pattern for a proposed silver dollar coinage that was not adopted until 1935.
The two known silver pattern dollars, as well as a lead striking, were struck in London before the dies were sent to Canada.
According to the auction house, Major Sheldon S. Carroll, chief curator of the National Currency Collection at the Bank of Canada, stated, “When consideration was being given to issuing a dollar coin in 1911, dies were prepared (in London) and trial strikes were made. Mint records do not tell us how many such strikes were produced.”