World Coins

Electrotype of 1911 Canadian dollar in auction

A rare electrotype of Canada’s famous 1911 silver dollar highlights Geoffrey Bell Auctions’ July 20 to 22nd auction in Ottawa.

Images courtesy of Geoffrey Bell Auctions.

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.” 

No examples of the 1911 dollar were known until 1960 when the noted London coin dealer B.A. Seaby obtained an example of the rarity from “an undisclosed source,” but word quickly spread that the coin had been purchased from the family of Sir William Grey Ellison-MacCartney, who was the Mint master at the time the coins were struck. Seaby later discovered the second silver example at the Royal Mint Museum in London.

Until late in 1977, the silver trial strikes were the only two trial strikes known for the coin. 

What remains the sole lead example known was discovered Nov. 20, 1977. It had been sent to the Department of Finance in Ottawa for examination, where it remained in a brown paper parcel in the East Block of the Parliament Buildings for more than 65 years. 

The lead example, like the silver example found at the Royal Mint Museum, is also on permanent loan to the National Currency Collection at the Bank of Canada (in Ottawa).The offered electrotype previously sold in March 2013 in a Dix Noonan Webb auction in England, where it realized £2,520 ($3,805 U.S.), including the 20 percent buyer’s fee.

The Bell auction firm estimates it as $20,000 to $30,000 Canadian. 

For information about the sale, visit

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