World Coins

This Day in History: April 20

Canada has celebrated the legacy of explorer Jacques Cartier on several collector coins, including a base metal dollar in 1984, a gold $100 coin in 1984 and a gold $200 coin in 2013.

Coin images courtesy of, and

French explorer Jacques Cartier began his voyage to Canada on April 20, 1534, arriving at the east coast of Canada, the island of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Cartier set sail under a French charter to search for gold, spices and a Northwest Passage. He was not the first European explorer to travel to the region, but he engaged First Nations people in trade and kept accounts of his journey. 

Cartier took two ships (including La Grand Hermine) and 61 men on the expedition, which explored the St. Lawrence Bay before returning with two captured natives. Guided by those natives, Cartier led another expedition all the way to what would become Quebec on a return trip the following year.  

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Cartier made three voyages of discovery in La Grand Hermine to Canada and the St. Lawrence River, and ultimately claimed for France what is now Canada. He was the first European to describe and map the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the shores of the Saint Lawrence River. 

Several Canadian and French coins celebrate the legendary explorer, including two coins in 1984 for the 450th anniversary of his journey. A base metal dollar and a gold $100 coin from 1984 are readily available, and are joined by a gold $200 coin issued in 2013.

In 2009 the Royal Canadian Mint issued a limited mintage silver $20 coin in conjunction with a dealer in Quebec, and France highlighted the connection between the countries with several coins in 2011.

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