The Canadians did not overlook the success of the South African Krugerrand or the failure of the American Arts Gold Medallions program. The Canadians studied the U.S. experiment and did extensive market research in the United States—potentially their largest single market at start-up. The study showed that a legal tender status coin with reeded edges was what the public wanted.
The Royal Canadian Mint introduced its .999 fine gold Maple Leaf in 1979 in 1-ounce, quarter-ounce and tenth-ounce sizes. The composition was changed to .9999 fine in 1982, making the Maple Leaf the purest gold bullion coin in the world.
Production of the Maple Leaf gold bullion coins has at times consumed more than half of all the gold produced by Canadian gold mines.
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In 1985 sales of the Maple Leaf reached 1.878 million ounces, an 87.4 percent increase over 1984. This amounted to a 65 percent share of the worldwide market for gold bullion investment coins in 1985. Bans on importation of the Krugerrand and other government and private sector sanctions against South Africa played a major role in driving the gold-buying public to the Maple Leaf.
In June 1986 the Maple Leaf half-ounce gold bullion coin was introduced. (Denominations assigned to the coins are $50 for the 1-ounce coin, $20 for the half-ounce coin, $10 for the quarter-ounce coin and $5 for the tenth-ounce coin.)
To try to capture some of the silver bullion coin market dominated by the United States’ American Eagle silver dollar, Canada began issuing a silver Maple Leaf, and upped the ante to include a platinum series, both introduced in 1988. The original silver coin is a 1-ounce piece, though Canada has issued several different sizes over the years, often to mark special occasions.
Canada introduced a platinum Maple Leaf program in 1988, eventually offering tenth-, quarter-, half- and 1-ounce coins. Canada stopped issuing platinum bullion coins in 1999 as mintages decreased annually.
In 2007, the Royal Canadian Mint introduced Maple Leaf .9995 fine palladium 1-ounce coins, after experimental palladium strikes conducted two years prior. Palladium bullion coin production has continued since.
Canada has marketed various special bullion coins. The Canadian Timber Wolf .9999 fine silver half-ounce coin was first struck in 2006, then reintroduced in 2010 in a 1-ounce size as part of a Wildlife silver bullion coin series. Plans call for two coins to be issued each year over a three-year period.
The Royal Canadian Mint does not sell its bullion coins directly, instead offering them through a network of dealers and distributors, for a varying percentage above spot price, depending on the order size, similar to the U.S. Mint’s system of distributing its American Eagle bullion coins.
The above is an excerpt from the eighth edition of the Coin World Almanac, published by Amos Media Company in 2011.