THE Royal Canadian Mint has issued a pair of commemorative coins honouring a war that, had the home side lost, could have resulted in the U.S swallowing up Canada.
Twenty of the one-kilogram pure gold and 600 one-kilogram pure silver coins have been struck to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, which many consider to be the greatest war ever fought on Canadian soil. Both feature Queen Elizabeth on the heads side and King George III, who ruled the United Kingdom from 1760 to 1820, and the coat of arms of the British crown on the tails side.
The latter two images were reproduced from an authentic peace medal given to aboriginal leaders who allied with the British in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
"The coins commemorate the First Nations' contribution to keeping Canada as an entity in the War of 1812," said Ian Laing, president of Gatewest Coin, which partnered with the mint on the coins.
"It's the one time we had aboriginal, French and English soldiers fighting together for one goal -- to not become part of the U.S."
Half of the gold and silver coins are already spoken for. (They can be bought either at the mint, Gatewest or from one of the mint's dealers.) The gold one, made with more than 32 ounces of pure gold, has a face value of $2,500 but sells for $69,000 while the silver coin, comprised of 32 ounces of pure silver, has a face value of $250 but retails for $2,249.
The peace medal, meanwhile, is worth about $10,000, Laing said.
The mint began producing one-kilogram coins about six years ago in honour of various aspects of Canadian history, such as the 2010 Olympics, and the Maple Leaf. Other mints around the world, including in England, France, Australia and China regularly produce one-kilogram coins to commemorate important events in their respective histories.
"They're the ultimate product of the mints. They're the pièce de résistance," Laing said.
Both coins are technically legal tender so you could use them at the grocery store, but Laing said he expects all of them will end up in the hands of coin collectors and historians.
"Coins teach people about history dating back to Roman times," he said.
The War of 1812 began in June of that year when the Americans declared war on the British Empire in retaliation for trade restrictions brought about by Britain's ongoing war with France, British support of American First Nations against American expansion and the possible U.S. desire to annex Canada. A permanent ceasefire went into effect in February 1815.
Gatewest is the largest private worldwide distributor for the Royal Canadian Mint.