Transition Varieties of the 1978, 25 and 50 Cent Pieces.
By: MICC Lifetime member #001
Nearly a quarter-century after the fact, we could logically assume that we know everything there is to know about the two varieties of Canadian 25-cent pieces that appeared in 1978: what were called the “Near Beads” and “Far Beads”. Actually, there is a whole lot that we don’t know – for sure. The Mint itself doesn’t keep tabs on such things; one inquiry received the reply that the RCM was in the business of supplying good coin and when a current issue passed muster, it was no longer the Mint’s concern. Keeping track of varieties and such was the business of the collecting world.
It so happened that in 1978 there were not one but two denominations sporting major varieties, neither of which were great rarities – even though one variety was notably scarcer than the other in each case. On the 1978 50-cent piece, the reverse crown exists with the jewels flanking the center one on the crown rim being either round (the scarce one) or rectangular (common). In the same way, the 1978 25-cent reverse exists with 148 small denticles along the rim (the scarce one) or 120 large denticles (common).
Since these denominations were struck at both Ottawa and Winnipeg that year, it becomes tempting to assign a variety to each mint (Ottawa struck only 9.4 million of the total 176.5-million 25-cents coined that year, for instance). However, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
The 25-cent pieces can best be differentiated by the relationship of the word CANADA to the rim denticles. On the “Small Beads” variety, the tops of the letters are noticeably further from the denticles than on the “Large” – giving us the more accurate description “Small Beads / Far CANADA” and “Large Beads / Near CANADA”. This is the way they are illustrated in current editions of the Charlton catalogue.
Can we attribute for certain either variety of either denomination to Ottawa or Winnipeg? Unfortunately, we cannot.
All Proof-like sets were coined exclusively at Ottawa in 1978. Yet the sets invariably (apparently) contain only the common “Large Beads / Near CANADA” 25-cent, the inference being that Ottawa’s minor share of the circulating coin mintage was not just of the scarcer variety. Either the “Small Beads” is scarcer than 9.4/176.5ths of the total mintage (if struck in Ottawa) or the variety was struck in Winnipeg, in which case we cannot even make a guess as to mintage figures.
As well, at least one roll is known containing both varieties in fair proportion – which again argues against the scarcer variety being the only output of the Ottawa Mint.
The case of the 50-cent pieces of 1978 are quite similar. In this case, only 260,000 Proof-like sets were struck at Ottawa, yet both the “Round Beads” and “Square Beads” varieties are found in them, the former being much scarcer in a proportion of 5-10 times. This shows that Ottawa used both dies. And of the total 3.4-million coined for circulation, the proportion of “Round”-to -“Square” appears to be pretty much the same.
Why do they even exist? Well, it appears that they were transitions. If you consult your catalogue, you will note that widespread changes were carried out on the Canadian coinage in 1978/9, some reverses being modified as well as the Queen’s portrait changed to sizes exactly proportional to the coin diameters.
In the case of the 25-cent, the old “Small Denticles / Far CANADA” reverse, currently in use, was apparently changed early to the “Large Denticle” used thereafter. We base this conclusion on the fact that the first variety is by far the scarcer of the two.
In the case of the 50-cent piece, it, too, had modifications made to the reverse during 1978. But this time, we presume the change from the former “Square Beads” to the new “Round” was made late in the production years – since the latter is the scarcer of the two.
Previously printed in the MICC Numismatic Journal Vol-01, Issue-07