Royal Canadian Mint


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The first coin in the Royal Canadian Mint’s exciting new series featuring designs from historical Canadian bank notes.


The reverse image of this fine silver coin features a seascape-themed vignette from the Canadian Bank of Commerce’s 1888 20-dollar bank note. The vignette centres around a youthful figure, possibly a young Hermès, a god of the Greek pantheon who was a patron of travellers. The figure leans on a large fish with his left arm, holding in his right hand a caduceus—a staff entwined by two snakes which was often carried by Hermès in the Greek tradition. The symbolic associations of the caduceus include commerce and balance. On the left side of the image, in the distant sea behind the central figure, four ships from various ages of sea travel negotiate the roiling waters, including two sailing ships and two steam-powered vessels. On the right side of the image a rocky point juts out into the water. On it stands a tall lighthouse that will, hopefully, guide the vessels to safe harbour. In an ornate frame derived from scrollwork appearing on the original 20-dollar note, the image is surmounted by the face value of “5 DOLLARS.”


Coin is encapsulated and presented in a Royal Canadian Mint-branded maroon clamshell case lined with flock and protected by a custom beauty box


Special Features:

  •  The first coin in the Royal Canadian Mint’s exciting new series featuring vignettes from historic Canadian banknotes.
  •  Celebrate the fine art of banknote design as it has evolved throughout the history of Canadian banking.
  •  A unique coin for collectors who love the history of numismatic and banknote artistry and design.
  •  An excellent gift or collectible for art aficionados and history buffs.
  •  Coin is accompanied with a graphic beauty box which features subtle elements from the original note.
  •  This coin features a highly detailed engraved design with various finishesused to createtexture and contrast on a brilliant background.


Item Number:124052
Face Value:5 dollars
99.99% pure silver
Weight (g):23.17
Diameter (mm):36.07
Advertising Date: July 3, 2013
Launch Date: July 9, 2013


Complete Certificate Text:

The Art of Money: 1888 Canadian Bank of Commerce 20-Dollar Banknote

Paper currency as we know it today is a relatively recent phenomenon. The story of its evolution in North America over the last three centuries includes fascinating tales about the development of a highly specialized art form, the ingenuity of human technology, and the ever-changing worlds of banking and economics.

The Emergence of Paper Money in North America

The earliest North American paper money was issued in New France in 1685 when, urgently needing to pay colonial soldiers, the Intendant issued promissory notes on paper playing cards. Five years later, the British colony in Massachusetts circulated North America’s first formal paper bills of credit, which made their way as far north as Nova Scotia, where they were used as paper currency.
While the marketplace readily accepted this type of paper currency when it was first issued, the redemption value of the notes was inconsistent, eroding public trust in this form of money. As currency laws and practices changed, however, the popularity of paper money grew among governments, chartered banks, merchants, and the public.

Employing Art to Outsmart Counterfeiters

By the nineteenth century, greater demand for paper money deepened the need to perfect its design in ways that not only reinforced its monetary value but also stopped counterfeiters from undermining its security. Thus by the mid 1800s note engraving and design had become a major business.

Examining a bank note from nearly any nation will reveal several design elements that emerged in the nineteenth century, including the use of line engraving and the presence of portraiture, allegorical imagery, complex calligraphic lettering, and complicated geometric patterns. American Jacob Perkins is credited with popularizing this composite approach in 1799 with his patented stereotype steel plates that combined engraved portraits, vignettes (pictorial and allegorical images), words, and geometric lines on a banknote to create a composition whose complexity made it essentially impossible for counterfeiters to reproduce it.
The 1888 Canadian Bank of Commerce Notes

Founded by Toronto businessman William McMaster in 1867, the Canadian Bank of Commerce had grown to more than 40branches in its first 20 years of operation. (It eventually merged with the Imperial Bank of Canada in 1961, forming today’s Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.) The Commerce issued a series of notes when it first opened in 1867. Three years later, the Canadian Bank Act (1870) changed the rules about which denominations were permitted to circulate and the Commerce adjusted its issue accordingly in the years that followed.

In 1887, the Commerce issued an innovative 10-dollar note that featured a green tint on its face. Until that time, the face of the bank’s notes had featured black ink overprinted with green. For the first time, the Commerce was adding an overall green tint to the face of its bill in order to foil counterfeiting efforts, which had redoubled with the emergence of photographic technology. Unfortunately, the green ink blurred so badly that the Commerce had to withdraw the notes.

Turning immediately to the American Bank Note Company (ABNCo) in New York City, the Bank commissioned a new issue using ABNCo’s colourful tints that did not have the same problems as the green ink of the previous issue. On January 2, 1888, the Canadian Bank of Commerce released the new issue of colourful 5-, 10-, 20- and 100-dollar notes. The security of the notes was successful enough that the series design did not change until 1917, when new designs were released in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Commerce.

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