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Varieties Of Canadian Pennies 1947, 1948 And 1949

Updated on March 14, 2012

It All Began With A Small Maple Leaf...

Thanks to India gaining its independence from the U.K. in 1947, the Mints of the Commonwealth were presented with a challenge. George VI was no longer Emperor of India: in fact, he was no longer an Emperor at all. That change left the Royal Canadian Mint scrambling to put together a new inscription on the back of Canadian coins: "ET IND. IMP" had to be removed for the 1948 coin year. As a stopgap, the first coins issued in 1948 kept the previous year on the front and the old inscription on the back - but with a twist. To distinguish them from the ones put out in '47, a small maple leaf was added to the end of the date.

In their haste, for the pennies, they came up with two different dies that made for different 7s in the date. Most of them had a point where the two lines of the 7 join, at the top right. But some had a blunted 7.

These two varieties were the openers to other penny varieties in the '48s and '49s. One of those is rare!

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Late 1940s Canadian Penny Varieties: Preface

Or, How The RCM's Trials Gave Collectors Something To Search For

1948 was not an easy year for employees of the Royal Canadian Mint. In retrospect, the UK granting India independence in 1947 was inevitable, but it still caught some people off-guard. The tradition with coins, in countries with Kings and Queens, is to wait until the next year to put the new Sovereign on the back. By this custom, the 1948 coins should have had King George VI's new place as a plain King instead of his old position as King and Emperor of India.

But, the dies with the new inscription weren't ready in time.

As a stopgap, the Mint decided to issue coins with the old inscription and previous year's date. To distingush them from "real" 1947s, they added a small maple leaf to the end of the date. But that's not all they did.

Dies wear out. Knowing this, the Mint orders more than one die for a coin run. Normally, the dies have the same design; it takes an expert to distinguish coins of the same year that were stamped by different dies. But for the special 1947 maple-leaf run of the pennies, the Mint got two classes of die that produced different 7s. One of them had a blunted 7 on the top right, while the other had a pointed 7. Collectors, already primed to tell plain 1947s from the 1947s with the maple leaf added, soon found the difference in the 7s. A new variety was born.

It wasn't to be the first...

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1947 Maple Leaf's Different 7s

And How To Tell Them Apart

In the olden days, you needed a loupe to tell one variety from another. Thankfully, you can do the same with a plain old digital camera. You have to engage the macro function, else the picture's too blurry to use, but a photo taken with the flowery macro icon in your display can give you the same detail only available to those with a loupe. Just make sure your photo's pixel size is as large as can be. You'll need it if you want to check out any 1947 Maple Leaf you find.

As noted above, the sweet spot you zoom in on is the join between the two lines of the 7. Look at the top right of the join.

Do you see the top-right corner looking pointy? Then you've got a pointed 7. Does it look like a little piece was chopped off? Then you've got a blunt 7. The picture below shows the blunted variety, which is scarcer than the pointed variety. It's worn, so the corner looks like it had been whittled off.

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1948 Varieties

More For Collectors To Spot

When the proper dies for the back (obverse) were ready, the Mint retired the 1947 Maple Leaf. But, luckily for collectors, the dies for the 1948s had different varieties too. This time, the variations were on the obverse of the coin - the ones that had George VI with his new inscription. Even better for collectors, there were three varieties instead of two.

The most scarce one has denticles that are smaller than the usual. The denticles, or the knobs that stick out of the edge and point inwards, are normally large enough to make the space between them too small to fit another one in.The small denticles are tiny enough so that a third denticle can be fit between the other two. If that's what your photo of the back of your '48 shows, you've got a small-denticle 1948 penny. The picture above shows what I mean.

I focused upon the three o'clock position - the second "A" in "GRATIA" - because that's the spot to distinguish the other two varieties. In this photo, the "A" is pointing to a denticle; it's an "A-on-denticle" coin. As far as we know, all small-denticle '48s are on-denticle. That's not the case for the large-denticle pennies.

Most of the larges are on-denticle, but some of them have that "A" pointing to a spot between two denticles. This variety is an "A-off-denticle" coin. It's not as scarce as the small denticle, but it is scarcer than the A-on-denticle large-denticle coin.

The next time you find a 1948 penny, take a digital picture of the back. Make sure you've got your macro function engaged, and take as large a photo as your camera allows. Then upload the image and take a close look at it, right at the three o'clock poisition where the second "A" in "GRATIA" points to the edge.

- Can you fit a third denticle in between two of them? If so, congratulations! You've found a small-denticle '48.

- Is the A pointed to a spot in between the denticles? If so, you've got an A-off-denticle. That's the next most scarce variety.

- If the answer to both is "No," then you've got a normal coin for the year: a large denticle A-on-denticle penny.

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1949's Rare Bird

This year, the varieties died down

After 1948's helter-skelter, things returned to normal at the Mint. For 1949, it was decided to make the pennies off-denticle. For almost all of them, the second "A" in "GRATIA" points to the space between two denticles.

But not for all. By mistake, a few of them were stamped with the old die for the 1948s. Those 1949s are A-on-denticle.

This variety's rare! As of March 14th, even a very worn one commands a price of well over $10. One that's not so worn goes for over $20.

So, if you happen upon a 1949 penny, it pays to take a picture of the obverse and see where that "A" points. If you see it point to a denticle, like the one in the picture, you've got yourself a real score!

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Footnote On Pennies

And Their Varieties

One of the advantages of putting pennies in your coin collection is that a lot of them are still floating around in the wild. I should know: I was crazy enough to sort through half a million of them for my 10,000 Roll Challenge. All of the pictures above are of pennies I pulled, from a lot of penny boxes.

Have I piqued your interested in penny varieties? You can find out more by going to CoinsAndCanada.com. Not only do they describe each of these varieties in their George VI section, but they also list even more obscure varieties at the bottom of each year's page.

Pennies From eBay - What eBay sellers have in pennies

There are lots of collectors' pennes on eBay. Spend some time browsing and you'll likely see the ones mentioned above. Even the 1949 on-denticle...

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