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The 1953 Canadian Coin Scandal, Or How The Royal Canadian Mint Unintentionally Promoted The Strapless Dress

Updated on March 23, 2012

The Oops And The Scandal

Although Queen Elizabeth II's coronation was not held until June 2nd of 1953, she acceeded to the throne when her father King George VI passed away on February 6th of 1952. As custom dictated, the Royal Canadian Mint ordered new obverse dies to portray the new Sovereign. The coins went out at the beginning of 1953, and all seemed in order.


A few sharp-eyed monarchists saw something funny about the '53 coinage. Inevitably, it became more than a few. The Royal Canadian Mint was deluged with complaints about their new profile of the Queen. They had forgotten the shoulder strap on her dress, making her look as if her gown (and brassiere) were strapless.

Needless to say, the stout-hearted monarchists were not amused.

By the time the Mint acted, it was almost too late for the year when it came to the pennies. As a result, a large majority of the 1953 Canada cents had the Queen missing her shoulder strap. Thankfully for monarchists, the Mint changed course in the middle in its runs for the nickel, dime, quarter and half-dollar - but not quite for the dollar coin.

The strapless dress and complementary bra were first introduced before the 1920s, but they had fallen into relative obscurity - until the mid 1950s when they became all the rage. By its mistake, the Royal Canadian Mint might well have fuelled that revival...


Is This '53 Without A Shoulder Strap...

Actually, the first monarchist who spotted it deserves a bit of credit for sharp eyes. Whether a '53 has the Queen with a shoulder strap or not is a subtle call even when the coin's uncirculated or close to. When it's well-worn, telling the two apart is effectively impossible. Had the lightly etched lines on the Queen's shoulder been the only way to distinguish the two, there'd be separate catalogue entries only for the higher grades.

But, thankfully for collectors, there's an explicit way to tell the two apart. If you have a good digital camera or loupe, you can nail down which is which easily. The difference lies in the word DEI, above the Queen's head.

If the top and bottom of the DEI's I spread, like a Greek column, your coin has no shoulder strap for the Queen. As I said above, a large majority of the pennies have no shoulder strap. It's almost a sure bet that the I in the '53 you found has those spreads.

The accompanying image, from Coins And Canada, shows you which is which. "NSF" means "No Shoulder Fold," the other name for no shoulder strap. "SF" means "Shoulder Fold:" the Queen has her strap.


Or With?

Best to check carefully. As I noted above, it's close to a sure bet that your '53 has a DEI's I like a column.

But if it isn't, if the I is almost flat like the I in this font, congratulations! You've got yourself the scarcer penny with the shoulder strap in place. As long as it isn't very worn, as long as it has a grade of Fine or higher, you've got yourself a penny that's worth at least a buck.

And one that's not undignified either :)


Other Oopses

But Much Rarer

The Mint isn't perfect. Somehow, a few of the 1954 and '55 pennies wound up missing a shoulder strap too. You can tell the two apart by the same criterion that works for the '53s. Only, for these years, the shoulder strap variety is the norm. There are a few '54s and '55s with no shoulder strap, but they're very rare. Coins And Canada doesn't even quote a price for a circulated 1954 without shoulder strap, and the '55 penny without the strap starts at $140.

Collectors Coins On Amazon - And related products

Did The Mint Revive The Strapless Dress? - If only unintentionally?


Was the revival of the strapless dress fueled by the Mint leaving out the Queen's shoulder strap?

See results

The Scandal - And The Complainers

Do you think the monarchists overreacted to the Mint's mistake?

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