On January 2nd 2012, a Canadian penny was sold by Heritage Auctions for a record-breaking $402,500. This was, of course, no ordinary Canadian penny, although at first glance few would know it. Simply being a 1936 penny, bearing the profile of King George V, isn’t particularly remarkable, but one small feature is: the dot. The dot indicates that this particular penny, and its corresponding dime and quarter, were not quite what they appeared to be.
1936 opened with a tragedy for the United Kingdom: King George V passed away on January 20th, and his son, Edward, became King Edward VIII. Edward had been a womanizer and caused scandal by being in the company of a married woman — and, in the end, Edward chose to give up the throne to marry his companion, abdicating the throne in December 1936. Aside from the political and social effects of Edward VIII’s quick term as the “Rex et Indiae Imperator”, the Mints of the kingdom were sent reeling. The Mint in England did manage to produce several coins with Edward’s profile, but Canada’s Mint was still producing coins with King George V on them, partly in honor of his memory, and partly because those were the only coining dies that were available. During 1936, preparations had been made to mint Canadian coins with Edward’s profile, but his abdication threw a wrench into the plans.
1936 came to an end and the Canadian Mint hadn’t any new dies ready. In order to continue to produce coins, the Mint decided they needed to use their existing dies, but they determined to give the coin an identifying mark to indicate these were, in fact, coins minted in 1937. A small hole was drilled in the die, which would leave a small raised mark on the coin. The “dot” was placed towards the bottom of the reverse, and the front remained the identical George V coins from previous years. Several thousand pennies, dimes, and quarters were produced with the dot before the new dies were ready, but only the quarters had made it out to the street. The remaining pennies, dimes, and quarters still at the Mint were destroyed, except for a few samples that ended up in the hands of collectors.
Currently, less than five each of the pennies and dimes are known to exist, and are believed to be the only ones that survived. One of the three known “dot dimes” was sold as the same auction as the record-setting dot cent, and realized $184,000. The dot quarters that had been distributed have mostly survived, although the majority are in circulated condition. The quarters also naturally seem more worn than other 1936 quarters, because the dies were quite worn before they were put back into use as the dot-coin dies, so the detail and relief in the quarters is of a slightly poorer quality than a regular quarter of the same period. Those quarters are the average collector’s primary chance to one one of these rare, historic coins, although there’s likely to be another opportunity to get a dot penny or dot dime sometime in the future.