The Canadian Large Cent: A Bucket List Find for Many Metal Detecting Enthusiasts

The Canadian Large Cent holds a special place in the annals of numismatics, historians, and metal detecting enthusiasts embodying Canada’s rich historical and monetary evolution. This coin, first minted in 1858 and produced until 1920, offers a window into the economic, political, and social shifts that shaped Canada during its formative years. This article delves into the factual intricacies of the Canadian Large Cent, unraveling its story for historians and numismatic geeks alike.

The Canadian Large Cent Inception and Design

The journey of the Canadian Large Cent began in the mid-19th century, against the backdrop of Canada’s push for a unified currency system. Prior to the introduction of the Large Cent, Canadian currency was a motley assortment of foreign coins, bank tokens, and colonial currencies. The need for a standardized currency was critical in forging a unified economic identity for the burgeoning nation.

The first Canadian cents were minted in 1858, featuring the effigy of Queen Victoria, a design by Leonard Charles Wyon. These coins were not only symbols of monetary value but also emblematic of Canada’s ties to the British Crown. The obverse of the coin showcased the reigning British monarch, while the reverse featured a wreath of maple leaves, symbolizing Canada’s emerging national identity.

Found by Metal Detectorist Aggie Hall, Using an XP Deus 1. An 1884 Queen Victoria Large Cent was Recovered Near Columbus, Ohio, in a Farm Field Where a Home Once Stood.

Found by Metal Detectorist Rachael Elmore, Using a Minelab Equinox 800. 1884 Queen Victoria Recovered in Glover, Vermont, in a Wooded Area That Was Farmland Until 20ish Years Ago.

Evolution of the Canadian Large Cent Through the Years

Over its six decades of production, the Canadian Large Cent saw several design changes, reflecting the country’s evolution and the reigns of different British monarchs. Following Queen Victoria, the effigies of Kings Edward VII and George V graced the coin, with each transition marked by a redesign of the obverse.

Found By Metal Detectorist James Opfar, Using a White’s MX Sport with a 7″ DD Detech Coil, March 2, 2019. A King Edward VII 1919, Canadian Large Cent. Recovered in Bonney Lake, Washington at an Old Farm.

The composition of the coin also evolved. Initially minted in bronze, the Large Cent underwent changes in its metal composition in response to economic factors and material availability. However, its size remained largely consistent, giving it the “Large Cent” moniker that distinguishes it from the smaller cents introduced in 1920.

Found by Metal Detectorist Jason Flicker With a Minelab E-Trac. Both Canadian Large Cents Dated 1918 Were Found in Southern California at Two Separate Lots.

Significance and Collectibility of the Canadian Large Cent

For historians and collectors, the Canadian Large Cent is a tangible piece of Canada’s past. Each coin is a story of its era, reflecting the economic conditions, technological advancements, and artistic sensibilities of the time. The variations in design, errors, and rarities make the Large Cent a fascinating subject for numismatic study.

One of the most sought-after variations is the 1858 Large Cent, the inaugural issue, which commands high prices among collectors due to its rarity and historical significance. Other notable variations include the 1894 “Far 4” variety, distinguished by the positioning of the number 4 in relation to the wreath.

The End of an Era

The production of the Canadian Large Cent concluded in 1920, making way for a smaller, more economical cent. This transition reflected broader changes in Canadian society and the economy, including the impact of World War I and shifts in global metal prices. The discontinuation of the Large Cent marked the end of an era in Canadian numismatics, but also the beginning of a new chapter in the country’s monetary history.

Legacy and Preservation

Today, the Canadian Large Cent occupies a revered place in numismatic collections across Canada and beyond. Museums, historians, and collectors preserve these coins, not only as objects of financial exchange but as artifacts that encapsulate a pivotal period in Canadian history. Their preservation and study offer insights into the cultural, economic, and political milieu of Canada during a time of significant change and growth.


The Canadian Large Cent is more than just a coin; it is a testament to Canada’s journey from a collection of colonies to a unified nation with its own distinct identity. For historians, numismatic and metal detecting enthusiasts, the Large Cent offers a rich field of inquiry, full of discovery and reflection. It reminds us of the power of currency to tell the stories of a nation’s past, the evolution of its identity, and the everyday lives of its people. In the realm of coins, the Canadian Large Cent stands out as a beacon of historical and cultural significance, inviting us to explore the depths of Canada’s storied past.

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