Emanuel Hahn’s Most Noteworthy Contributions to Canadian Numismatics

Fans of the work of Emanuel Hahn are celebrating what would have been his 137th birthday and although every collector of Canadian coins is likely familiar with his work, many newer to the hobby may not know just how extensive his contribution to numismatics has been.  As Canada’s top numismatic auction house, Geoffrey Bell Auctions Ltd. has handled many significant pieces whose design came from his brilliant, artistic mind, but this post highlighting some of his most popular work shows anyone with an appreciation of Canadian coinage has handled Hahn too.

1939 canada royal visit medal

Canada hasn’t seen much change in its decimal circulating coins for a long time, with the exception of plenty of commemorative issues.  When you exclude the dollar and two-dollar coins, you need to go back to the 1930s to find something different on the regular designs on the reverse of the 5, 10, and 25-cent pieces.  And when these designs were adopted in 1937, along with the obverse change as King George VI began his reign, two of them were the work of Emanuel Hahn.

Hahn’s iconic schooner, now known to be the Bluenose, was originally thought of for the 25-cent coin, while the stoic caribou was the first choice for the 5-cent piece.  Of course, the denominations for each work of art changed, but Hahn’s original design pretty much remained in tact.

When these coins came to the public in 1937 they were already familiar with Hahn’s work in their pockets; he was commissioned to design Canada’s first silver dollar in 1935 and the renowned sculptor made the most of the space on this large canvas with the now-famous voyageur scene.

With the Royal Visit of 1939, a commemorative silver dollar was planned and Hahn was contracted to produce the beautiful parliament building design we’re so familiar with now, even though the government refused to allow his initials to appear.

As if that wasn’t enough, Hahn designed a number of important medals, including the intricate, stunning reverse on the 1939 Royal Visit piece that is available in a number of sizes and compositions, including a silver 54mm piece like one we auctioned at our Toronto Coin Expo 2017 Spring Sale.

Celebrating such a significant contributor to Canadian numismatics is important, so whether you have some treasured examples of Hahn’s work in your collection or just wish to reach into your pocket to appreciate a bit of our history, today’s a great day to do so.


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