Did You Know That Canadian Coinage of 1911 is “Godless”?

In May 1910, King Edward VII died, and George V ascended to the throne. In the rush to prepare dies to strike 1911-dated coinage bearing George’s likeness across the Commonwealth, engravers at The Royal Mint did not include the phrase “Dei Gratia” nor its abbreviation “DG.” The Royal Canadian Mint struck coins using these dies, creating “Godless” coins as they are called by Canadian collectors.

The British Royal Mint presented Canada’s Department of Finance a choice of two obverse dies for the new coins bearing George V’s portrait, one with its inscriptions in English, the other in Latin. Canada’s officials opted for the latter which, unnoticed by anyone at the time, omitted the phrase “Dei Gratia,” Latin for “by the grace of God.” Officials and the public quickly noticed the oversight, the latter unhappy about the “gracelessness” (to borrow a word used to describe the coinage) of the coins with the new king’s portrait.

The phrase appeared on coins dated 1912 and after, though Dei Gratia was also absent from Canadian silver dollars in 1935.

Public outcries over insufficient/absent invocation of the deity are not confined to Canada. In one well-known instance in the United States there was a stir when “In God We Trust” was left off the first types of the Saint-Gaudens $10 and $20 gold coins, resulting in “With Motto” versions struck from 1908 through the end of these series. Nearly a century later in 2007, the placement of that same motto on the edge of the new Presidential dollars provoked a similar public response.

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