issued its first commemorative nickel dollar in 1970; it marked the 100th anniversary of Manitoba joining the Canadian Confederation. Manitoba was the first addition to the original Confederation that was formed in 1867; it joined founding members New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec.
The commemorative design presents a prairie crocus, the provincial flower of Manitoba, with three blossoms - two open and one closed. The design is the work of Raymond Taylor, a Canadian artist who won an open design competition staged by the Mint in 1969. Taylor's design was a unanimous choice among the selection committee and earned him $3,500 for his efforts. Walter Ott, an engraver within the RCM
, modeled the design from which the dies were ultimately created.
Selection of a prairie crocus design for the commemorative coin was not all that surprising. The flower had been a popular symbol of Manitoba since 1906 when it was named the official provincial flower as a result of a vote among the province's schoolchildren. The flower's local popularity and long-term official association with Manitoba makes me think it was a popular theme among the 900+ designs submitted to the open competition.
Mr. Taylor filled the "canvas" of the coin's reverse with his depiction of the prairie crocus and then framed it with the required commemorative inscriptions. The true-to-life rendering of the flower makes for a strong symbolic design. Though I've never seen a reference suggesting it, I have long wondered if Taylor's decision to depict three blossoms was a nod to the three British North American colonies (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada) that came together to create the four provinces of the original Confederation.
Over 4.1 million of the coins were struck for general circulation; an additional 349,120 coins with a higher-quality specimen finish were struck specifically for collectors. A portion of the "collector" coins were allocated for sale within Canada's pavilion at Expo '70, the World's Fair that was held in Osaka, Japan from March 15 through September 13, 1970. Canada was one of 78 countries that participated.
Though it participated in a big way, Canada did not issue a special commemorative coin for its involvement in Osaka's Expo 70 - an opportunity it likely wouldn't miss today! It did, however, create a special commemorative souvenir. The Numismatic Department of the RCM
created a custom package for its Manitoba dollar that featured a rectangular black leatherette case (vs. the standard maroon) with a gold maple leaf and "Canada" stamped in gold in English and Japanese.
I've seen examples of the souvenir package with a plain coin holder and an imprinted version featuring "MANITOBA / 1870 1970". I would surmise that the plain holder was the version initially available at the Expo and that it was later replaced with the imprinted version as stock of such holders became available at the RCM
The regular (i.e., domestic) version of the coin was sold for $2.00 CAD by the RCM
in 1970; at the time, this converted to ~666 Japanese Yen. My research has not yet discovered the original selling price of the coin offered at the exposition, but knowing how prices are generally inflated at such events, it wouldn't be a surprise to find that the price of the coin was 999 Yen (roughly $3.00 CAD) or even higher.
The package included a small information card written only in Japanese.
As I don't speak Japanese, I enlisted the services of a translator who provided the following:Canada consists of 10 provinces. The Canadian Federation was formed in 1867 by 3 colonies merging together to form 4 provinces. The province of Manitoba joined the Canadian Federation in 1870. In order to commemorate this, Manitoba's provincial flower, the (Prairie) Crocus, is featured on the reverse of the 1970 dollar coin.
(Note: I have added "Prairie" to the translated text.)
The Expo '70 version of the Manitoba commemorative dollar (i.e., with case and insert) does not typically command a significant premium in today's marketplace but does generally sell for a few dollars more than the coin in standard packaging. The small price differential aside, the coin and case make for an interesting and historical supplement to a collection of Canada's commemorative nickel dollars. I enjoy having an example in my collection.