Unique Canadian Coin

5th July 2014 — 13 Comments

The 12-sided Canadian Victory Nickel is very similar to our own thrupenny bit but in many ways infinitely more interesting.

Introduced in 1943 it was yellowish brown and made from the alloy TOMBAC. The obverse bore the face of King George VI, but instead of the usual beaver what the Canadians saw was an engraving of the letter ‘V’ with a flaming torch in the middle and below it, the words ‘Cents’. The flaming torch in the centre of the design represents sacrifice.

The ‘V’ had two meanings. The Roman numeral for 5 but, more significantly, it was based on Winston Churchill’s two-fingered salute and as a result the coin became known as the Victory Nickel.


Coin image courtesy of Cal Christie

There was more to this coin and this is where it gets interesting. At this time the Canadian government was doing everything to encourage people to become involved in the war effort. So, when they minted the coin, a message in Morse code was included around the edge. Many people thought that the engraved dots and dashes were simply design, but they spelled out the alliterative phrase – We Win When We Work Willingly.

I’m not a numismatist but I’d be interested to know whether this is the only coin ever to have used three different languages for its inscriptions: Latin, English, and Morse code. Rather unusual, don’t you think?

Although I have lost the original blog post I still have an email sent to me by Cal Christie, my good friend from Guelph in Ontario, Canada. I was pleased to learn that I had told him something about the coin that was new to him.

Hi John

I chanced to click on your blog today. My interest was immediately sparked by the 1943 five-cent coin displayed. I remember well these coins which we called “V for Victory” nickels. I was 7 years old in 1943 – you could buy a good bit of candy for 5¢ then. 

Alas, I rarely had a nickel in my pocket though. Seeing your blog caused me to rush to check out the coins that my Dad had saved over the years. There were a lot of 5-cent pieces.

Attached are scans of some coins 1942 to 1945. It appears that the Morse code was still featured except for the 1942 coin which had the beaver symbol. I didn’t know that bit about the Morse code – thanks for the information.



© Cal Christie


© Cal Christie

This has been another Resurrection Production


UPDATE – thanks to RobA of the Northern Relic Hunters forum

On the 60th Anniversary of Victory in Europe, several commemorative reproduction issues of the Victory Nickel were issued. The obverse of this example shows a right profile of Elizabeth II, when she was 77 years old.


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13 responses to Unique Canadian Coin

  1. I Learn something new everyday.

    I was only 9 myself at that time and getting bombed daily in London..

  2. Every day’s an adventure Jerry.
    This particular post was published inadvertently … not back in the swing of things yet!

  3. I wasn’t even a twinkle in my fathers eye then .lol,. but what an interesting story, thanks as always John.

  4. What an interesting story – thanks for sharing.

  5. I’d suggest the Alabama state quarter issued as part of the “50 state quarters” series may qualify as a coin that uses three languages: Latin (“E Pluribus Unum”), English (duh), and Braille (the name “Helen Keller”). I’m not sure whether Braille actually qualifies as a “language” or whether it’s simply a means of writing an existing language in a form accessible to blind people, however.

    • As I think about it further, it prompts me to think of the Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa quarters, all of which use Latin, English, and a third language (Hawaiian, Spanish, Chamorro, and Samoan, respectively).

  6. I welcome your comment [Rich] and I thank you for your ‘suggestion’. You are quite right of course. We learn something new almost every day. I think the Victory Nickel is still a unique CANADIAN coin … unless anyone can prove differently. And now we know that several American coins share the same attribute!

  7. great post folks.. there were 2 more issues of that coin, other than that ’43 Tombac (similar composition to our modern “Looney” or $1 coin). I think the ’44 and ’45 issue “V” nickels were actually a steel core, with a nickel plating. A month ago I took 4 rolls of these coins over to Normandy for the 70th Anniversary celebrations of D-DAY. I gave out those 5 cent coins to French student volunteers for our Canadian Veterans at various ceremonies for Juno Beach. A few Vets got them as well, because they were overseas when those were minted and they would not have seen them until after they got back home. The coins I gave out had been around the block a few times, as it were, but they were very gladly accepted by the recipients and I too, where possible, told folks the story of the only Canadian Coin with 3 different languages on it! 🙂 Thanks for posting the original discussion in here, always a treat to read these.. Happy Hunting out there! Digger in Seeley’s Bay, ON

  8. Thank you Scott. Your contribution is timely and uplifting on this episode in the darker period of our history. The extra information is gratefully received. Please call again.

  9. John, thank you for a most interesting and informative post. It is indeed a bad day when we don’t learn at least one new interesting fact.

  10. One of the best, and most unique, of Canuck coins, John.. I am particularly proud to be a Canadian when it relates to that coin..

    Thank you for the resurrection of a great post!!


  11. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 7th July 2018 at 3:27 AM

    Wow, did I just learn a lot about my Canadian coinage!

    The V for Victory made sense, but I never knew about the two finger salute reference?

    Also the Morse code around the coin was news to me too. I have several of these coins in my collection, and not once did that occur to me.

    Thanks ever so much for the continued education John, I’m promptly going to share that with a few people I know.

    Won’t my wife think I’m smart for a change? LOL…..

  12. Great information about our nickel that most of us didn’t know. Thanks for enlightening us John.


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