Canadian Maple Leafs

Like American Eagles and Chinese Pandas, Canadian Maple Leafs are "gold standard" coin bullion.

If you’re new to gold investing, you might be forgiven for thinking that “Canadian Maple Leafs” refers to a certain popular hockey team from north of the border. If, however, you’ve spent any time in the field, you’ll know instantly that this term refers to Canada’s sublime answer to the South African Krugerrand.

Now, notice that I didn’t say that Maple Leafs were Canada’s sublime answer to American Gold Eagles. Officially known as “Canadian Gold Maple Leafs,” these bullion coins predate ours by a good seven years; they first appeared in 1979. And there are some other differences, too, so let’s take a look.

Both Royal and Canadian

There once was a time when the Krugerrand was, quite literally, the gold standard in coin bullion. But many nations found South Africa’s racist apartheid government repugnant, so they established boycotts against that country’s products — including the Krugerrand.

By the late 1970s, Krugerrands had become scarce and hard to acquire. So in 1979, the Royal Canadian Mint began striking their own gold bullion coins as an alternative. Canadian Maple Leafs were an immediate hit, and the RCM has continued to produce them every year since.

The Coins Themselves

As with American Gold Eagles, the issuing government backs the purity, content, and weight of Canadian Maple Leafs. Also like our bullion, they’re struck from native gold. By law, the RCM may use only gold from Canadian mines in their manufacture.

Unlike Gold Eagles, however, Maple Leafs are pure 24 karat gold. In fact, at .9999 fineness (99.99% purity), they’re among the purest (if not the purest) government-issue gold coins in the world. Their purity makes the gold very soft, so Leafs tend to wear and ding easily if not protected.

Here in the States we add a little copper and silver to harden the metal in our Gold Eagles, reducing the purity to 22 karat (91.67%). A slightly higher weight — 33.93 grams, as opposed to the 31.1 grams in a standard troy ounce of pure gold—offsets the difference in purity.

Measure for Measure

Like almost all Commonwealth coinage, the Maple Leaf bears a profile portrait of the U.K’s Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse, along with a declaration of its face value: $50 Canadian in the case of the one-ounce coin, although in reality it’s worth more than $1600 U.S. at the moment, just like all one-ounce gold coins.

The reverse bears an image of the famous Canadian maple leaf, along with a declaration of the weight in both English and French. For the standard one-ounce coin, it reads FINE GOLD 1 OZ OR FIN. The one-ounce coin measures 33 mm in diameter, and is 2.87 mm thick.

Maple Leafs, like Gold Eagles, also come in fractional sizes, though you can get them in half, quarter, one-tenth, and one-twentieth ounce weights (Gold Eagles stop at one-tenth). They bear face values of $20, $10, $5, and $1, respectively, though of course they’re worth much more than that.

Purchase Options

Maple Leafs tend to be abundant and readily available, so you can usually purchase them wherever you would purchase American Eagles (e.g., coin or bullion dealers), and, of course, from the Royal Canadian Mint itself. Expect to pay a premium of 5-10% percent, which is standard for coin bullion of this type.

These attractive (and attractively pure) gold rounds make excellent additions to any investment stash. Oh, you don’t have to buy Canadian Maple Leafs — gold is gold, after all — but they’re easy to find, easy to store, and add some interesting variety to your investment efforts.