Canada wraps up its D-Day numismatic commemoration with an extraordinary one-kilo silver coin

We’ve seen a pretty neat selection of coins so far this year that have marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings on the French Normandy coast, but few as impressive as this one. Canada has already issued several pieces, but this final issue is the biggest yet, at a full kilo of 0.9999 silver in weight. Fortunately, the Royal Canadian Mint has declined the urge to adorn this new coin with any of the multitude of gimmicks it employs on a regular basis, and gone with just a simple antique finish, and a high-relief strike.

The level of detail on offer here is quite extraordinary – just look at the close-up images further down. I have a great interest in the subject matter personally, and was fascinated by the intricacy of layers and layers of men, equipment and French countryside packed into it. As you can read in the mints own description further down, there are 453 human figures on this 100mm coin, and historically accurate tanks, including the famous ‘Funnies’ developed for such tasks as mine-clearing and flame-throwing. It almost looks like a screenshot from a modern isometric computer game.

Just as well implemented is the obverse, carrying an effigy of King George VI rather than a modern one of his daughter. The RCM has no qualms about using period correct effigies, something the Royal Australian Mint should have done on its recent Kookaburra set, in our view.

A beautiful piece of numismatic art and the perfect remembrance of this huge operation, we think those involved should be applauded for the integrity of the design – eschewing baubles and other nonsense for a classic look. It doesn’t come cheap, of course, with a price for the 400 mintage coin set at a touch under $2.5k CAD.

Codenamed Operation Neptune, the largest seaborne invasion in history and the start of Operation Overlord took place on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 when a huge Allied force began the liberation of German-occupied France. The culmination of a years planning, and even then, it was almost scuppered by the weather, D-Day encompassed an assault on five beaches – Gold, Juno and Sword by British & Commonwealth forces, with Utah & Gold by the US.

Starting with an extensive aerial and naval bombardment and an airborne assault, Allied troops swarmed ashore and encountered heavy resistance, on the beach where the US forces landed, and further inland elsewhere. Casualties were heaviest at Omaha, with its high cliffs, and the landing craft came under heavy fire from gun emplacements. Despite failing to achieve any first day objectives, the push was relentless and eventually led to a break out from the landing zones. The securing of the beaches and the subsequent construction of two Mulberry Harbours led to an influx of men and material that overwhelmed the defending German Army. A rapid securing of air superiority and continued naval dominance meant the days of effective resistance in the West were numbered.

MINTS DESCRIPTION

We were young, but we had bravery well beyond our years. We didn’t go into Normandy to leave our mark on history — we went in to liberate France from the Nazis, knowing how much hinged on our success. On land, on water, and in the air, we gave our all for victory at Juno Beach and beyond.

Canada had a frontline view of victory on D-Day, and throughout the Normandy campaign. It was at Juno Beach that 3rd Canadian Infantry Division supported by 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade came ashore on the morning of June 6, 1944. And it was here that valour and sacrifice in the sand, sea and sky laid the foundations of a greater Allied victory, one that extended well beyond the beaches and first-day objectives.

Our year-long commemoration of the Normandy campaign comes to a close with a kilo-sized pièce de résistance that is a labour of love and a reverent homage to Canada’s veterans. The sky-high view of Juno Beach shows D-Day from a flyer’s perspective, the highest possible viewpoint that day. Looking down from an RCAF Mustang, one gets a sense of the magnitude of this historic event that was unprecedented in both size and scope. The coordinated combined operations amphibious assault required over a year of planning and training. Attention to detail was key then, and it is crucial on this coin, where even the smallest feature has historical significance.

Nestled in its wooden collector case, your pure silver snapshot is appropriately aged thanks to an antiqued finish, while ultra high relief technology gives it a relief height of nearly 4 millimetres. It is a stunning ode to a defining moment in our history, one that marked the beginning of the end of the war in Europe.

DESIGN: Based on wartime photography, maps and documents from the Second World War, the reverse design by Royal Canadian Mint engraver Traian Georgescu features a flyer’s view of Juno Beach ‘Nan White’ in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. The image is engraved in ultra high relief and shows the D-Day invasion site after the first line of enemy defences were defeated at Bernières-sur-Mer. Canadian troops are shown disembarking from the Landing Craft Infantry (Large) (LCI(L)) vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy.

Moving past the recently breached seawall and past the attending supporting units with their specialized vehicles, the troops are joined by Canadian manned Sherman tanks as the assault forces move off the beaches to push inland and reach their objectives. The reverse includes the word “JUNO” and the 75th anniversary commemorative dates, “1944 – 2019”, all in a military stencil font. The obverse features the effigy of King George VI by T. H. Paget.

If you look closely at the engraved reverse, you’ll find: two LCI(L), one LCS(S) and one LCT craft; 42 vehicles, including M4 Sherman and Churchill AVRE tanks, flamethrower WASP 2S, D7 armoured bulldozers, and more; 58 houses, with Canada House (also known as Hoffer House) on the left; and 453 soldiers on craft, in the water and on land. Each of these individual design elements took at least one full week to develop.

“It was an honour for me to be asked to work with the Mint and consult on such an impressive coin. As a Veteran, author and collector of Canadian Army militaria working on this project allowed me to fully indulge my passion for history and collate material from several primary sources in order to analyse one small sector of the Juno beachhead. Re-examining the details of the terrain, landing craft, vehicles and troops was like stepping back in time and reliving the planning that went into actual invasion some 75 years ago. Normandy is hallowed ground, which I have been privileged to visit on several occasions. This high-relief coin not only brings an exciting new perspective to the memory of D-Day but also pays homage to that special generation of Canadian sailors, soldiers and airmen who succeeded in their mission and ultimately liberated Europe from tyranny. Lest We Forget.” W.E. Storey, CD, Consultant

“For this Juno Beach design, we had to travel back in time. We gathered current and archival images, and then we pieced everything together to show D-Day from a completely different perspective. Satellite imagery shows us what the rooftops and restored buildings look like today. But for the damaged buildings, we determined their height and shape based on the shadowy forms on old aerial photographs.” Traian Georgescu, Engraver, Royal Canadian Mint

“For our final D-Day coin, I wanted something that spoke to the landing as a whole and gives a sense of how Operation Neptune was a key event within a larger campaign. We opted for an overhead view that tells a more complete story, but it involved a lot of details that needed to be historically accurate. Enter Ed Storey, a passionate enthusiast for our military history! To create the design, Ed helped us find reference photos that had been taken from different angles. He went through every detail with us — the landscape, the boats, the soldiers and the vehicles — to ensure each element was designed accurately. He even tracked down a detailed drawing from a 1943 manual for one of the small bulldozers.” Erica Maga, Product Manager, Royal Canadian Mint

Bold Precious Metals
SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION $250 CAD (Canada)
COMPOSITION 0.9999 silver
WEIGHT 1,006 grams
DIMENSIONS 102.1 mm
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS High-relief
MINTAGE 400
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes