The Viking Longship and their carved figureheads is celebrated on a new Canadian silver coin series

Despite the celebrations around Christopher Columbus and other fifteenth-century European explorers when it comes to talking about the discovery of the America’s, it’s pretty clear that the Viking were there centuries before. Legendary seamen for their times, the Norse longship took Leif Erikson all the way to Vinland (Newfoundland), where he established a settlement, probably near the site of a recently discovered Norse ship repair station, now called L’Anse aux Meadows.

The Longship was a marvel of its time that reached a peak in the 11th-13th centuries. A shallow draught meant it could move right up to shore, symmetrical in build, so able to reverse quickly and fitted with oars for most of its length, these ships were fast, agile and flexible. Helping to power Norse expansion through Northern Europe and further afield, these approx 30m long ship drew both admiration and dread for those that saw them heading to their shores.

The Royal Canadian Mint is debuting a three-coin series featuring looks at the iconic longship and its carved wooden figurehead. Each silver coin is an ounce in weight and will depict a view of the ship by a different artist. The border – a pattern in the Norse style – is coloured, the only element so adorned. Inside this is a view of the longship. The first coin by Patrick Belanger is our favourite of the three. The only coin to have the central art break into the border area, the design is a highly dynamic one. The obverse is the usual, bland, Sussana Blunt effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.

The second and third coins can be seen further down and will ship in February and March, each costing the same $104.95 CAD as this first coin. Mintages are set at 6,000 pieces and they can be bought individually or as a subscription. Packaging is the usual maroon clamshell case, so a missed opportunity for a box to hold all three there we think, but this looks to be a nice set covering a popular subject. A wooden box with Norse carving on the lid, like the Perth Mint used for its series, would’ve looked great and encouraged collectors to get all three. Available to buy now.

MINTS DESCRIPTION: A warship fit for rulers and chieftains, the dragon-headed longship (drakkar) was the great ship of the Viking Age, and the embodiment of the Norsemen’s superior shipbuilding abilities. This troop carrier was the largest vessel in the fleet, but was remarkably light and swift for its time. While a small draft allowed it to enter shallow waterways, the dreki could either cross the seas under sail or was powered by oars during hit-and-run raids that caused fear as soon as its dragon-shaped figurehead appeared.

For the superstitious Vikings, the elaborately carved dragonhead on the prow was a talisman to keep sea monsters and evil spirits at bay. On the coin’s reverse, the colour-over-engraved depiction is a beautiful representation of Norse artistry and craftsmanship, and typifies the Viking ships that brought these trader-warriors farther than ever—including Canada’s easternmost shores.

Each coin re-imagines Viking ships, as they likely appeared a millennium ago, when a Norse encampment was established on the site of L’Anse aux Meadows, N.L.—a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only authenticated Viking settlement in North America.


DESIGN: Designed by Patrick Belanger, your coin presents an artistic rendering of the dragon-headed longship (drakkar), which was regarded as a symbol of Viking power and strength. The background features a precisely engraved depiction of the wooden vessel in open waters, where the wind fills its square sail and propels it forward during a long-distance journey. A troop carrier fit for rulers and chieftains, this ornate longship is equipped with shields while its curved bow rises up towards a dragonhead prow ornament, whose purpose was to ward off evil spirits and sea monsters.

Selective colour over engraving emphasizes the elaborate nature of the carved figurehead in the foreground, which offers a magnified view of this feature that gave the Norse vessel its name and added to the ship’s imposing appearance. The side view of the figurehead overlaps a green-coloured frame inspired by Norse art elements, including traditional knotwork with an integrated gripping beast motif that also adorns the Norse figurehead. The obverse features the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt.

COMPOSITION 0.9999 silver
WEIGHT 31.39 grams
DIAMETER 38.00 mm
BOX / COA Yes / yes