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The 1871 Prince Edward Island Cent

By Prince Edward Island Numismatic Association    |   Tuesday, 5 April 2005

The province of Prince Edward Island decided to adopt the Decimal Currency system from the Sterling in 1871. The Royal Mint in London, England was contacted to contract for the coinage of the P.E.I. cent. The Mint told the P.E.I. Treasury that domestic requirements would be too great to leave time for the P.E.I. contract before shipping closed the first of December. They suggested that a private firm be used. On September 13, 1871, the Royal Mint in London, England contracted Messrs. Ralph Heaton & Sons of Birmingham, England to supply two million one cent coins by November 14, 1871.

The Tree Cent was made of 95 percent copper, 4 percent tin, and 1 percent zinc. The obverse depicts Queen Victoria facing the left within a beaded circle. The date is presented between two roses beneath the head. It was, in fact, a duplication of the contemporary Jamaican halfpenny (1869-1900).

The reverse of this coin depicts a large oak tree sheltering three small saplings. Below the trees in small letters and within a beaded circle PARVA SUB INGENTI is written. Above, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND is scribed. Finally, found between two roses is ONE CENT. The saplings have been the cause for much debate among the numismatic world. The Royal Mint Museum Catalogue claims these saplings are maples, but the design conforms to the Armorial Bearings of Prince Edward Island which depicts oaks.

This was the only coin in British North America that did not carry the Royal Titles in English and is said to be the only coin that does not carry the H mint mark of the Heaton mint in England.

In February 1872, the Treasurer's Office of Prince Edward Island exchanged shillings for sixteen of these Tree cents. It appears, however, that the citizen's of P.E.I. did not accept this new coinage with open arms. According to the balance sheet of the Province on December 31, 1978, about seven years after their release, there still remained 720,000 Tree Cents still not in circulation. To rectify this situation and cut the loses of the government, The Provincial Treasurer's Office offered the cents at a 10 percent discount. However, even with this sale it took the province of P.E.I. two more years to clear its balance sheet of these coins.

In 1920, the Island Tree Cent began to disappear because of the first issue of the small cents. Large cents were gradually removed from circulation. However, some can still be found and have become collector items. Better grades of these coins are scarce because of their circulation period and choice specimens are rare. The Prince Edward Island Numismatic Association has adopted the Tree Cent centered on a green map of the Island as their logo.

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