The Washington Post

Don’t put your savings in Alice Munro coins

(Courtesy of credit the Royal Canadian Mint) (Courtesy of  the Royal Canadian Mint)

On Monday, the Royal Canadian Mint honored Nobel Prize-winning writer Alice Munro by unveiling a limited-edition silver coin. One side of the $5 coin shows an open page from Munro’s 2006 collection “The View from Castle Rock.” The other side features an image of Queen Elizabeth II.

The mint announced plans to strike 7,500 coins, designed by Canadian artist Laurie McGaw, and sell them for $69.95CAN each (about $62.65US).

Fans of Munro’s masterful short stories may well appreciate owning this lovely tribute, but readers with only a mercenary cast of mind would do well to steer clear when the coins go on sale April 1. The coin weighs 23.17 grams, about eight-tenths of an ounce. With silver currently selling for around $20 an ounce, these Alice Munro coins command a premium few precious metals investors would pay.

But that’s not the point. Although the coin is real money — with a $5CAN face value — it’s a commemorative item, never intended to be used. Alex Reeves, senior manager of communications of the Royal Canadian Mint, says: “Our collector coins are chosen as a unique way of telling the story of Canada. We choose themes that bring out the many dimensions of Canadian identity. That can come from our history, our culture, our values and our natural heritage. For all of these reasons, these coins resonate not only with people in Canada but with people around the world.”

Keep that larger value in mind when deciding whether or not to buy this Munro coin.

Julian Leidman, an experienced coin dealer in Silver Spring, Md., says: “I almost never recommend numismatic material for investment. Numismatics is a luxury. If the coin should sell out in a day, that might produce a short-term bonanza for the buyer, but long-term is another story entirely.”

Of course, Munro’s work is another story entirely, too, and reading it is always a good investment.

U.S. customers can order coins from the Royal Canadian mint by calling 1-800-268-6468 or on the Internet.


Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.



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