Exploring Cities with Postcards: Victoria

Victoria, the capital city of the Canadian province of British Columbia, is on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada’s Pacific coast. The city has a population of 85,792, while the metropolitan area of Greater Victoria has a population of 367,770, making it the 15th most populous Canadian metropolitan area. Victoria is the 7th most densely populated city in Canada with 4,405.8 people per square kilometre, which is a greater population density than Toronto.


s-l1600 (40)The Empress Hotel

The Fairmont Empress, formerly and commonly referred to as The Empress, is one of the oldest hotels in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The hotel was designed by Francis Rattenbury, and was built by Canadian Pacific Hotels, a division of the Canadian Pacific Railway company.

The Chateauesque was designed by Francis Rattenbury for Canadian Pacific Hotels as a terminus hotel for Canadian Pacific’s steamship line, whose main terminal was just a block away. The hotel was to serve business people and visitors to Victoria, but later as Canadian Pacific ceased its passenger services to the city, the hotel was successfully remarketed as a resort to tourists. Victoria emerged as a tourist destination beginning in the mid-to-late 1920s.

The hotel was built between 1904 and 1908, opening for service in that year. Additional wings were added between 1909 and 1914, and in 1928.

Famously, in the 1930s, Shirley Temple arrived accompanied by her parents amid rumours that she had fled from California because of kidnapping threats, a story borne from the presence of two huge bodyguards who took the room opposite hers and always left their door open. On May 30, 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth attended a luncheon at the Empress during their 1939 royal tour of Canada.


s-l1600-41.jpgButchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens is a group of floral display gardens in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia, Canada, located near Victoria on Vancouver Island. The gardens receive over a million visitors each year. The gardens have been designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

Robert Pim Butchart (1856–1943) began manufacturing Portland cement in 1888 near his birthplace of Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada. He and his wife Jennie Butchart (1866–1950) came to the west coast of Canada because of rich limestone deposits necessary for cement production.

In 1904, they established their home near his quarry on Tod Inlet at the base of the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island.

In 1907, 65-year-old garden designer Isaburo Kishida of Yokohama came to Victoria, at the request of his son, to build a tea garden for Esquimalt Gorge Park. This garden was wildly popular and a place to be seen. Several prominent citizens, Jennie Butchart among them, commissioned Japanese gardens from Kishida for their estates. He returned to Japan in 1912.

In 1909, when the limestone quarry was exhausted, Jennie set about turning it into the Sunken Garden, which was completed in 1921. They named their home “Benvenuto” (“welcome” in Italian), and began to receive visitors to their gardens. In 1926, they replaced their tennis courts with an Italian garden and in 1929 they replaced their kitchen vegetable garden with a large rose garden to the design of Butler Sturtevant of Seattle. Samuel Maclure, who was consultant to the Butchart Gardens, reflected the aesthetic of the English Arts and Crafts Movement.


s-l1600-42.jpgBeacon Hill Park
Beacon Hill Park is a 75 ha (200 acre) park located along the shore of Juan de Fuca Strait in Victoria, British Columbia. The park is popular both with tourists and locals, and contains a number of amenities including woodland and shoreline trails, two playgrounds, a waterpark, playing fields, a petting zoo, tennis courts, many ponds, and landscaped gardens.

The land was originally set aside as a protected area by Sir James Douglas, governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1858. In 1882, the land was officially made a municipal park of the City of Victoria, and given its present name. The name is derived from a small hill overlooking the Strait, upon which once stood navigational beacons. The hill is culturally significant, having been a burial site for the First Nations Coast Salish people, who are the original inhabitants of the Greater Victoria region. It provides scenic vistas of the Strait and the Olympic Mountains of Washington.

Although much of the park has been landscaped into gardens and playing fields, and populated with various structures, a great deal of the native flora has been preserved. Garry oak, arbutus, Douglas-fir, western redcedar, camas, trillium, snowberry, Oregon grape, and fawn lily still remain in the park. Raccoons, river otters, squirrels, and many types of birds are frequently to be seen. The ponds in the park are noted for their swans, turtles, ducks, Canada geese, and blue herons


s-l1600-43.jpgBritish Columbia Parliament Buildings

From 1856 to 1860 the Legislature of the Colony of Vancouver Island met at Bachelor’s Hall at Fort Victoria. From 1860 to 1898 it was housed in the first permanent building at Legislative Hall or Legislative Council Court, a two-storey wooden building along with four other buildings (Land Office, Colonial Office, Supreme Court, and Treasury) known colloquially as “The Birdcages” because of their shape (burned 1957).

Construction of a new Parliament Building was first authorized by an act of the provincial legislature in 1893, the Parliament Buildings Construction Act. The province, anxious to commemorate its growing economic, social and political status, was engaged in an architectural competition to build a new legislative building in Victoria, after outgrowing “The Birdcages”, which were notoriously drafty and leaked in wet weather. Francis Rattenbury, a recent English immigrant, 25 years old, entered the contest and signed his drawings with the pseudonym “A B.C. Architect”. He progressed to the second round, signing his drawing “For Queen and Province” and eventually won the competition.

Despite many problems, including exceeding budget—the original budget was $500,000; the final amount was $923,000—the British Columbia Parliament Buildings began operation officially during 1898. The grand scale of its 500-foot (150 m) long andesite façade, central dome and two end pavilions, the richness of its white marble, and combination of Baroque rigorous symmetry, use of domes and sculptural massing with the rusticated surfaces of the currently popular Romanesque Revival style contributed to its being an innovative and impressive monument for the young province.

Click here to check out our range of Victoria Postcards

Coins: Haunted Canada, The Day of the Dead, Zombies

What’s a better way to get into the Halloween spirit than to add some ‘frightening’ coins to your collection? Here is just a sample of some coin series’ that have come out throughout the years that might just fulfill that love of all things spooky in your soul.

Haunted Canada Coin Trilogy

The Royal Canadian Mint released the Haunted Canada Coin Series, a coin series that aims to bring to life some of Canada’s legendary ghost stories. Coin collectors, who are interested in ghost stories and tragic love stories, should find this coin series intriguing.

hc2The Ghost Bride Coin
A 2014 25-Cent Cupronickel Coin, the Haunted Canada: Ghost Bride, features a portrait of a bride with her eyes closed. Until you tilt the coin and her eyes open and the once black background is filled with lit candles. Below the bride there is also an image of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the 6th most haunted hotel in the world according to some sources.

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel was built in 1888, located in the picturesque town of Banff, Alberta, the heart of Banff National Park. The luxury mountain getaway is legendary for its hospitality and attracts travelers, nature lovers and members of high society year-round. Legend has it that a ghost bride has been haunting the place since a fatal accident in the 1930s. The ghost bride stumbled and fell to her death down a curving stone staircase in the hotel: this happened shortly before the start of the wedding banquet. Stories have circulated for years now “about an apparition in a white wedding dress that moves quietly up and down the aforementioned staircase in the hotel.” There are some that even claim to have seen the bride dancing alone, the very same bride that was denied a first dance with her husband.

hc1Brakeman Coin
The second coin in the series debuted in 2015 and features Canada’s headless brakeman. In one image, the dark train tunnel is suddenly illuminated by the bright glow of a lantern as an otherworldly figure emerges before the viewer, dressed in a railway uniform from 1928. Chillingly, the brakeman appears without a head, with two small, glowing orbs that create the illusion of eyes peering out towards the viewer. When the coin is tilted to the other side, the light suddenly goes out, leaving the viewer alone in the darkness with this shadowy presence, as the ill-fated brakeman continues his eternal walk along the train tracks.

Outside the Waterfront Station, situated at the western end of Gastown, Vancouver, the ghost of a rail worker is sometimes seen on rainy nights. In 1928, the unfortunate brakeman, Hub Clark, was killed while he was making repairs in the rail yard. He slipped on the wet tracks and was knocked unconscious. Horrifically, a passenger train came along and ran him over, decapitating him. Since then, some have reported seeing the headless brakeman roaming the tracks, his lantern glowing in his hand. Others say they’ve seen him in different parts of Gastown. Does he think he’s still on the job or, even worse, is the poor man looking for his lost head?

hcBell Island Coin
The final 2016 coin in the series tells the myth of Bell Island. The coin features the glow of a hand-held lantern providing the only light for one anxious young man, who is making his way through the marshes near Dobbin’s Gardens. The first image finds the young man nervously looking over his shoulder, as behind him, an ethereal female figure dressed in white appears to hover over him. Tilting the coin to the other side reveals a frightening transformation: the ghost’s youthful appearance has suddenly aged while the facial features and hands are twisted in a terrifying manner!

Dobbin’s Garden on Bell Island is home, supposedly, to the “Bell Island hag.” This legend dates back to the Second World War, when German U-boats attacked the island. The story goes that a group of German sailors had secretly landed on the island to resupply their U-boat with the help of local sympathizers.

An unfortunate woman came upon the scene and was dragged into the marsh and killed. Locals, fearing a fairy trick, ignored her cries for help, and her restless spirit is said to still plague the site. Witnesses have described what initially looks like a woman in white walking up from the marsh after sunset.

As the thing gets closer, the colour starts to go gray, and then the thing falls to its knees and starts to crawl on all fours like a dog,” Crane says.

The creature’s “wormed-out face” and foul, sulfuric smell then knock out the unfortunate spectator.


Day of the Dead Skull Coins

Skull coins struck by Lichtenstein’s Coin Invest Trust for the Republic of Palau have proved highly popular. The Día de Muertos – Day of the Dead – is a Mexican holiday that is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. Celebrated at the end of October the iconic skull or calavera makeup based on the famous La Catrina skeleton adorns many faces and is nowadays prominently featured in pop culture and art.

The Mexican Day of the Dead celebration is similar to other societies’ observances of a time to honor the dead. The Spanish tradition, for instance, includes festivals and parades, as well as gatherings of families at cemeteries to pray for their deceased loved ones at the end of the day. People go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.

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Zombucks is an apocalyptic inspired series by the Provident Mint. The undead collection has 10 historical figures and coin designs that fall victim to the zombie apocalypse. The coins are produced in silver and copper bullion and proof versions. The coins include: the saint, dying eagle, slayed dollar, starving liberty, feast dollar, murk diem, the barber, american zombuff, morgue anne, and walker.

The Texas-based company tapped into the horror genre vein, replacing the dollar sign with a Z and employing futuristic dates on the rounds, suggesting a Zombie apocalypse in the not-too-distant future (2017 to 2019 dates appear on the rounds). The reverse of each round features a zombie-splattered biohazard symbol, warning the world of a dreadful new era.

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This post is apart of our 13 days of Halloween series. Checkout our other spooky posts:

  1. Washington Ghost Stories
  2. Out of Place Artifacts
  3. Henry Rathbone
  4. Charon and the Journey to Hades
  5. Post-Mortem Photography
  6. All Hallows Eve Divination Games
  7. Saved By The Bell and other Idioms
  8. Halloween Coins
  9. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. Coins Connecting You to the Spirit World
  11. Ancient Egyptian Alien Coins
  12. Superstitions Around the World
  13. A Brief History of Halloween

Coin and Currency Sites to Visit on Your Vacation: Canada Edition

If you are heading out on vacation or planning one in the near future; there’s no reason not to celebrate your hobby on the road! Here’s a list of coin- and currency-related attractions and exhibits that you can visit while traversing across Canada! And don’t forget to check out our part one; with stops in all 50 states.


ExhibitsBritannia Beach, BC: The Britannia Mine Museum, is on the site of a working mine from the last century. Learn about historical mining practices and take an underground tour into the mine.


Yellowknife, NT: Visit the small town of Yellowknife; the inspiration of the Yellowknife, Caribou Carnival coin and the Centennial Buck. Not only that but take a tour and learn the town’s history which may or may not be rooted in gold.


Calgary, AB: Contact the University of Calgary and you may get a chance to take a peek at their numismatic collection. The large founding donation was presented to the University of Calgary in 1980 by Carl O. Nickle; the collection includes over 1,000 coins.


Winnipeg, MB: At The Royal Canadian Mint Winnipeg Facility, you can learn how coins are made by joining an interactive tour, discover how the Mint has made over 55 billion coins for more than 75 countries around the world, and learn how massive strips of metal meet 50-ton presses to produce over 1000 coins per second.


RCM2005Ottawa, ON: At The Royal Canadian Mint Ottawa Facility, you can learn how coins are made by joining an interactive tour, see the famous Vancouver 2010 athlete medals, and learn about the largest coin ever produced.


The Bank of Canada Museum, is located in the heart of Canada’s central bank. The museum has four famous collections including 5 Cents: Canada, 1943 and $10 Bill, Bank of Montreal: Canada, 1859. The museum also has a number of permanent and rotating exhibits such as the psychology of economic expectations as reflected by your own needs and spending habits.


Montreal, QC: If you happen to be visiting in November, you can go to one of the largest coin shows in Canada: Nuphilex. Featuring both stamp and coin collecting in one venue, this show began in 1981. With over 55 dealers and 1,000 visitors per day!


Bell Island, NL: Take the Bell Island Mine Tour and dive underground to see the mine that was in operation from 1895 – 1966. Then, at their museum travel back in time and feel how it was to experience the German U-boat attacks in 1942.


2016-05-19_1713St. John’s, NL: Visit The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum to learn of the regiment’s history. The museum is home to hundreds of medals and other artifacts.


Glace Bay, NS: Another mining museum, the Cape Breton Miners Museum is situated in an old mining village. You can take a mine tour and learn about the village’s history of mining. The tour is unique in that retired coal miners are your guides!

How An Unsolved Theft Created An Iconic Coin


The dollar and its predecessors (like the peso) have been a staple of trade and economics for years. Dollar coins go in and out of favor as consumer preferences change; sometimes it’s more convenient to carry bills than coins, and other times, coins are preferred.


s-l1600-5When the Canadian government decided to reissue their dollar coin in 1987, it seemed like a simple decision. Coins were in increasing demand, and the old dollar coin had been popular, at least at first (a later nickel version of the coin had proved less popular, leading to its demise.) In fact, they initially intended to use the same design. Known as the “voyageur dollar,” this coin had a design of a voyageur (an unlicensed fur trader) and a native man in a canoe on the reverse.


What happened next is a source of some debate. The Royal Canadian Mint insists that the dies for the coins were simply lost in transit on the way from Ottawa to Winnipeg. The dies were last seen when they were handed over to a courier on November 3, 1986. The use of a courier service was, in itself, a “breach of accepted security procedures.”


Many people believe the dies were actually stolen, some going so far as to insist that the courier was a plant, and that the dies were intercepted by a counterfeiting ring. This explanation is given more plausibility given that the courier was never asked for identification. To add insult to injury, both the obverse and reverse dies were sent in the same shipment, instead of being sent separately. Anyone who had the shipment had access to the entire official design.


While we will probably never know who ended up with the dies, or where they are, the government decided to err on the side of caution. The quickly adopted a new design, rendering the missing dies useless for counterfeiting. This new design still featured Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse, but the reverse had been changed to a scene of a loon on a placid lake.



That’s right: the iconic “loonie” only exists because of a massive mistake and a counterfeiting ring.

The First Christmas Stamps

Those who celebrate Christmas traditionally send Christmas cards, so why shouldn’t there be Christmas stamps, too?

It’s a little unclear what country made the first Christmas stamp, but it was most likely Canada, though it’s not the most festive stamp around – it’s only considered a Christmas stamp because of the inscription “XMAS 1898” near the bottom. The stamp features a map highlighting the British empire in red, with the words “Canada Postage” at the top.

The reason for the “XMAS” addition to the stamp reportedly comes from a story of quick-thinking on William Mulock’s part: he proposed the stamp be issued on November 9th to “honor the Prince” (the Prince of Wales). But Queen Victoria asked “What Prince?” in a critical tone, and Mulock countered with “Why, madam, the Prince of Peace.” That’s some quick thinking, Mulock.


Austria issued its own Christmas stamps in 1937 featuring a rose and zodiac signs. And in 1939, Brazil issued its own, decidedly more Christmassy, stamps featuring the three kings, a star, and an angel. The first Nativity stamp emerged from Hungary in 1943.

The U.S. had its own Christmas stamp debate in the 1960’s. To that date the country had never issued stamps honoring the holiday, and the USPS hesitated due to the separation of church and state. But high demand for Christmas stamps won out. The USPS printed 350 million four-cent stamps with a wreath and two candles. The stamps quickly sold out. By the end of the print run that year, a billion of the stamps had been issued, the most special stamps printed at that time.

Christmas stamps are popular among collectors. There’s no doubt that holiday stamps have made a mark in the stamp world.

Do you collect Christmas stamps?

“The Devil’s Hair” Canadian Banknote Controversy

Official currency printed by the government can be prone to mistakes – or, in the case of the 1954 ‘Devil’s Hair’ Canadian bank note, prone to accidental hidden images.

In 1952 the Bank of Canada asked George Gundersen from the British American Bank Note Company to design a bill featuring Queen Elizabeth II. Gundersen based his design on a photographic portrait of the Queen, only changing it slightly to remove her crown and add detail to the top of her hair.

Straightforward enough, right? But the illustration turned out a little different than expected.

All seemed fine until the government put the bill in circulation, when someone complained to the Bank of Canada that they could see the devil’s face in the Queen’s hair. Soon multiple complaints poured in.

Seeing patterns, especially faces, in random data is an almost universal human trait called ‘apophenia’.

They saw the image just over the Queen’s left ear: a grinning demon with horns embedded in the Queen’s hair, the threatening shape formed by the coiffed curls and highlights of her hair. Was this some kind of conspiracy?

The image in question, showing a grinning face with horns.

The image in question, showing a grinning face with horns.

Of course this alarmed the bank, and in 1956 they modified the design to NOT show a devilish grinning face, by darkening the highlights of the hair.

Though some looked for an explanation of the occurence, most attributed it to coincidence. Some suspected the bill designer of planting the face, but he denied any claims.

Years later, some claimed Her Majesty’s portrait photographer, Peter-Dirk Uys, (who took the offending ‘devil’s hair’ portrait) as a follower of Aleister Crowley, an acclaimed devil-worshipper. However, there is no concrete evidence to that claim, and so any conspiracies to that point cannot be proven.

The light probably just so happened to fall on the Queen’s hair in such a way in the original photo, which Gundersen engraved in exact detail for the note.

Now, thanks to a few citizens’ observant eyes and the resulting short issue period of the bill, the “Devil’s Face” banknote is a valued collector’s item. After all, it’s not every day that you find a demon grinning at you from royalty’s hair.


With a closer detail outlining the face

A more detailed account