Pope John Paul II gold coin

A new 99.99 per cent pure gold coin will commemorate Pope John Paul II's canonization. It depicts a scene from his first visit to Canada in 1984 and will sell for $649.95. (Royal Canadian Mint)

The Royal Canadian Mint is planning to issue pure gold and pure silver coins to commemorate the upcoming canonization of Pope John Paul II.

The mint will produce a 99.99 per cent pure gold coin with a face value of $25. Only 1,500 will be made. Each will sell for $649.95.

A 99.99 per cent pure fine silver coin, with a face value of $10 will also be minted. Just 8,500 of the silver coins will be made. They will retail for $69.95 each.

Both coins can be ordered from the mint as of April 1. They'll also be available through the mint's network of retail dealers.

The coins will feature a picture of Pope John Paul II celebrating Mass during his first visit to Canada in 1984.

"Pope John Paul II was not only the first Roman Catholic pope in history to visit Canada, but a church leader whose pontificate featured many firsts around the world," said Ian E. Bennett, the CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint, in a statement.

Big profits

While the mint is marketing these coins as "beautiful additions for any collector or stunning gifts for history buffs," there's also no question that they are also likely to help generate big profits for the Crown corporation.

The mint now makes big money by making money — especially the many commemorative gold and silver coins that are sold to collectors. The markups on these coins can be high. For the papal gold coin, for instance, the quarter ounce of gold in the coin is worth about $357 Cdn. But the coin is priced almost $300 higher. 

Among the gold coins on offer this year is a one-kilogram solid gold coin that marks the Chinese zodiac's year of the horse. It can be yours for $69,000, even though it contains only $46,000 worth of gold at today's prices.  

The mint also makes the popular gold and silver maple leaf coins. In 2012, the mint sold 883,048 maple leaf gold coins, which contain one ounce of pure gold.

It also sold more than 18 million of the silver coins, which contain one ounce of silver.

The mint also designs and manufactures coins for many other countries.

All that has resulted in a solid bottom line for the mint. In 2012, it reported a pretax profit of $40.7 million on sales of $2.58 billion. 

The mint isn't solely concerned with making special commemorative coins. It still makes the pocket change Canadians use every day, which means minting more than a billion nickels, dimes, quarters, loonies and toonies each year.