Loonie tune-up? Coin sees changes on 25th anniversary
Published Tuesday, July 3, 2012 8:59AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 3, 2012 9:14AM EDT
If everything had gone according to plan, the loonie would never have come into existence -- at least not in its current form.
The iconic one-dollar coin, which celebrated its 25th anniversary on Saturday, was originally supposed to feature a depiction of a voyageur travelling by canoe, as a nod to the trappers and fur traders who helped explore and settle Canada.
But as the dies for the brand new coin were being transported from Ottawa to Winnipeg in 1987 they mysteriously disappeared, and the Royal Canadian Mint had to come up with a Plan B quickly, before counterfeiters could use the dies.
Ontario artist Robert Ralph Carmichael soon came up with the now-unmistakable design featuring a loon cruising across a serene lake, and the coin was instantly dubbed the "loonie," said Christine Aquino, director of communications for the Royal Canadian Mint.
She said the coin, which replaced the one-dollar paper bill, quickly grew on Canadians.
"When the loonie was first introduced you can understand it was the first major change in Canadian coin in 50 years, so it took a little bit of time to get used to but it soon found its way into the hearts of Canadians," Aquino told CTV's Canada AM.
"The term 'the loonie,' for example, is not something that was created by the Royal Canadian Mint, it was a grassroots organic movement by Canadians, it really won our hearts and it's been a Canadian icon ever since."
The coin has seen a number of changes over the years. Most recently, its composition has changed. The coin was traditionally made from nickel, but now has a steel core and is plated with brass -- a change which has annoyed many Canadians who find their coins no longer work in parking meters because their weight has changed.
And over its 25 years, 13 commemorative loonies have been produced, including lucky Olympic loonies, a Montreal Canadiens coin, and the version that paid tribute to the 25th anniversary of Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope in 2005.
"He became the first Canadian-born individual ever to be featured on a circulation coin, and you can still find that in your change along with some others we've produced," Aquino said.
Most recently, the Mint has struck a special version of the coin commemorating its 25th birthday. Only 15,000 of the silver coins have been produced, and will be available for purchase beginning on July 16, on the Mint's website and at Canada Post outlets, for $34.95 each.
The new coin was designed by Carmichael, the Ontario artist who came up with the original design, and features two loons passing each other on a lake. While one looks to the coin's past, the other looks to its future.
Facts about the loonie:
- The Mint has produced 1.5 billion loonies since 1987.
- The coin was brought in as a cost-saving measure, because coins were projected to last 20 years, while a paper bill at the time has a less than one-year life expectancy.
- Ottawa predicted it would save $175 million over 20 years with the coin.
- The 11-sided-edge coin was much easier for the visually-impaired to identify.
- The original dies that went missing in transit between Ottawa and Winnipeg, featuring a voyageur in a canoe, were never found.