Approaching Canada’s 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, the Great White North has another celebration to look forward to. The eleven sided one-dollar coin, commonly called a “loonie” will be celebrating its 30-year anniversary as Canada’s most popular coin.
Introduced to the public in June 30, 1987, the coin debuted to replace the dollar bills of old. The decision for the switch was to save the government approximately $200 million over 20 years in production cost. Given that a bill has a lifespan of less than a year, while coins last two decades, it is regarded as the right move. Besides the improvement in durability in Canadian currency, another factor makes the change a positively memorable one. The Loonie has long since come to represent a symbol of Canadian culture, perhaps rivalling even the maple leaf.
“It’s very fitting that during Canada 150, we are also celebrating one of the country’s most recognizable symbols.” said Sandra Hanington, President and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM). You would be hard-pressed to find an article about the strength of the Canadian dollar which doesn’t have the word “loonie” either in the title or opening paragraph.
The image of the loon was designed by wildlife artist Robert Ralph Carmichael. His hometown of Echo Bay, Ontario is home to a giant monument in his honour. The Loon Dollar Monument, also called the “Big Loonie”, is an oversized statue of Carmichael’s popular work that now serves as a tourist attraction.
The Loonie has taken a near-mythical status in recent years due to the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics. After 50 years, Canada had finally won gold at Men’s Ice Hockey. After the tournament, the team’s executive director, Wayne Gretzky pulled a loonie out of his pocket in front of the media and shared with them the secret of the team’s victory. According to Gretzky, the loonie had been secretly placed under the ice by icemakers and lead to both the Men’s and Women’s hockey teams winning gold that year. The story is so much a part of Canadian lore that the “lucky loonie” is displayed prominently at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
With the 30th anniversary of the beloved coin, the RCM will release a limited-edition commemorative set in celebration of loonie. The set includes a 99.99 percent pure silver edition of the classic design by Robert R. Carmichael. Alongside it, a second coin recreated the coin’s original (1935) design called the “Voyageur” featuring King George V in a kayak with a Native American fur trader.
This set is limited to 10,000 and available through RCM’s website.
Alex Correa | The Edge Blog