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Canadian History for Kids: The Loonie

May 8, 1987 – Royal Canadian Mint unveils one-dollar coin to replace the paper dollar.

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive, looks at The Loonie!

On May 8, 1987, the Royal Canadian Mint unveiled the one dollar coin. The 11-sided gold coloured coin has the image of a loon on one side and the image of Queen Elizabeth II on the other side.

Canada’s first attempted at a dollar coin was in 1935 with the silver dollar coin celebrating the 24th anniversary of George V’s reign as king. The coin had the image of a voyageur paddling a canoe on one side and King George on the reverse side. After 1967 the coin was composed mostly of nickel. The coin was not widely circulated because of its size and weight.

Then in 1982 the Royal Canadian Mint started work on a new dollar coin hoping for more circulation. In 1985 a Commons Committee recommended the dollar bill be eliminated and the government confirmed that they would save millions by changing to coins. It was argued that the bills have to be replaced yearly whereas the coins could last at least 20 years.

On March 25, 1986, the government announced that the new dollar coin was to be out the next year and that the dollar bill would be eventually eliminated. While it would cost approximately 30 million dollars to create 300 million coins it was estimated they would bring in 40 million dollars per year. It was decided that 60 million dollars over the next five years would be used to fund the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

It was also announce that the coin would be using the voyageur image of the previous silver/nickel dollar coin. Unfortunately the master art used were lost in transit en route from the Winnipeg facility of the Royal Canadian Mint. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police was brought in to investigate and believed the art were simply lost in transit. The Royal Canadian Mint argued that they were stolen. The dies were never found.

The government therefore approved a new design. Robert-Ralph Carmichael, a Canadian artist, created the design of a loon floating in water. The dollar coin quickly became nicknamed the “loonie”.

On June 30, 1987 80 million loonies were circulated across Canada. Two years later the dollar bill was no longer being produced.

During the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics a loonie was placed at centre ice. After the men’s hock team won the coin was dug up and given to Wayne Gretzky who mentioned the “lucky loonie” at a press conference after the game. The lucky loonie was then donated to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The loonie was also buried during Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics. The Royal Canadian Mint has since released a commemorative luck loonie for each Olympic Games since 2004.

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!

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