Monday, July 02, 2007

Twenty years ago, on June 30th, 1987 the Royal Canadian Mint released the first edition of Canada's one dollar coin, soon to be dubbed 'The Loonie'. The obverse features Queen Elizabeth II, and the reverse usually features a picture of the common loon. The loon's portrait is actually inaccurate as it sits too high on the water, more like a Mallard than a loon. It's possible that 'The Duckie' would be just as accurate a nickname of The Loonie. In 2006 the Royal Canadian Mint copyrighted the term "Loonie". Molly thought the government had a monopoly on this term long before this. From the time of release Canada's old one dollar bills were gradually withdrawn from circulation and destroyed.
The original design for the reverse was to have been a voyager theme, but the dies for this disappeared in transit to the Winnipeg Mint. According to government statements the new loon design was brought forward to avoid the possibility of counterfeiting. Well, Molly can just imagine counterfeiters renting a huge warehouse with metallurgic facilities so they could produce fake dollar coins at a cost 0f 99 cents per copy, without, of course, having the dies for the face of the coin. It seems much more likely than producing $100 bills with a printer that can fit in the back of an apartment at a cost of 1/10 th of cent per copy. Like many other things the dies were likely simply lost in transit and are presently sitting in a government warehouse somewhere in Thunder Bay.
The term "loonie" translates into French as "huard", much harder to make into a cutesy nickname. The present composition of the coin is 91.5% nickel and 8.5% bronze (added by electroplating to give it its "false gold" exterior). Several commemorative editions have been issued with designs other than the loon. One wonders if these should be referred to as "half loonies" ? In 1992 a special 125th anniversary of Confederation coin was issued with children and the Parliament Buildings on the reverse. The regular loon design was also used with a double date of 1867-1992 in some other coins minted that year. 1994 featured a remembrance design with the National War Memorial in Ottawa. The Peacekeeping Monument was featured on some coins struck in 1995, and in 2004 the 'Lucky Loonie' coin was produced. Another one of these was struck in 2006 for the 2006 Winter Olympics. The government plans to issue two Olympic themed coins on the occasion of the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver-Whistler. The Terry Fox coin was issued in 2005.
The legend of the 'Lucky Loonie' as a good luck charm for international competition in hockey and curling began at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City when the Canadian icemaker Trent Evans buried a coin at centre ice. The face off area at Salt Lake was covered by a large logo without the usual circle as a target for the puck drop. The loonie served as a visible dot to target the drop. Both the mens' and womens' teams won gold that year. Team Canada director Wayne Gretzky recovered the coin and donated it to the Hockey Hall of Fame. At the same Olympics the curling team won a silver medal with a line of silver-coloured quarters buried under the ice. At the 2006 Winter Olympics they seemed to have learned and buried two loonies at either end of the ice. That year they won gold. The hockey team didn't bury a loonie that year, and the men's team finished out of the medals. The women's team however, still won gold.
Despite its legend as the quintessestial Canadian coin for the last two years the blanks of the coins have been produced by the US Jarden Zinc Company in Tennessee. Once this matter came out the Mint came up with plans to produce the coins in Canada. Because the American company, however, holds the production patent the manufacturing process will have to change. The plan is to replace the bronze plating with brass. There is a question about whether vending machines will be able to recognize the new coins. The Mint says that they will according to their tests, but don't forget that these are the people who can't handle a simple shipment.


Saskboy said...

At the Winnipeg Mint, they say the dies turned up not long after they went missing, but didn't want to chance that they'd been cast.

mollymew said...

God only knows where they are today. Or where they went on their travels for that matter