Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

As the loonie turns 25, a look back at its significant history

  • Print

THE loonie, that brassy bird inhabiting millions of pockets and purses across Canada, has turned 25 years old -- a milestone being marked by the Royal Canadian Mint with the release of a new silver collector coin that finally gives the lonely lake-dweller a swimming companion.

The anniversary recalls the bizarre events surrounding the birth of the one-dollar coin in 1987, when the templates for the intended design -- the classic canoe scene used for decades on Canada's silver dollar -- mysteriously went missing while being couriered between the mint's Ottawa headquarters and its Winnipeg production facility.

"They have never been found," the mint's communications director, Christine Aquino, told Postmedia News.

Concerned about the counterfeit risk, the mint scrapped plans for the canoe buck. The agency happened to have a proposed coin design in reserve -- a loon drifting along a northern shoreline, by Echo Bay, Ont., artist Robert Ralph Carmichael -- and scrambled to put that image on the first batch of metal dollars in time for the coin's scheduled, nationwide release on June 30, 1987.

In 1992, Echo Bay erected a giant statue of the coin -- the "Loon Dollar Monument" -- rivalling nearby Sudbury's famous Big Nickel.

The introduction of the 11-sided loonie "was the most significant change to Canada's coinage in over 50 years," said Aquino, noting the scrapping of the $1 bill vastly increased the lifespan of the average dollar and presaged the introduction of the polar bear "toonie" in 1996.

She said the switch to loonies was pushed by various interest groups across Canada, including transit companies eager to end the use of small-denomination paper money.

"Organizations for the visually impaired, which we consulted with quite extensively back then, really appreciated the coin's 11-sided shape," she added.

The coin went on achieve mythic status at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics when a "lucky loonie" was secretly placed at centre ice by Canadian icemaker Trent Evans ahead of the gold-medal match -- won by Canada over the hosting U.S., this country's first Olympic hockey title in 50 years.

Capitalizing on the story, the mint has struck special "lucky loonie" coins before each subsequent Olympic Games.

The loonie also made history in 2005 when Terry Fox -- the heroic one-legged runner whose 1980 Marathon of Hope raised millions of dollars for cancer research -- became the first Canadian-born individual depicted on a Canadian circulation coin. The 2005 loonie celebrated the 25th anniversary of Fox's epic marathon across Canada, which ended in Northern Ontario with a recurrence of his cancer. The illness claimed his life in 1981.

Earlier this year, after the minting of about 1.5 billion loonies since 1987, the coin was given its first major production makeover in a quarter-century.

The 2012 loonie is the first edition of the coin to be made of multi-ply, brass-plated steel -- at 6.27 grams, a slightly lighter composition than the original nickel-core loonie.


-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2012 B3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Key of Bart - Four Little Games

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local- (Standup Photo). Watcher in the woods. A young deer peers from the forest while eating leaves by Cricket Drive in Assiniboine Park. A group of eight deer were seen in the park. 060508.

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google