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This article was published 3/4/2018 (834 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Stefan Michalak had a close encounter with a flying saucer in Whiteshell Provincial Park more than 50 years ago, but you could soon have one even closer — in your pocket.
That’s because Michalak and the Falcon Lake Incident are being immortalized in silver with a special limited-edition $20 coin being released by the Royal Canadian Mint today.
Michalak’s son, Stan, calls the coin "a super honour."
"I feel very privileged they are doing it... and if my dad was still around, he would be floored. He would be pleasantly surprised. And if my mother was still here, she would say everything has a reason. Everything is connected. You do something here and there will be repercussions," he said.
On one side of the coin is the standard engraving of the Queen, but on the other is a full-colour depiction of Stefan Michalak falling onto the ground, with forest and a lake behind him, while a flying saucer hovers above him.
Erica Maga, the mint’s product manager, said only 4,000 of the one-ounce silver coins are being produced. They will retail for $129.95.
"Part of our job is to discover these really interesting stories," Maga said, noting that during the research for the coin, they read last year’s Winnipeg Free Press feature on the 50th anniversary of the incident, headlined "Close encounter of the Manitoba kind."
The coin has two things to make it extra special, she said.
"This one has a very special technology to enhance the storytelling component," Maga said. "The reverse with Stefan and the UFO, if you use the black light flashlight sold with it, will make an otherworldly glow."
The coin is also not round. Special dies needed to be cast to allow for the creation of the specially ovoid-shaped blanks the coin is shaped in, so more time was needed to produce these compared to the ones in people’s pockets.
"We can only make a couple of hundred coins per shift. A lot of hands go into something like this," Maga said.
Although Winnipeg is home to the country’s main mint, which produces regular circulation coins, the Falcon Lake Incident coin was produced at the one in Ottawa, which creates special commemorative pieces, she said.
But if you’re thinking of buying the coin because you want to sell it when it goes up in value, that’s not necessarily going to happen, cautions Jasmine Allen, manager of Gatewest Coin on Corydon Avenue.
"The new stuff the mint produces is really hit or miss," Allen said. "When people are buying mint products, we recommend you have it because you enjoy it and not as an investment."
The younger Michalak, who last year co-wrote a book with Chris Rutkowski about the incident and his family’s experiences with the unwanted attention from authorities and the media, said he never would have thought someday a coin would commemorate the event.
"Who knows? Maybe the postal service will call me up. It wouldn’t surprise me now."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
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