On today’s date in 1987, the “loonie” entered circulation as 80 million $1 coins were introduced to major cities across Canada.
Two years later, the Bank of Canada ceased production of the $1 banknote, which it claimed to be 20 times less durable than coinage. At the time, it was the most significant change to Canada’s coinage system in more than 50 years.
The Government of Canada introduced the $1 coin as a cost-saving measure. It was instantly dubbed the “loonie” because of the solitary loon gracing its reverse.
Interestingly, the original master dies for the $1 coin – which depicted a motif of a voyageur – were lost on their way to Winnipeg in November 1986. Because the dies for both sides of the coin were shipped together, it was possible a counterfeiter could obtain them a wreak havoc on Canada’s coinage system.
The government authorized a redesign, which depicted the lonely loon. Designed by Northern Ontario wildlife artist Robert-Ralph Carmichael and engraved by Royal Canadian Mint engraver Terrence N.E. Smith, the original loonies were struck in 91.5 per cent nickel and 8.5 per cent bronze and had a weight of 7 grams, a diameter of 26.72 mm and a thickness of 1.95 mm.
The $1 coin is 11-sided and is produced at the Mint’s Winnipeg facility, along with the rest of Canada’s circulation coins. Since 1987, 1.5 billion loonies have been produced.