World-first black nickel-plated coin wins top honour

The Royal Canadian Mint’s bi-metallic $2 circulation coin issued last December with a world-first black nickel-plated outer ring has been named the best new circulating coin by the International Association of Currency Affairs (IACA).

The victory came at the IACA’s 2023 Excellence in Currency Awards, a global competition introduced in 2007, with the award officially presented at the 2023 Currency Conference in Mexico. Developed by the Mint’s research and development team, the black nickel plating on the winning toonie’s outer ring echoes a mourning armband to represent the loss felt upon the late queen Elizabeth II’s death last Sept. 8.

“Queen Elizabeth II served as Canada’s head of state for seven decades, and for millions of Canadians, she was the only monarch they had ever known,” said Mint Master Marie Lemay, the Mint’s president and CEO since 2019. “By leveraging yet another Royal Canadian Mint innovation to create this special $2 circulation coin, we were able to offer Canadians an excellent way to remember her.”

The circulation coin launched on Dec. 7 as thousands of visitors flocked to the Mint’s Ottawa and Winnipeg boutiques to trade their loose change for an example, according to a statement from the Crown corporation.

The coin’s reverse (shown) features Brent Townsend’s traditional polar bear design on the inner core.


The Mint’s black-ringed mourning coin has proven popular with mainstream reports this May detailing what some dealers called unprecedented demand.

“I have never seen a coin with this kind of demand in the 52 years I’ve been doing this,” collector and dealer Colin Cutler, the Ontario-based owner of Collectors Corner Coins, told Global News. “There’s never been a coin that’s had this kind of response.”

With a mintage of about five million coins, it amounts to roughly one example for every eight Canadians, Cutler noted.

“So if you had one, seven of your friends couldn’t,” he told Global.

While Cutler was unable to acquire any examples from the Mint, which quickly sold out, he bought two boxes – 1,000 coins – worth $2,000 from a secondary seller. Within six weeks, he sold 700 coins for $8 each, he told Global, bringing in a return of $5,600. His listing on Facebook Marketplace, a popular online selling venue for both dealers and collectors, garnered more than 10,000 views compared to fewer than 100 views for his typical listings.

Another long-time dealer Jared Stapleton owns Metro Coin and Banknote in Toronto’s west end. He’s also sold thousands of dollars worth of the popular coin, he told Global, and many of the buyers haven’t been collectors or even royalists.

“They just wanted to have something from Queen Elizabeth from her death,” Stapleton, a Canadian Paper Money Society past president, told Global. “People really love the queen. Whether they’ve met her or not, I think they can relate to her.”

Stapleton acquired $20,000 worth of the toonies, and as of early May, he told Global he only had about $4,000 of them left after selling them to buyers from around the world, including Paraguay, Bolivia, Mexico and the United States.

Mint spokesperson Deneen Perrin told Global as of early May, about 4.4 million black-ringed toonies are in circulation so far.


The coin’s reverse features the traditional Brent Townsend polar bear design on the core with Susanna Blunt’s effigy of the late queen on the obverse.

While the metal composition of the coin remains unchanged, the outer ring is black.

Millions of coins entered the national coin distribution system in December, and additional volumes will be produced to meet ongoing demand.

The IACA introduced the Excellence in Currency Awards in 2007 to “promote and recognize excellence in currency issue, production, processing, management and distribution,” according to a statement from the Mint.

In past years, the Mint also found success with IACA awards, including:

  • the best new commemorative or test circulating coin for the Barbados $1 glow-in-the-dark “Flying Fish” in 2022;
  • the best currency initiative implemented in response to COVID-19, a special award, for the Mint’s recognition medal honouring Canada’s front-line workers and community difference makers in 2021;
  • the Mint’s tri-metal token technology under the best new coin product, feature or distribution innovation category in 2019;
  • the Canada 150 commemorative circulation coin program in the best new communications program category in 2017;
  • joint recognition with the Reserve Bank of New Zealand for New Zealand’s 50-cent Anzac 100th anniversary coloured circulation coin in the best new commemorative or test circulating coin category in 2015;
  • the Mint’s multi-ply plated steel $1 and $2 circulation coins with advanced security features, introduced in 2012, in the best new coin innovation category in 2013;
  • the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games commemorative circulation coin program in the best new coins series category in 2011; and
  • the 2006 25-cent pink ribbon circulation coin in the best new coin category in 2007.

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