By Jeff Fournier
The year was 1967 and I was a wide-eyed, happy, somewhat rambunctious little four-year old. At the time, I didn’t know what the significance of that year was to Canada, but I had certainly noticed that odd-looking fish dime that I would eventually spend at the convenience store up the street. I was bedazzled by the beautiful wildcat on the quarter that my older brother had acquired. And the bird on the penny, with wings outstretched, was something very special that I would eventually squirrel away in my piggy bank. I remember riding the centennial train along Trout Lake in North Bay. And I certainly remember the official Canadian Centennial song. It played almost daily on the radio and the television and reverberated in my little head all year long: “CA-NA-DA (one little, two little, three Canadians), weeeee love thee….”
The year 1967 – it was what Pierre Burton referred to as, “The Last Good Year”, in his book of the same name.
I’m not sure if that’s true, but I do know that in that year, more than any other, Canada’s people realized they had finally become a nation. Canadians from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast, from the Arctic Circle to the U.S. border, wanted to show the world that over the past 100 years, Canada had indeed come of age.
By September of 1961, an act respecting the observance of the Centennial of Confederation in Canada received Royal Assent and was proclaimed law. The act stated that, “There shall be a corporation to be called the National Centennial Administration” (in 1963, its name would be changed to “Centennial Commission”).
Plans soon got underway for a celebration – the likes of which Canadians had never seen before.
The world exposition, held in Montreal, was certainly the big event that year. To this day, “Expo ’67” is still regarded by many as the best world’s fair ever. Its success changed the world’s view of Canada.
Smaller events and celebrations were held throughout the year as well, in every corner of the country. Centennial parks were opened. Centennial cookbooks were printed. Centennial festivals, concerts and all manner of sporting events were held in honour of the centennial year.
Numismatically speaking, 1967 was huge. World renowned wildlife artist Alex Colville designed a series of coins that to this day, are still a favourite among many coin collectors. A $20 gold piece was issued, which was the first denominated gold piece that had been struck for Canadians since 1914. And the Bank of Canada issued a special one dollar note to mark the occasion.
But that was not the end of the numismatic offerings to commemorate Canada’s centennial. The Royal Canadian Mint struck over 5.5 million medallions that were distributed to school children that year.
Coin clubs, municipalities, businesses and private individuals also joined the centennial spirit and produced commemorative medals, tokens and scrip to help everyone revel in the celebration.
Now as we enter 2016, we are suddenly just one year away from celebrating another significant anniversary – Canada’s 150th.
The Canadian government has been planning for next year’s big event for some time now. What about you? As a numismatist, how will you be contributing to the celebration in 2017? Does your club have any plans to issue a commemorative medal or token to mark Canada’s anniversary? Will you be holding any special conferences, coin shows or exhibitions next year? What will your part be in Canada 150?
The Canadian Centennial Collector’s Club, which was formed in 2014, caters to collectors of 1967 Canadian numismatic items. They’re working toward issuing a catalogue of these interesting medals and tokens. They’re also trying to educate collectors and non-collectors about this fascinating field. We will be looking at the club in this issue of Canadian Coin News. We’ll also be taking a look at centennial collecting – how to start a collection, as well as some of the medals and tokens that one might consider when assembling a collection.