On today’s date in 2012, the Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a new generation of $1 and $2 coins (loonies and toonies, respectively) with updated laser-etched security features and a patented multi-ply plated steel technology, making for longer-lasting coinage.
Instead of traditional alloys, the current loonies and toonies are manufactured using the same multi-ply plated steel technology as Canada’s 25-, 10- and five-cent circulation coins. The process covers a steel core with alternating layers of metals such as copper, nickel and brass.
While the new loonie kept its traditional loon design, there was one visible change: a single laser-marked maple leaf is positioned within a circle on the coin’s reverse, around the loon design. The laser marks are produced during the coin-striking process using a contrasting pattern micro-engraved on the die. With a diameter of 26.5 millimetres and a height of 1.95 millimetres, the current loonies weigh 6.27 grams.
Similar to the loonie, the updated toonie has an additional two laser-marked maple leaves, each within a circle, at the bottom of the coin’s reverse. Edge-lettering of the words “CANADA” and “2 DOLLARS” are engraved along the coin’s outer edge. With a diameter of 28 millimetres and a height of 1.75 millimetres, the current toonies weigh 6.92 grams. Before 2012, the toonie consisted of an aluminum bronze inner core with a pure nickel outer ring; however, the composition of the inner core switched to aluminum bronze coated with multi-ply plated brass, and the outer ring switched to steel coated with multi-ply plated nickel following the changes. The Mint stated the multi-ply plated steel technology, already used in Canada’s smaller coinage, produced an electromagnetic signature that’s more difficult to counterfeit than regular alloy coins.
Not everyone loved the updated coinage.
While the update was expected to save taxpayers about $16 million annually, it cost the country’s coin-operated industries about $40 million in recalibration costs, according to the federal government.
Soon after the coins were issued, CBC News reported they were creating problems in the vending industry.
“Lighter loonies and toonies are creating problems for those who use coin-operated machines, including municipalities which must upgrade their equipment to accept the new coins,” explained the 2012 story. “A January article in the Canada Gazette, the official newspaper of the Canadian government, estimated there would be a one-time cost of $40 million to the vending industry as a whole to recalibrate ‘coin acceptance equipment.’”
A Toronto Star report noted the Toronto Parking Authority estimated its recalibration costs at about $1 million altogether – $345 for each of the organization’s nearly 3,000 machines – while Calgary’s parking authority spent about $30,000 to recalibrate its 770 parking machines.