New $2 circulation coin marks insulin centennial

The Royal Canadian Mint has issued a new $2 circulation coin celebrating four Canadian researchers’ groundbreaking medical achievements a century ago.

In 1921, the collaboration of Frederick Banting, Charles Best, James Collip and John Macleod led to the isolation and purification of insulin and offered a life-saving treatment to people whose lives would have previously been cut short by diabetes. The coin starts circulating today.

“The Nobel Prize-winning Canadian discovery of insulin in 1921 is one of the 20th century’s most celebrated medical discoveries, which has saved millions of lives in Canada and around the world,” said Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who’s also currently serving as deputy prime minister. “Parliament passed legislation last month to establish a national framework on diabetes and we are delighted this commemorative coin will circulate from coast to coast to coast as a tribute to one of Canada’s greatest scientific triumphs, and as a reminder of the critical importance of the next century of diabetes research.”

The Mint is issuing two million coloured coins (shown) as part of its ‘Insulin 100’ set.

The coin’s celebration of this life-saving, Canadian-made medical discovery speaks to the Mint’s “unique privilege of creating lasting reminders of Canadian achievements through coins,” according to President and CEO Marie Lemay.

“This commemorative circulation coin is a heartfelt and enduring “thank you” to the talented researchers behind a Canadian medical breakthrough that has saved millions of lives over the last 100 years, and continues to do so today.”


Ontario artist Jesse Koreck designed the reverse of the $2 commemorative circulation coin.

Both the uncoloured and coloured versions are available in English (shown) and French special wrap rolls, each with 25 $2 coins.

A focal point of the design is a monomer, a building block of the insulin molecule. Also displayed are scientific instruments used in the early formulation of insulin (vial, mortar and pestle, and Erlenmeyer flask) overlaid on a maple leaf, as well as red blood cells, glucose plus insulin molecules. The words “INSULIN/ INSULINE” appear on the coin’s outer ring, as do the double dates “1921” and “2021,” highlighting the anniversary.

The laboratory instruments represent the “tools of the trade” of the four researchers behind the discovery and application of insulin for human use:

  • Banting developed the theory that a pancreatic substance could be extracted as a possible treatment for diabetes and led the research;
  • Macleod provided a laboratory and equipment at the University of Toronto and assigned Best as a lab assistant; and
  • Collip, a biochemist, purified insulin extracts for use as an effective diabetes treatment.

A collector keepsake set featuring both versions of the commemorative circulation coin with uncirculated versions of Canada’s 2021 circulation coins.

“The new circulation coin commemorating the 100th anniversary of insulin is a visual reminder of the scientific breakthrough that took place here in Canada,” said Laura Syron, the president and CEO of Diabetes Canada, which worked with the Mint in developing the coin. “Although insulin brought miraculous change in life expectancy and quality of life for millions of people around the world, it is not a cure. Together with the support of Canadians and Canada’s researchers, we will continue the legacy of Frederick Banting, Charles Best, James Collip and John Macleod and end diabetes.”

The Mint also issued a new $200 pure gold coin featuring a large-scale version of the circulation coin’s reverse design.

Two million coloured coins and one million uncoloured coins will begin circulating as of today. The coloured coins will show the insulin monomer in the same blue colour used to raise diabetes awareness.

The obverse features the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II designed by Canadian artist Susanna Blunt in 2003.

The Mint has also issued a collector keepsake set featuring both versions of the commemorative circulation coin plus uncirculated versions of five classic 2021 circulation coins (five cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, $1 and $2). It retails for $24.95 and its mintage is set at 100,000.

There are also 10,000 limited-edition special wrap rolls of coloured and uncoloured coins containing 25 uncirculated coins each, available for $79.95.

Finally, an exclusive $200 pure gold coin – not issued as part of the Mint’s July numismatic catalogue earlier this month – features a large-scale version of the circulation coin’s reverse design. It’s available for $3,999.95 and limited to 450 coins worldwide.

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