On today’s date in 1987, the “loonie” entered circulation as 80 million $1 coins were introduced in major cities across Canada.
Two years later, the Bank of Canada ceased production of the country’s $1 banknote, which was said 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.
While the $1 coin was introduced as a cost-saving measure, it wasn’t immediately popular with the public.
“‘Loonie’ wasn’t the warm fuzzy word that it’s turned into now,” Bret Evans, former CCN editor, told the National Post in 2012.
It was, however, quickly dubbed the “loonie” because of the solitary loon gracing its reverse—and the rest is history.
FROM VOYAGEUR TO LOON
The original master dies for the $1 coin – the one depicting 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 and wreak havoc on Canada’s banking 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 millimetres and a thickness of 1.95 millimetres.
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, about two billion loonies have been produced.