Following the First World War, the poppy became a profound symbol of war-time remembrance in many countries, including Canada.
Today, people across Canada remember the sacrifices of fallen heroes by wearing a poppy throughout the month of November; however, the poppy’s association to those killed in conflict dates back to the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th century, when the red flower bloomed in war-torn fields where countless soldiers died. This year marks the poppy’s 100th anniversary as a remembrance symbol in Canada.
During the Great War, in Flanders Fields, the upturned soil exposed dormant corn poppy seeds – a common weed in Europe’s grain fields – to the light it needed to grow.
In 1915, Canadian doctor and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae immortalized the poppy in his famous poem, In Flanders Fields, which inspired the adoption of handmade poppies to be worn in memory of those who died and to raise money for veterans and their families.
POPPY COINS SINCE 2004
The Royal Canadian Mint has issued coins to mark Remembrance Day since 2004, when it struck its first 25-cent poppy coin.
With a red poppy stamped on the reverse, the coin was also the world’s first coloured circulation coin. The coin was later named Most Innovative Circulation Coin at the Mint Directors’ Conference in Paris, France.
In 2008, the Mint marked the 90th anniversary of the First World War armistice in association with the Royal Canadian Legion.
In addition to issuing another red 25-cent poppy coin, it also issued:
- a limited-edition poppy bookmark featuring the 2008 25-cent coloured poppy circulation coin;
- a commemorative set marking the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War (including the 2008 25-cent uncirculated coin depicting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa); and
- a limited-edition poppy Proof silver dollar featuring a finely sculpted poppy in ultra-high relief.
In 2010, the Mint issued a 25-cent poppy circulation coin along with two commemorative releases, including a collector card with the 2010 25-cent poppy coin and limited-edition Proof silver dollar featuring the poppy.
More recently, in 2015, the Mint issued a $2 circulation coin commemorating McCrae’s iconic poem as well as a 25-cent circulation coin featuring a life-like poppy design.
One hundred years after McCrae penned In Flanders Fields on the battlefield of Ypres, Belgium, these coins were unveiled at a special ceremony held at McCrae House in Guelph, Ont.
“One hundred years after they were penned on the battlefield, the moving words of In Flanders Fields continue to remind us that the peace and freedom we enjoy every day as Canadians is the ultimate gift of our veterans,” said Royal Canadian Legion Dominion President Tom Eagles. “By collecting the circulation coins issued by the Mint today, Canadians will have a permanent way to remember the sacrifices of all our veterans, as well as learn more about Lt. Col. John McCrae’s historic contribution to honouring their memory.”
In 2018, the Mint issued a $2 circulation coin marking the 100th anniversary of the First World War Armistice.
Designed by Canadian artist Laurie McGaw, the coin’s reverse depicts a poignant pairing of two symbols of remembrance—an iconic Great War-era steel combat helmet and a poppy.
Within the inner core, a soldier’s “Brodie” helmet represents the end of the First World War and serves as a solemn reminder of the many lives lost during this unprecedented conflict. Below the helmet lies a large poppy, the official bloom of remembrance inspired by the iconic war poem In Flanders Fields, which was written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae in 1915.
The poppy’s bright scarlet colour is re-created on selectively coloured versions of the coin. Two more poppies are engraved on the outer ring, which includes a banner bearing the bilingual words “REMEMBER” and “SOUVENIR” as well as the year-date “2018.”
“For a nation of eight million people, Canada’s efforts in the First World War were remarkable. More than 650,000 Canadian men and women served in uniform during the First World War, with more than 12,000 comrades from Newfoundland and Labrador also answering the call to arms,” then finance minister Bill Morneau said in 2018.
“By issuing a circulation coin honouring the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, the Mint is helping to preserve the memory of all Canadian veterans, who continue to remind us that peace and freedom are worth fighting for, even at great personal costs.”
In 2021, the Mint issued a one-ounce silver coin, “A Wreath of Remembrance: Lest We Forget,” as part of its October numismatic catalogue.