Loonie is the name Canadians gave the gold-coloured, bronze-plated, one-dollar coin shortly after its introduction in 1987. It bears images of a common loon, a well-known Canadian bird, on the reverse, and of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse.

The design for the coin was meant to be a voyageur theme, similar to the country's previous one dollar/silver dollar coin, but the master dies were lost by the courier service while in transit to the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg. In order to avoid possible counterfeiting, a different design was used.

The coin has become the symbol of its currency. Newspapers often discuss the rate at which the loonie is trading against the United States "greenback". The nickname loonie (huard in French) became so widely recognized that on March 15, 2006 the Royal Canadian Mint secured the rights to the name "Loonie".

The coin — an 11-sided polygon — is made of Aureate, a bronze-electroplated nickel combination. The total composition of the coin is 91.5% nickel and 8.5% bronze. The bronze is about 88% copper and 12% tin.

Public reaction

The coin was released to the populace on 30 June 1987, and circulation of the one-dollar banknote was intentionally reduced at the same time to forestall reluctance by the public to accept the new coin.

The coin has been met with a general public acceptance. American comedian Robin Williams referenced the Loonie during his 2002 Live On Broadway special, taking a jab at its peculiar name. He said, "Canadian money is also called "the Looney"; how can you take an economic crisis seriously?". Though the Loonie has received its share of humorous jabs, the coin was quickly embraced by the Canadian public. The town of Echo Bay, Ontario, home of loonie designer Robert-Ralph Carmichael, has erected an enormous loonie in honour of Mr. Carmichael along the highway — similar to Sudbury's 'Big Nickel'. On Canada's version of the television game show Deal or No Deal, the loonie has replaced the one dollar case.

Commemorative editions

The design has been changed several times for commemorative editions:

Year Theme Artist Mintage Special notes
1992 125th Anniversary of the Confederation Rita Swanson 23,010,000 showing children and the Parliament Building. The regular loon design was also minted that year bearing the double date "1867-1992".
1994 Remembrance Design RCM Staff 15,000,000 image of the National War Memorial in Ottawa
1995 Peacekeeping Monument J.K. Harman, R.G. Enriquez, C.H. Oberlander, Susan Taylor 41,813,100 (see note) Included in 1995 Loon Mintage
2004 Lucky Loonie R.R. Carmichael 6,526,000 A Sterling Silver Edition was produced
2005 Terry Fox Stan Witten 12,909,000 Fox is the first Canadian citizen to be featured on a circulated Canadian coin. There are versions that exist without grass on the reverse of the coin.
2006 Lucky Loonie Jean-Luc Grondin 2,145,000 This is the second Lucky Loonie.
2008 Lucky Loonie Jean-Luc Grondin Ten million This is the third Lucky Loonie.
2010 Lucky Loonie N/A N/A This will be the fourth Lucky Loonie.

Reputedly, becuase of their centennial in 2009, the Montréal Canadiens professional ice hockey team is due to be honored by a special loonie coin, in March 2009, bearing the "CH" logo of the team on the reverse side.

Specimen set variant dollars

Year Theme Artist Mintage Issue price
2002 15th Anniversary Loonie Dora de Pédery-Hunt 67,672 $39.95
2004 Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary Susan Taylor 46,493 $39.95
2005 Tufted Puffin N/A 39,818 $39.95
2006 Snowy Owl Glen Loates 39,935 $44.95
2007 Trumpeter Swan Kerri Burnett 40,000 $45.95

First strikes

Year Theme Mintage Issue Price
2005 Common Loon 1,944 $14.95
2005 Terry Fox 19,949 $14.95
2006 Lucky Loonie 20,010 $15.95
2006 With New Mint Mark 5,000 $29.95

The lucky loonie

In recent years, the golden-coloured loonie became associated with Canada's winning hockey and curling teams and has been viewed as a good-luck charm in international competition. The legend began during the 2002 Winter Olympics, when a Canadian icemaker for the ice surfaces in the ice hockey tournament, Trent Evans, had buried a loonie under centre ice. The original reason for placing the loonie was to assist in the puck-drop: the centre ice at Salt Lake was emblazoned with a large logo, and was missing the customary circle used by the referee and face-off players as a target for the puck - so he needed to add some kind of a dot as a puck target that would not stand out, and a loonie buried under the ice served well. Both the men's and women's hockey teams would win gold in the tournament, the men's 50 years to the day after their last gold medal victory. Following the Games, Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky recovered the coin and gave it to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

A loonie was also used at the IIHF World Hockey Championships between Canada and Sweden on May 11, 2003. This lucky loonie is known affectionately as the Helsinki Loonie. It was hidden surreptitiously before the Gold-Medal hockey game and saw Team Canada to victory. After forward Anson Carter scored against Swedish goaltender Mikael Tellqvist in overtime to win the World Hockey Championship for Canada, Team Canada officials admitted they had placed a Loonie in the padding beneath the crossbar of the Swedish net.

The legend is also prevalent in curling, as the Kevin Martin rink at the same Olympics had won silver medals on a sheet with silver-coloured quarters underneath the surface. At the 2006 Winter Olympics, the Canadian icemakers in the curling tournament buried two loonies, one at each end of the sheet — coincidentally, Brad Gushue would win the gold medal there. In the same Olympics, the icemakers at the hockey tournament announced that they would not bury a loonie under the ice. The men's team finished out of the medals while the women's team won gold.

This legend is kept alive by the Royal Canadian Mint, which has since issued specially-designed "Lucky Loonies" for each year the summer and winter Olympics Games are held. Two new Olympic-themed loonies are due to be released in commemoration of the 2010 Winter Olympics being held in Vancouver-Whistler.

An episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ("Blaze of Glory") also made mention of a lucky loonie – although the episode's air date (12 May 1997) predates the more-recent Olympic tradition, making it impossible for the scriptwriter to have intended a connection between the fictional coin and its real-world counterpart. The character, Michael Eddington, had a family heirloom in the form of a 22nd century Canadian one dollar coin that he called his "lucky loonie".

Team Russia has also made use of the lucky loonie - in the IIHF world championhips in the year 2008 the coin was buried by Alexander Ovechkin at the centre of the ice and then dug out after Russia beat Canada 5 - 4 in overtime.

In the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals, the Edmonton Oilers were said to have a lucky loonie buried at centre ice of the home stadium of the opposing Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, North Carolina. However, during a practice before game 7 of the series, the Carolina players discovered and removed the loonie and the Oilers lost the championship in that final game.


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