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1995: ‘Toonie’ makes its debut

The Story

It's time to reinforce Canadian pockets - again. Following the success of the $1 coin, popularly known as the "loonie," a new $2 coin will soon weigh down wallets, purses and pockets even more. With two different metals, the coin is an attention-getter, and so is the motif of a polar bear on the edge of an ice floe. In this CBC clip, reporters ponder the new coin's nickname: will it be known as the "toonie" or the "beary?"

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Sept. 21, 1995
Guest(s): David Dingwall, Johnnie Doonanco
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Kas Roussy
Duration: 2:27

Did You know?

• In 1987 the Royal Canadian Mint released the $1 coin to replace paper bank notes. Because its design featured a loon on the reverse, the coin became known as the "loonie."

• The last paper dollars were printed in April 1989, and that June the Bank of Canada began removing $1 bills from circulation.

• Producing the $1 coin and, later, the $2 coin was greatly profitable for the federal Department of Finance. The department, which sells currency to banks for distribution to Canadians, is obligated to buy back paper money from the banks. There's no such obligation for coins. In 1996 each loonie cost 13 cents to make but was sold to banks for face value. The $2 coin represented an even greater profit at 16 cents per coin.

• The toonie weighs 7.3 grams and measures 28 millimetres across. The loonie weighs seven grams and spans 26.72 millimetres.

• On the obverse (or "heads" side) of the $2 coin is the Queen; the reverse ("tails") sports a polar bear designed by Brent Townsend.

• The coin is bimetallic, meaning it's made of two separate pieces of metal fused together. The outer silver-coloured ring is nickel and the inner gold-coloured core is aluminum bronze.

• The bimetallic coin was a first for Canada.

• The toonie began circulating in February 1996. A Hamilton woman soon encountered a problem: despite the coin's patented locking mechanism, a toonie split into two pieces when she dropped it. "It's one in 60 million," said a mint spokesperson, who said the mint hoped to examine the coin.

• The split launched a craze in which Canadians tried to force their toonies apart, mostly to no avail.

• Once the coin began circulating there were numerous competing suggestions for its nickname. Some people championed deuce or doozie while others called it a doubloon. Bear back or bear buck were also put forth, as was the moonie, because the coin depicted the Queen "with a bear behind." In the end, the coin became known as the "toonie."

• The toonie replaced the $2 bill, a reddish-brown bill. Its most recent version featured a portrait of the Queen on the front and a pair of robins on the back.

• The $2 bill was less popular in Western Canada, possibly due to a shady history. Legend has it that during the frontier era, $2 bills were used to pay prostitutes. It was therefore considered rude to give one to a woman as change.



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