The toonie (also spelled twonie or twoonie), formally the Canadian two-dollar coin (French: pièce de 2 dollars canadiens, nicknamed deux piastres or deux piastres rond), was introduced on February 19, 1996 by Minister of Public Works Diane Marleau. As of 2019, it possesses the highest monetary value of any currently circulating Canadian coin. The toonie is a bi-metallic coin which on the reverse side bears an image of a polar bear by artist Brent Townsend. The obverse, like all other current Canadian circulation coins, has a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. It has the words "ELIZABETH II / D.G. REGINA" in a different typeface from any other Canadian coin; it is also the only coin to consistently bear its issue date on the obverse.
(92% Cu, 6% Al, 2% Ni)
|Years of minting||1996–present|
|Design||Elizabeth II, Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada|
|Design||Polar bear in early summer on an ice floe|
|Design||Polar bear in early summer on an ice floe|
The coin is manufactured using a patented distinctive bimetallic coin-locking mechanism. The coins are estimated to last 20 years. The discontinued two-dollar bill was less expensive to manufacture, but lasted only one year on average.
Prior to 2012, the coin consisted of an aluminum bronze inner core with a pure nickel outer ring; but in spring 2012, the composition of the inner core switched to aluminum bronze coated with multiply-plated brass, and the outer ring switched to steel coated with multiply-plated nickel. The weight dropped from 7.30 to 6.92 g, and the thickness changed from 1.8 to 1.75 mm. The Mint states that multiply-plated steel technology, already used in Canada's smaller coinage, produces an electromagnetic signature that is harder to counterfeit than that for regular alloy coins; also, using steel provides cost savings and avoids fluctuations in the price or supply of nickel.
"Toonie" is a portmanteau word combining the number "two" with the name of the loonie, Canada's one-dollar coin. It is occasionally spelled "twonie" or "twoonie", but Canadian newspapers and the Royal Canadian Mint use the "toonie" spelling.
When the coin was introduced, a number of nicknames were suggested. Some of the early ones included the "bearie" (analogous to the loonie and its loon), the "bearly", the "deuce", the "doubloonie" (a play on "double loonie" and the former Spanish doubloon coin), and the "moonie" (because it depicted "the Queen with a bear behind").
Jack Iyerak Anawak, member of Parliament from Nunatsiaq (the electoral district representing what is now the territory of Nunavut), suggested the name "Nanuq" [nanook, polar bear] in honour of Canada's Inuit people and their northern culture; however, this culturally meaningful proposal went largely unnoticed beside the popular "toonie".
The name "toonie" became so widely accepted that in 2006, the RCM secured the rights to it. A competition to name the bear resulted in the name "Churchill", a reference both to Winston Churchill and to the common polar bear sightings in Churchill, Manitoba.
Paul Martin announced the replacement of the $2 banknote with a coin in the 1995 Canadian federal budget speech. The RCM spent C$17,400 to canvass 2000 Canadian households about which of the 10 theme options they preferred.
Under the direction of Dr. Hieu C. Truong, the RCM engineering division designed the two-dollar coin to be made from two different metals. The metals for the bimetallic coin would be lighter and thinner than those produced anywhere in the world. To join the two parts, the engineering division selected a bimechanical locking mechanism. By the end of 1996, the Winnipeg facility had struck 375 million of these coins. The coin was officially launched at Ben's Deli in Montreal on February 19, 1996.
The weight of the coin was originally specified as 112.64 grains, equivalent to 7.299 g.
|1999||The founding of Nunavut||G. Arnaktavyok||25,130,000||Commemorating the founding of Nunavut, featuring an Inuit drummer.|
|2000||Knowledge/Le Savoir||Tony Bianco||29,880,000||Millennium edition, the coin value "2 DOLLARS" appears on the obverse instead of on the reverse. It also features three polar bears.|
|2002||The 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's reign||Brent Townsend||27,020,000||The issue date reads "1952–2002".|
|2006||10th anniversary of $2 coin||Tony Bianco||35,319,000||Featuring an updated pose of the bear looking up at the dramatic lines of an aurora borealis. The first circulation coin to be introduced with the new mintmark.|
|2008||400th anniversary of founding of Quebec City and first French settlement in North America.||The coin was designed by jeweller Genevieve Bertrand, a Quebec City native. The engraving was done by RCM engraver William Woodruff.||6,000,000||The design of the coin is dominated by a large fleur-de-lis. Other elements include a ship, and lines representing the St. Lawrence River.|
|2011||Boreal forest||Nolin BBDO Montreal||5,000,000||Celebrates Canada's boreal forest that covers over half of Canada's landmass. Features three stylized trees, a bird and a man.|
|2012||War of 1812: HMS Shannon||Bonnie Ross||5,000,000||Part of a series of commemorative issues on the War of 1812. Features a modified reverse with HMS Shannon in the centre core, as well as artwork with "The War of 1812, HMS Shannon" in the outer ring.|
|2014||Wait for Me Daddy||Claude Dettloff||5,000,000||Inspired by the iconic photograph known as Wait for Me, Daddy, which was taken on October 1, 1940, in New Westminster, B.C. by photographer Claude Dettloff.|
|2015||200th anniversary of the birth of Sir John A. Macdonald||Glen Green||5,000,000||The design features a portrait of Sir John A. Macdonald superimposed on the map of Canada in the centre, and in the outer ring are the dates "1815" and "2015".|
|2015||100th anniversary of the In Flanders Fields poem||Glen Loates||5,000,000||Part of a collection featuring a coloured and uncoloured quarter duo, the reverse depicts Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae sitting in a field of poppies as he composes the poem.|
|2016||75th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic||Yves Bérubé||5,000,000||A sailor aboard a Canadian warship who presses his eye to the viewfinder of his anti-aircraft gun, scanning the skies for threats. Two other Canadian vessels in the distance while a Bristol Beaufighter flies overhead.|
|2017||Canada 150||Timothy Hsia||Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada. The design is titled Dance of the Spirits and shows a pair of paddlers dwarfed by a night sky alive with the ever-shifting movement of the Aurora Borealis. The aurora portion glows in the dark. The theme of the coin is "Our Wonders".|
|2017||100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge||Tony Bianco||Designed by Canadian artist Tony Bianco, the coin design features the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Vimy, France flanked by a First World War soldier on the left and a veteran soldier on the right.|
|2018||100th anniversary of the Armistice of 1918||Laurie McGaw||Designed by Canadian artist Laurie McGaw, the coin design features two symbols of remembrance. A soldier’s helmet represents the end of the First World War and serves as a solemn reminder of the many lives lost during history’s first mechanized war. Below the helmet lies a large poppy, the official bloom of remembrance, whose bright scarlet colour is re-created on the selectively coloured coins.|
Specimen set editions
From 2010 to 2015, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a two-dollar coin that depicts a different and unique image of a young animal on the coin's reverse. These special toonies have limited mintages and are available only in the six-coin specimen sets.
|Year||Theme||Artist||Mintage||Full-Set Issue Price (CAD)|
|2010||Young lynx||Christie Paquet||15,000||$49.95|
|2011||Elk calf||Christie Paquet||15,000||$49.95|
|2012||Wolf cubs||Emily Damstra||15,000||$49.95|
|2013||Black bear cubs||Glen Loates||17,500||$49.95|
|2014||Baby rabbits||Pierre Leduc||17,500||$49.95|
|2015||Baby raccoons||Clinton Jammer||15,000||$49.95|
|2006||10th anniversary toonie||5,000||$15.95|
|2006||New Mint Mark||5,000||$29.95|
Separation of metals
A failure in the bimetallic locking mechanism in the first batch of toonies caused some coins to separate if struck hard or frozen. Despite media reports of defective toonies, the RCM responded that the odds of a toonie falling apart were about one in 60 million. It is against the law to deliberately attempt to separate a toonie. Defacing coin currency is a summary offence under the Canadian Criminal Code, section 456.
- Newfoundland 2-dollar coin (antedating Canada's coin)
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- "Special Edition Specimen Set - Elk Calf (2011)". Royal Canadian Mint. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
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- "Special Edition Specimen Set - Black Bear Cubs (2013)". Royal Canadian Mint. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
- "Special Edition Specimen Set - Baby Rabbits (2014)". Royal Canadian Mint. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
- "Special Edition Specimen Set - Baby Raccoons (2015)". Royal Canadian Mint. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
- Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, s. 456 (Criminal Code at Justice Laws Website)