From one medium to another
The release of the two-dollar coin and a bit of dark trivia about Canada’s two-dollar bill.
A note with a reputation?
The Canadian two-dollar note had been around since before Confederation. But to a Western Canadian, a two-dollar bill was a relatively unfamiliar thing. As the story goes, this note became associated with the shadier dealings of the frontier era—specifically prostitution. Though this association is purely hearsay, the two-dollar bill was never popular out west.
In 1996, the paper note was replaced by a coin. Of course, that decision had nothing to do with any sordid associations Westerners might have had for these innocent notes. It was an economic decision—a cost-saving measure.
Paper bills simply don’t hold up to daily wear and tear nearly as well as coins do. The life expectancy of a two-dollar note was about a year. But coins can last more than 10 years. Even a polymer bank note, such as those Canada now produces, can’t match that sort of longevity. Although minting a coin costs far more than printing a note, the coin option is definitely more affordable when you consider the cost of printing 10 notes for every coin. And the history of the toonie bears that out.
Bank notes and parking meters don’t mix
Although some Canadians were happy to see the old two-dollar notes disappear, the new coin initially met with some resistance. There were even rumours that the centre sections might fall out. These reports proved untrue and Canadians soon adapted to the new coin. After all, it is convenient for vending machines and parking meters.
In fact, the new coin ended up being so well received that the Royal Canadian Mint had to ramp up production. Some 325 million two-dollar coins were struck in the first year alone. If you periodically check your change, it’s very possible you’ll still find toonies from the first minting of 1996. Since then, annual production has varied between 10 and 30 million.
A coin becomes a toonie
As its popularity grew, Canadians gave the two-dollar coin its affectionate nickname. For those of you unfamiliar with why, here’s a quick bit of social history. The Canadian one-dollar coin, featuring an illustration of a loon, quickly picked up the name “loonie.” Instead of some sort of polar bear reference, the new coin became known as a “toonie,” as in two loonies. In fact, the “bearie” was put forward, but a nickname has a life of its own and “toonie” appears to be here to stay.
In 2006, the Mint opened a competition to name the bear on the toonie. Churchill was the winning name—a reference to the Manitoba town famous for polar bear watching. The runners up were Wilbert and Plouf.
In early February, a small group from the Bank’s Communications Department booked a brief tour of the main floor and first basement at the Wellington Street head office. It’s still in the demolition phase of the renovation.
Notgeld, German for emergency money, first appeared at the beginning of World War One and was issued until 1924. Through these notes we can see the entire story of Germany’s experience with out-of-control inflation between the wars.
Before the Museum closed, and the Collection moved to Gatineau, the curators regularly hosted a show and tell session for staff to see new acquisitions. With the help of the Museum’s new blog, that tradition will continue; only now, you too will be able to see and learn about some of the brilliant new stars in the Collection. Get out your sunglasses!
If we had a nickel for every time people asked questions like that, we’d have… Well, I suppose we have roughly that number of nickels already; we have a long history as a currency museum after all. When the museum was open, somebody would ask a similar question several times a week.
After four months in our new digs the Collections Team is starting to settle in. But even though most of the boxes have been unpacked there is still a lot of work to do. In 2014 we will be collaborating with the Exhibitions Team on travelling exhibits and coming up with ideas for the new museum space.
Recently, from October 3 to 5th, collections staff were at the Toronto Coin Expo, held at the Toronto Reference Library on Yonge Street. The show boasts informative lectures, a large auction of coins, tokens and paper money as well as a showroom, called a bourse, where dealers greet clients and buy and sell material.
In one of my favourite cinematic moments, the 11 year-old chess prodigy, Josh Waitzkin, imagines sweeping the pieces off a chess board in order to help him think more clearly about an important game of chess. It is a championship game and he is on the brink of winning it all.
For the first time since they went into their cases in 1980, over 2000 coins, notes, beads and shells are coming back out. The Museum’s curatorial staff are busily pulling panels from cases, placing coins into specially prepared drawers and sliding notes into acid-free Mylar envelopes.
The doors were barely closed following Big Top Farewell event before Chief Curator Paul Berry and his team began emptying display cases that had been sealed shut since 1980. The biggest task involved removing more than 2500 bank notes from the room we knew as Gallery 8.
Another convention of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA) wrapped up in July. This year the convention was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was the first time in over thirty years that the RCNA Convention made a stop there.