A Lost Voyageur, A Found Loonie

A Robert Ralph Carmichael painting can cost in the neighbourhood of $15,000.  But, for a buck you can get  his most widely produced piece of art.  Fish around in your pocket; when you find a loonie, squint, and you’ll see the initials RRC under the tip of the beak.  That’s Carmichael.  But his now iconic Canadian symbol almost never came into being.  In November, 1986, an official at the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa packaged the dies of the new one-dollar coin, designed to replace the one-dollar banknote.  These carefully prepared pieces of metal would allow the striking of Canada’s newest circulation coin.  The design featured the image of a canoe with two paddlers, an island and furs. The dies were destined for Winnipeg, where the new circulation coins were to be produced.  But to save money, the package was not sent using a high-security courier company but by regular post.  And, breaking the mint’s own rules, both dies were shipped together.  But the box never arrived in Winnipeg and to this day it has never been found. Its fate remains a mystery.  Was it lost?  Was it stolen?  No one knows.  To avoid the risk of counterfeit coins being made, the government scrapped the Voyageur design.  And just before Christmas, 1986, Carmichael got the call saying the loonie design he had submitted, but was designated as second place, was now being pressed into service.  And today, if you go to Echo Bay, Ontario, you will find a gigantic loonie in honour of their hometown artist. And that’s why today we have a loonie and not a voyie.