Loonie gets a special edition facelift on its 25th birthday

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Daily Brew

Nothing makes you feel old quite like marking the 25th anniversary of something you recall taking place with absolute clarity.

Particularly when the celebratory object in question gets a brand new special edition facelift to mark the occasion.

But those of us who were old enough to retain memories from 1987 will likely recall the birth of the loonie — Canada's shiny, gold-coloured one-dollar coin — and the story of how we came close to calling the now-iconic coin something very different.

Can you imagine referring to our one-dollar piece as the trapper? (Or even worse — the "furry"?)

It almost happened.

As Yahoo! Canada News notes, the coin's original design featured a voyageur traveling by canoe in honour of the country's early fur trappers and traders.

The dies had already been set by the Royal Canadian Mint. But on their way from Ottawa to Winnipeg something strange happened: They disappeared, never to be seen again.

The Mint was left scrambling to find a new design. Enter Robert Ralph Carmichael, the Ontario artist who drafted the now-familiar loon enjoying a relaxing swim along the lake.

The new design was a hit — not just with environmentalists who undoubtedly preferred the gentle bird to the mink-skinning fur trappers of yore — and from Carmichael's symbol the coin was quickly dubbed the "loonie" by an inspired grassroots movement.

[ Related: New coins causing headaches for vending and parking machines ]

Of course, with any change, there was an adjustment period. For decades prior, Canadians had done just fine with the one-dollar paper bill and, as some grumbled, there was no need to fix what wasn't broken.

Ottawa's rationale was simple, however: Cost.

The new coin was projected to save the government $175 million over the next 20 years, as the bronze electroplated-nickel had a two-decade life expectancy compared to the solitary year most paper bills managed to last.

And it was more than a money saver. The coin's unique 11-sided curve made it easier for the visually impaired to recognize.

[ More Daily Brew: 'Know Canada': Rebranding Canada for Americans ]

Now it's hard to imagine life before the loonie and its younger, more expensive sibling, the toonie.

In tandem with its big birthday, there have also been a few additional upgrades. This spring, the loonie's composition was changed to multi-ply brass-plated steel in order to improve security features.

Perhaps a little too well. The new loonie is not accepted by many existing vending machines, a headache that could cost the government millions to remedy. (So much for those big projected savings from '87.)

But the party must continue. Starting on July 16, loonie fans can scoop up the new 25th anniversary commemorative edition, also designed by Carmichael, at Canada Post outlets or on the Mint's website.

Carmichael's new design recalls Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions. Two loons pass each other on the lake — one looking squarely into the past, while the other heads toward the future.

A future where all loonies fit perfectly into every parking meter.