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History of the Canadian Dollar

The dollar (ISO 4217 code: CAD) is the currency of Canada. It is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or C$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies. It is divided into 100 cents.

Canada has an extensive history with regards to its currency. Beginning in the early 16th Century, items such as wampum and furs were actually considered currency. With the colonization of France and England, various coins were introduced in the 18th and 19th Century. In the 20th Century, it has issued many commemorative coins into circulation, temporarily replacing current coinage designs.

Canadian English, like American English, uses the slang term "buck" for a dollar. Because of the appearance of the common loon on the back of the dollar coin that replaced the dollar bill in 1987, the word "loonie" was adopted in Canadian parlance to distinguish the Canadian dollar from other currencies, as in "The loonie performed well today on currency markets". When the two-dollar coin was introduced in 1996, the derivative word "toonie" became the common word for it in Canadian English slang.

In French, the currency is also called le dollar; Canadian French slang terms include piastre or piasse (same as "buck," but the original word used in eighteenth-century French to translate "dollar") and huard (equivalent to "loonie", since huard is French for "loon," the bird appearing on the coin). The French pronunciation of "cent" is generally used for the subdivision; sou is another, informal term.

In 1858, bronze 1 cent and .925 silver 5, 10 and 20 cents coins were issued by the Province of Canada. Except for 1 cent coins struck in 1859, no more coins were issued until 1870, when production of the 5 and 10 cents was resumed and silver 25 and 50 cents were introduced. Between 1908 and 1919, sovereigns (legal tender in Canada for 4.866 dollars) were struck in Ottawa with a "C" mintmark. Gold 5 and 10 dollars coins were issued between 1912 and 1914.

In 1920, the size of the 1 cent was reduced and the silver fineness was reduced to .800. In 1922, the silver 5 cent was replaced by a larger, nickel coin. In 1935, a silver 1 dollar coin was introduced. In 1942, as a war-time measure, nickel was replaced by tombac in the 5 cent coin, which was changed from round to dodecagonal. Chromium-plated steel was used for the 5 cents between 1944 and 1945 and between 1951 and 1954, before nickel was permanently readopted. The 5 cents returned to a round shape in 1963.

Canadian 2 dollar coin, "toonie"In 1968, .500 silver 10 and 25 cents coins were issued, before silver was replaced by nickel. At the same time, the sizes of the 50 cents and 1 dollar coins were reduced. In 1982, the 1 cent coin was changed to dodecagonal and the 5 cents was switched to a cupro-nickel alloy. In 1987, a 1 dollar coin struck in aureate-plated nickel was introduced. A bimetallic 2 dollars coin followed in 1996. In 1997, copper-plated zinc replaced bronze in the 1 cent. This was followed, in 2000, by the introduction of plated-steel 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents coins, with the 1 cent plated in copper and the others plated in cupro-nickel.

Coins are produced by the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and currently issued in denominations of 1¢ (penny), 5¢ (nickel), 10¢ (dime), 25¢ (quarter), 50¢ (50 cent piece) (though the 50 cent piece is rarely used), $1 (loonie), and $2 (toonie). The standard set of designs has Canadian symbols, usually wildlife, on the reverse, and an effigy of Elizabeth II on the obverse. However, some pennies, nickels, and dimes remain in circulation that bear the effigy of George VI. Commemorative coins with differing reverses are also issued on an irregular basis. 50 cent coins are rarely found in circulation; they are often collected and not regularly used in day-to-day transactions. There have been repeated talks about removing the penny from circulation as it is estimated that it costs the Royal Canadian Mint up to four cents to produce and distribute a one-cent coin. The Canadian penny costs at least C$130 million annually to keep in circulation, estimates a financial institution that called for an end to the penny. A 2007 survey shows that only 37% of Canadians use pennies but the government continues to produce about 816 million pennies per year, equal to 25 pennies per Canadian.

The First Coin
At the opening ceremonies for the Ottawa branch of the Royal Mint, held on January 2, 1908, Governor General Earl Gray struck the Dominion of Canada’s first domestically produced coin. It was a silver fifty-cent piece bearing the effigy of His Majesty King Edward VII.

The Ottawa branch of the Royal Mint opened its own refinery. By year’s end, a record number of gold sovereigns (256,946) were coined at the new facility.
A new monarch assumed the British throne. His Majesty King George V acceded to the throne in 1910 and his effigy would now appear on all coins minted in Canada.

The second coin that was struck at the Ottawa Mint’s facilities was the large one-cent piece. This coin would be replaced in 1920 by a smaller bronze coin. This cent was now closer in size to its American counterpart.

1922 Nickel
Canada now converts to a five-cent piece that is comprised of nickel. This proves to be an ideal metal for coinage because Canada is the world’s leading source of nickel ore.

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