Canada has a one-dollar coin called the “loonie.” It was introduced in 1987 to replace the country’s paper one-dollar bill. But something strange happened to the loonie on its way to being produced. The dies to the new design, the ones that would be used to strike the new coins, got lost in transit from the Royal Canadian Mint.
The loon that is currently on the one-dollar Canadian coin was originally supposed to be a different design. The coin was supposed to have a scene created by artist Emanuel Hahn called the “voyageur canoe.” The design had been on Canada’s first silver dollar and had been on other coins since 1935. The plan was to reintroduce the scene of two people paddling in a canoe on the new one-dollar coin, but this time, the coin was going to be bronze-colored.
Two dies were created for the new coin, which had the Queen on one side and the voyageur canoe scene on the other. On November 3, 1986, the master dies were packaged and given to a courier service for delivery to a production facility in Winnipeg. The only problem was, the dies never showed up in Winnipeg. Eleven days passed before the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were called to investigate what happened to the dies.
The first problem discovered during the investigation of the lost dies was that a local letter courier service had been used to transport the dies instead of a high-security service, such as those that use armored trucks. The reason for the decision by the mint to send the dies with the letter courier instead of a high-security service was because the letter courier was $43.50 cheaper.
The second problem was that no one asked to see the credentials of the courier picking up the highly valuable shipment, though it was later confirmed that it was an employee. The third problem was that each die that had the front and back of the coin were put into one single shipment when they were packaged. This was not part of the standard security practice and never should have been done.
Due to the possibility that someone could illegally use the dies to strike their own coins, the Royal Canadian Mint had to redesign the currency from scratch. They went through previous designs and found a rejected design from 1978 for a $100 gold coin. The image was of a loon, which had been created by artist Robert-Ralph Carmichael. The new design was quickly approved.
Officials at the mint kept things quiet about the loss of the dies for two months in the hopes they would show up. They even proposed making a small change to the voyageur design so the police could track any counterfeits. But the idea was abandoned because any counterfeit coins would have had to be turned in by the public without compensation for the fake coins.
On June 30, 1987, the Royal Canadian Mint finally released the newly designed coin with the picture of the loon on one side, six months behind its original release date. The new one-dollar coin, which wasn’t particularly popular with people initially, became affectionally known as the “loonie.” Since it went into circulation, the mint has produced over 1.3 billion loonies, and it continues to be produced over three decades later.
The dies have never reappeared, and they would probably fetch a hefty sum with a private collector if they did. It’s theorized that whoever stole them probably didn’t even know there were dies in the box but most likely thought it contained other valuable coins.
Sources: Snopes, Ottawa Citizen