US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for July 9, 2018

The loon is a familiar figure on both U.S. and Canadian coins, illustrating that coinage designs are sometimes shared by close neighbors.

Images courtesy of U.S. Mint,, and Creative Commons.

With the recent news about strained relations between the United States and Canada over trade issues, it is good to reflect on one point on which the two nations still agree: the bird called a loon makes for a great theme on a coin.

Canada has had a loon on its circulating coinage since 1987, when it introduced a new gold-colored smaller dollar to replace its old nickel-composition dollar. The reverse design selected for the coin shows a loon at rest in one of Canada’s waterways, a shoreline in the distance. The Loon dollar was quickly called a “Loonie,” of course, and it has served as Canada’s primary dollar-denomination currency since. (Canada stopped printing and circulating its dollar note as an inducement to get the new coin to circulate more broadly than the larger nickel dollar it was replacing.)

1806 Mint reportInside Coin World: About those 1805 silver dollars Although an 1806 Mint document claims 321 silver dollar were made in 1805, no such coins are known today. It took a later book to explain the reference.

The loon is now an established icon of Canadian coinage, much as the bald eagle is a standard found on numerous U.S. coins. But the bald eagle is not the only bird to be found on circulating coins in the United States; a new coin was just introduced that depicts a scene that is similar in theme to the Canadian dollar.

The 2018 Voyageurs National Park quarter dollar was placed into circulation on June 14, the latest coin in the America the Beautiful quarters series. It depicts a loon resting in the waters of the park, trees along a rocky shoreline in the background. 


Minnesotans must love the loon. Their 2005 quarter dollar in the State quarters series also depicts a loon in a wilderness setting. 

The habitats shown on the reverses of the two Minnesota quarter dollars are just like the habitats of southern Canada. Nature does not have national boundaries. Lakes and streams and rivers and wetlands and forests and mountains cross borders without regard to political boundaries. A bird goes where it wants to go.

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It is not unusual for residents of the northern United States not far from the border with Canada to receive Canadian coins in change. The two nations’ coinages are remarkably similar in appearance and size, so a Canadian 10-cent coin might lurk in the Roosevelt dime slot of a cash register. The Canadian coins are not legal tender in the United States and vice versa, and sometimes are rejected in tender of a payment, but the fact that they do circulate somewhat is testament to the long relationship between the two nations.

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