The Royal Canadian Mint’s effort to develop new coinage technology
and win foreign coinage contracts has just received a huge boost.
The RCM on June 13 expanded the Winnipeg Mint’s production
facility that is dedicated to creating the RCM’s patented multi-ply
plated steel coin blanks. That same day, the RCM announced the launch
of its new research and development center.
According to the RCM, the plating facility expansion will enable
the RCM to increase production of multi-ply plated steel blanks and
other advanced plated products by 2 billion pieces per year, doubling
the RCM’s current capacity. The multi-ply plated steel and standard
core coins struck on the planchets produced at the plating facility
are sold through the RCM’s specialized brand known as SMR&T, which
offers coins that are “secure, modern, resistant and made of the best
The Hieu C. Truong Centre of Excellence for Research and
Development — named for one of the RCM’s most celebrated innovators —
“will ensure that the Corporation remains at the leading edge of
The new research and development center is located at the Winnipeg
Mint, where circulation coin production — foreign and domestic —
consumes capacity. The new center is in addition to research and
development efforts at the Ottawa Mint, where bullion and collector
coins are produced.
Truong — a rock star in the minting technical community if there
ever was one; crowds throng around him at multiple technical forums in
which he participates, and his presentations receive rapturous
applause and many questions — developed the multi-ply plated steel
process that the RCM has employed for more than a decade for its
circulation coins. The process was initially developed for fractional
coin sizes but in 2012 expanded to the $1 and $2 coins.
The technology allows the RCM to plate the core of coins multiple
times with varying layers of alternating metal to create unique
Both the plating expansion and research and development center
offer great possibilities for world coin contracts, according to the
RCM, which publicly announced a goal of securing 15 percent of the
global market share by 2020 (it did not disclose its current share).
The RCM already has produced plated steel coins for more than 30
countries, most recently for the city-state of Singapore, which will
launch a new suite of coins on June 25.
Construction of the 70,000-square-foot expansion of the plating
facility began in the fall of 2011. It represents an investment of $60
million in Canadian funds. When fully operational, the RCM expects to
add several production jobs.
World coinage business
The expansion of plating facilities and the research and
development center are the latest competitive strides in the ongoing
race to win contracts to create coins for nations around the world.
Many nations cannot support their own mints, or find that they
cannot match the economies of scale offered by a larger mint. So world
mints like the RCM, the Royal Mint in Britain, the Monnaie de Paris
and others compete for the business, which may become a larger
proportion of their production as smaller denomination coins are
migrated out of circulation and no longer produced. (Until the 1980s,
the U.S. also competed for a share of the market; it struck coins for
many foreign governments.)
The withdrawal of the Canadian 1-cent coin in 2012 opened up some
capacity for foreign coinage contracts at RCM facilities. Despite the
world’s ever increasing use of digital media for transactions, demand
for circulating coins remains high in many countries around the world.
The Royal Australian Mint and the Japan Mint are two notable
entrants into the foreign circulation coinage game in the past two or
The RCM secured 25 international contracts in 2012, including with
Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fiji and Saudi Arabia.
It has provided coins or blanks to more than 75 countries since the
Winnipeg Mint facility opened in 1976.
The RCM makes money in more ways than merely striking coins. It
offers consulting services and it licenses exclusive technologies it
develops through partnerships with suppliers. It also produces
collector coins, medals, medallions and tokens, and it offers guidance
on coin distribution management, marketing and communications, and
Truong has been at the center of many of the RCM’s technical
innovations during his 35-year career (which still continues). Truong
directed teams of engineers to develop hologram technology in minting,
the refinement of .99999 fine gold, laser virtual imaging, and many
The technology is not created just for export, but is daily seen
in tangible form by users of Canadian currency. New versions of the $1
and $2 coins, released last year — in addition to featuring the
plating technology — offer increased security features like laser
marks and DNA (digital nondestructive activation) technology.
The new $1 coin from Singapore’s new series of circulation coins
features the laser mark technology. Singapore’s new coins represent an
overhaul of the coinage system, with three denominations being resized
in logical ascending size order.
New R&D center
The launch of the center for research and development at Winnipeg
is the latest manifestation of an increasing financial commitment to
those priorities, as the RCM has spent $19.6 million Canadian on
research and development during the last six years, with its highest
yearly expenditure the $7.4 million spent in 2012 as work on the
Winnipeg center progressed.
The center will support four core areas of the RCM’s business:
Numismatics and Collectibles; Bullion, Refinery and Exchange Traded
Receipts; Canadian Circulation; and Foreign Business.
The research and development center facility in Ottawa focuses on
advanced minting technology with an emphasis on surface engineering,
specialized engraving for numismatics, bullion and refinery.
The center’s facility in Winnipeg will explore advanced
circulation coinage technologies with a focus on new multi-ply plating
technology, new materials and high security technologies for
When the center becomes fully operational (expected by the end of
2013), the RCM will recruit scientists, engineers and technicians to
staff a number of laboratories and facilities within the
At Winnipeg, RCM officers are creating a new technology
applications laboratory, to prove out new technologies such as
improved high-speed coin coloring; an analytical and physical testing
laboratory, to test the composition and physical characteristics of
materials and their properties such as electromagnetic signature, and
their hardness/durability; a security features advancements
laboratory, to enhance coin security features such as micro-engraved
laser marks, edge lettering and virtual imaging; and a
laboratory-scale plating line to permit more advanced investigation of
new plating materials and “live demonstrate” custom plating
applications to customers. ■