World Coins

Canada issues $2 coin to celebrate insulin research anniversary

The Royal Canadian Mint has issued a circulating commemorative $2 coin to celebrate the centennial of the discovery of insulin. Plain and colorful versions have been issued.

All images courtesy of the Royal Canadian Mint.

The discovery of insulin a century ago by four Canadian scientists is the subject of a new circulating commemorative $2 coin from the Royal Canadian Mint.

Plain and colorful versions have been released to honor the breakthrough by four Canadian researchers in 1921.

The collaboration of Frederick Banting, Charles Best, James Collip and John Macleod led to the isolation and purification of insulin and offered a life-saving treatment to people whose lives would previously have been cut short by diabetes.

The coins entered circulation July 13.

An ongoing fight

“The Nobel Prize-winning Canadian discovery of insulin in 1921 is one of the 20th century’s most celebrated medical discoveries, which has saved millions of lives in Canada and around the world,” said Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister and minister of finance, in a press release. “We are delighted this commemorative coin will circulate from coast to coast to coast as a tribute to one of Canada’s greatest scientific triumphs, and as a reminder of the critical importance of the next century of diabetes research.”

Laura Syron, president and CEO of Diabetes Canada, said, in a press release: “Although insulin brought miraculous change in life expectancy and quality of life for millions of people around the world, it is not a cure. Together with the support of Canadians and Canada’s researchers, we will continue the legacy of Frederick Banting, Charles Best, James Collip and John Macleod and end diabetes.”

Designing a tribute

Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario artist Jesse Koreck designed the reverse of the new $2 coins.

A focal point of the design is a monomer, a building block of the insulin molecule. Also displayed are scientific instruments used in the early formulation of insulin (vial, mortar and pestle, and Erlenmeyer flask) overlaid on a maple leaf, as well as red blood cells, glucose, and insulin molecules.

The words INSULIN / INSULINE appear on the coin’s outer ring, as do the years 1921 and 2021, highlighting the anniversary.

The laboratory instruments represent the “tools of the trade” of the four researchers behind the discovery and application of insulin for human use.

Banting developed the theory that a pancreatic substance could be extracted as a possible treatment for diabetes and led the research; Macleod provided a laboratory and equipment at the University of Toronto and assigned Best as a lab assistant; and biochemist Collip purified insulin extracts for use as an effective diabetes treatment.

The obverse features the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, designed by Canadian artist Susanna Blunt in 2003.

Colorful coins will show the insulin monomer in the same blue color used to raise diabetes awareness.

Mintages, other versions

In all, 2 million colorful versions and 1 million plain versions of the coin were released.

The $2 coins are available on a collector card, and rolls of both plain and colorful examples of the $2 coin are offered in either English or French language wrappers.

To round out the offering, the RCM has issued a Proof 1-ounce .9999 fine gold $200 coin featuring a large-scale version of circulation coin’s reverse design. The gold coin has a mintage limit of 450 pieces and retails for $3,999.95 Canadian (all prices in Canadian). 

The collector card is limited to 100,000 sets, for $24.95 each.

The specially wrapped rolls are limited to 10,000 rolls for the plain version, or 27,000 rolls of the colorful version, and retail for $79.95 per roll.

To order, or learn more, visit the RCM’s special webpage,

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