"Loonie" is the almost universal (English-language) nickname for the Canadian one-dollar coin. First introduced in 1987, the loonie bears an image of a loon in water, surrounded by the words "CANADA DOLLAR" on its reverse, and the same portrait of Queen Elizabeth II as the quarter on its obverse. The year is engraved above "DOLLAR" on the obverse, and the edge of the coin has eleven flat sides. The coin is made of nickel plated with bronze which gives it its distinctive 'dirty gold' colouring after wear.
The nickname "loonie" was bestowed upon it when it was introduced because the Canadian public thought it was a crazy idea, plus it had a loon on it! It would almost certainly have gone the way of the Susan B. Anthony Dollar if the Bank of Canada had not decided to phase out the Canadian dollar bill in 1989. At this point, everyone was forced to get used to the loonie. Since the loonie proved to be very durable, the mint started making fewer and fewer loonies each year until in 1997 they stopped producing loonies for general circulation. This is why shiny loonies are such rare things to find in circulation, as almost every loonie in circulation has been circulating for at least five years. Small-scale mintage of loonies resumed in 2002.
Three different commemorative loonies were issued in the early to mid 1990s. For the 125th anniversary of Confederation in 1992, dollar coins were minted showing the Parliament Buildings and three children holding a Canadian flag on the reverse, with the date '1867-1992' printed beneath the Queen's portrait on the obverse. The National War Memorial is found on the front of (all? some?) 1994 dollar coins, for the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, and the Peacekeeping Monument is shown on 1995 dollar coins to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations. Despite the lack of loons, these variant coins are still called loonies by the majority of Canadians.
The technical specifications of the loonie are:
Composition: 91.5% nickel with 8.5% bronze plating
Weight (g): 7
Diameter (mm): 26.5
Thickness (mm): 1.75
except for the 1987 mintage which is 0.2 mm thicker.
Details found at the Royal Canadian Mint website, including specifications
This writeup is copyright 2002,2005 D.G. Roberge and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial licence. Details can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd-nc/2.0/ .