Show me the money


Alchemist’s workshop


The long-sought philosopher’s stone is located in the south eastern corner of Winnipeg. Here the dreams and ambitions of countless get-rich-quick artists over the centuries have come true. Here is what revenue-strapped monarchs and governments dreamed of for centuries, and perhaps still do.

In a glowing gold and glass building, hundreds of people work the ancient art of alchemy… the transmutation of common metals into gold or silver. Inside the 160,000 sq foot Royal Canadian Mint on Lagimodiere Blvd they create value from relatively low-cost raw materials. And it’s a lot of value. Since the loon design by wildlife artist Robert-Ralph Carmichael first swam into view, about one billion loonies — made of 91.5 percent nickel and 8.5 percent aureate bronze — have been produced in the Mint’s Winnipeg facility. Here, some 280 people turn raw materials mined from Canadian bedrock and beyond into pocket change tossed onto the counter at the corner coffee shop. The Mint has efficiency and quality control down to a science: production volumes can now reach 20 million coins per day. More than one billion have been punched into existence, about 30 coins for each one of us.

On June 30, 1987, when 100 million new one-dollar coins were circulated across the country, Canadians didn’t know what to make of the 11-sided piece of gold-coloured currency. Vending machine operators were overjoyed: they envisioned higher amounts of cash being dropped into coin slots. But plenty of passionate Canadians preferred the old one-dollar banknotes to the bulky coins, even if those coins sported an adorable common loon floating grace-fully by a tree-lined shore.

When the loonie turned 25 years old in 2012, you could say that Canadians have been won over. The coin was the treasured talisman for the country’s Olympic hockey teams, among others, and is now ensconced in the lexicon of uniquely Canadian terms. Surveys confirm it has Canadian icon status.

Bramwell Ryan produced a package of copy and photos for Canadian Geographic on Canada’s gold standard – the loonie. Here are some images from that assignment that capture how the Mint stamps out value.



Posted on

December 2, 2013