Robert Ralph Carmichael, artist behind Canada’s loonie, dies at 78
Now ubiquitous, the lone-loon design on the Canadian one dollar coin only came about as a result of a shipping mishap
TORONTO—The man who created the design for Canada’s loonie coin has died.
Artist Robert-Ralph Carmichael’s image of a solitary loon was introduced in 1987, when Canada replaced its one dollar bill with a coin. It was “the most significant change to Canada’s coinage system in over 50 years,” the Royal Canadian Mint said.
“Since that time, Mr. Carmichael’s design has appeared on over one billion one-dollar coins,” the mint said in a statement. “We thank him for his remarkable contribution in creating what has become a true Canadian symbol.”
Carmichael died Saturday at a hospice in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. He was 78 years old.
He also produced designs for some of the mint’s commemorative coins and created a loon stamp for Canada Post.
When the mint originally announced it would replace its one dollar bill with a coin as a cost-cutting measure, it was supposed to carry a version of a silver dollar from 1935 that was produced to mark the silver jubilee of King George V.
The silver dollar’s design, which featured an aboriginal man and a voyageur paddling a canoe laden with packages, paid tribute to Canada’s historical fur trade.
But when the mint decided to reproduce the design, the dies that would have been used to cast the new coins were lost in transit between Ottawa and the mint’s production facility in Winnipeg.
Worried that counterfeit versions of the voyageur coin might surface, the mint selected a new design—Carmichael’s image of a loon—and released the new dollar coins on June 30, 1987.
In 1992, Carmichael’s hometown of Echo Bay, Ont., near Sault Ste. Marie, erected a giant Loonie monument in tribute to the artist’s design.
In a written statement for Concordia University’s Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art, Carmichael wrote that a major theme of his work was the human condition and our relationships with the environment and each other.
“Each viewer, of course, brings to the work his or her own set of life experiences from which to access it,” he wrote. “I hope (my works) continue to reveal new levels of meaning as new experiences are brought to them.”