The Voyageur Dollar was a coin of Canada struck for circulation from 1935 through 1986. Until 1968, the coin was composed of 80% silver. A smaller, nickel version for general circulation was struck from 1968 through 1986. In 1987, the coin was replaced by the loonie. However, like all of Canada's discontinued coins, the voyageur dollar coins remain legal tender.
In 1911, after lengthy debate, the first Canadian silver dollar was struck. Only two remain, one in a museum, the other in private hands, and recently auctioned for $1.4 million.
In 1935, a commemorative silver dollar was struck for King George V's Silver Jubilee. It showed the King on the obverse (front) and, a canoe containing a voyageur, or unlicensed fur trader (and a native man), on the reverse (back). The canoe also contains two bundles of furs—on one, the initials HB, for Hudson's Bay Company may be seen. The reverse was designed by Emanuel Hahn.
Struck in silver
The issue was generally considered a success, and beginning in 1936, the silver dollar (in .800 fine silver) was struck more-or-less annually as a regular issue for general circulation, with the same reverse design as in 1935. Although commemorative dollars were struck for circulation for the visit of King George VI in 1939, no regular issue dollars were struck that year, or, as it turned out, until the end of World War II in 1945. Thereafter, Voyageur Dollars were struck each year through 1966, except in years (e.g. 1935, 1939, and 1958) when a commemorative dollar was struck for circulation. In 1967, a special "flying goose" design was struck for the Canadian Centennial.
Beginning in 1968, following the 1967 special Canadian centennial series, which included a new commemorative dollar as well as new commemorative designs for the remaining 5 coins (1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents), the Voyageur Dollar series resumed. It now, however, was struck in pure nickel with the diameter reduced from 36 mm to 32 mm, as Canada's coinage was debased from silver to nickel. In 1970, 1971, 1973, and 1974, the series was interrupted for circulating commemorative nickel dollars. Circulating commemorative nickel dollars were struck again in 1982 and 1984, but the Voyageur dollar was also produced. It was struck last for circulation in 1986 and for collectors in 1987.
Change of design
The nickel dollar never circulated well. However, a need was seen by the mint for a circulating dollar coin. To encourage circulation, the size was to be reduced, the colour was to be changed, and the one-dollar note eliminated from circulation.
The Voyageur design was to be used. However, a set of dies depicting the design was lost in transit. To eliminate the risk of counterfeiting, an alternate design, featuring a loon, was used. This became known as the loonie.
In 2003, in special proof sets honouring the fiftieth anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the Voyageur design was struck again in sterling silver in a limited edition of 30,000. In 2017, the Royal Canadian Mint issued special edition one-dollar coins in silver and gold with platinum plating to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Loonie, with one of the coins utilizing its design, but bearing the dual dates "1987-2017".
- "The loonie, a Canadian touchstone, is turning 20". CTV News. Canadian Press. June 27, 2007. Retrieved 2012-01-15.