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Balance and composition – the 2-dollar coin

The 2-dollar coin, or 'Toonie', as Canadians have named it, features the image of an adult polar bear in early summer on an ice floe. It was designed by wildlife and landscape artist Brent Townsend. The 2-dollar coin was first introduced on February 19, 1996, to replace the 2-dollar bill. The 'Toonie' has a life span approximately 20 times longer than paper currency and is manufactured using a distinctive bi-metallic coin locking mechanism patented by the Royal Canadian Mint.

Reverse side designs  |   Technical specifications  |   Mintages

Reverse side designs

The Many Faces of the "Toonie" $2 Circulation Coin

"What's a real Toonie supposed to look like?" That's an excellent question easily answered by this visual guide showing the many faces of the more than 675 million two-dollar circulation coins which have entered circulation since their introduction in 1996.

The design of this bi-metallic coin with the Polar Bear on its reverse, or "tails" side, has evolved as the Royal Canadian Mint continues to use its coins to celebrate Canada's history, culture and values. The same has happened to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's portrait on the obverse, or "heads" side, as her image was updated on all of Canada's circulation coinage in 2003.

Follow this guide to help you better understand and appreciate the diverse features of the "Toonies" circulating today.

The 2010 Two-Dollar Circulation Coin

2010 2 dollar circulation coin
Reverse (Tails Side) Obverse (Heads Side)

Composition: Outer ring of 99% nickel and inner core of 92% copper, 6% aluminum and 2% nickel*
Weight (g): 7.3
Diameter (mm): 28
Thickness (mm): 1.8
* Applies to all coins from 1996 to present


  • A special locking mechanism allows the outer ring and the core to stay locked together. This mechanism has been developed by the Royal Canadian Mint and is patented. The inner core of the coin can withstand up to 181 kilos of pressure, or about ten times the pressure the average human hand can exert.
  • The coin has a unique electromagnetic signal which allows each coin to be accepted to rejected by coin accepting machines such as vending, parking, transit, and coin counting machines.
  • The coin is made of pure alloy material and the manufacturing process requires specialized equipment.
  • Since 2006, the bottom of the obverse side features the Mint Mark, which consists of an encircled design composed of a stylized maple leaf emerging from the letter M.

The Two-Dollar Circulation Coin through History

1996 2 dollar circulation coin

(1996-1998 and 2001-2003)

When introduced in 1996, the two-dollar circulation coin showed a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II designed by Canadian artist Dora de Pedery-Hunt. This image of Her Majesty appeared on all Canadian circulation coins from 1990 to 2003. The iconic Polar Bear design on the reverse is the work of renowned wildlife artist Brent Townsend.

1999 2 dollar circulation coin

The Founding of Nunavut (1999)

Nunavut First Nations artist Germaine Arnaktauyok created a special design to commemorate the founding of Nunavut, Canada's newest territory. This design appeared on all 1999 two-dollar coins produced for general circulation. In 1999, the Polar Bear design appeared only in a limited number of special coin sets produced for the collector market.

2000 2 dollar circulation coin

Path of Knowledge (2000)

For the new millennium, artist Tony Bianco illustrated a female polar bear and her two cubs to represent the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next. The inscription on the coin's outer rim reads "Knowledge - Le Savoir." This was the only "tails" design to appear on the 2000 two-dollar circulation coin.

2003 2 dollar circulation coin
2003 2 dollar circulation coin

The end of an era, the birth of a new effigy (2003)

2003 was the last year the Dora de Pedery-Hunt design of Her Majesty's effigy appeared on the two-dollar circulation coin. In June 2003, the Government of Canada announced that an updated effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II would appear on all Canadian circulation coins in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Queen's coronation. This design is the work of artist Susanna Blunt, whose prior experience with Buckingham Palace included painting a portrait of Prince Edward. It is by no mistake that two-dollar circulation coins dated 2003 show both the "crowned" and "uncrowned" effigy of Her Majesty.

2006 2 dollar circulation coin
2006 2 dollar circulation coin

Two new coins for the 10th Anniversary of the two-dollar circulation coin (2006)

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of its introduction, the two-dollar circulation coin was produced in two versions: the first honouring the traditional Polar Bear design of artist Tony Bianco and the second featuring his updated pose of the bear looking up at the dramatic lines of an Aurora Borealis.

It is important to note the position of 1996-2006 double date on each coin: the traditional bear design shows the date beneath the effigy of Her Majesty, while the updated bear shows the date above the effigy.

In 2006, the Mint also introduced the Mint Mark on the obverse side of all Canadian circulation coinage. The Mint Mark encompasses the three elements of the Mint's corporate name: M for Mint; a Maple leaf for Canadian; and a crown for Royal and Crown Corporation. It features the Mint design within a circle and consists of a symbol depicting a stylized maple leaf emerging from the letter M.

With the exception of the 2008 two-dollar circulation coin celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the founding of Quebec City, the Mint Mark always appears beneath the effigy of Her Majesty on the obverse of two-dollar circulation coins produced since 2006. Since the introduction of the Mint Mark, the maple leaf no longer appears above the effigy of Her Majesty.

2008 2 dollar circulation coin

400th Anniversary of the founding of Quebec City (2008)

Quebec artist Geneviève Bertrand won a design competition to create a new reverse of the two-dollar circulation coin commemorating the 400th anniversary of Quebec City. The date 1608 appeared on the left side of the outer ring, while 2008 appeared on the right of the ring on this commemorative coin's reverse side. Only six million of these special coins circulated, in addition to more than 17 million 2008 Toonies produced with the traditional Polar Bear design.

As the date was moved to the reverse side of this commemorative coin, the Mint Mark was moved to the core of the coin on the obverse, to the immediate left of Her Majesty's effigy.

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Technical specifications

1996 - 2012
Composition: outer ring 99% nickel, inner core 92% copper, 6% aluminum, 2% nickel
Weight (g): 7.3
Diameter (mm): 28
Thickness (mm): 1.8

2012 - present
Composition: outer ring - multi-ply nickel plated steel, insert - multi-ply brass plated aluminum bronze
Weight (g): 6.92
Diameter (mm): 28
Thickness (mm): 1.75
Two laser marks of maple leaves, each within a circle, at the bottom of the coin's reverse
A virtual image of two maple leaves will appear at the top of the coin – a different image is produced as the coin is turned from side to side.
Edge-lettering of the words "CANADA" and "2 DOLLARS" are engraved along the coin's outer edge.

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1996 - 1999
1996 - 375,483,000
1997 - 16,942,000
1998 - 5,309,000
1999 - 25,130,000

2000 - 2009
2000 - 29,847,000
2001 - 11,910,000
2002 - 27,020,000
2003 - 11,244,000
2004 - 12,908,000
2005 - 38,317,000
2006 - 35,319,000
2007 - 38,957,000
2008 - 18,400,000
2009 - 38,430,000

2010 - present
2010 - 8,220,000
2011 - 27,488,000
2012 - 89,185,000
2013 - 12,390,000
2014 - 16,305,000
2015 - 30,378,500
2016 - 25,669,000
2017 - 39,595,000
2018 - 26,730,000

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