Canadian Geographic
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Geography of coins

Medals and medallions

Since the 1930s, the Royal Canadian Mint has produced medals, medallions and tokens for a variety of clients, from government bodies such as the Department of National Defence to companies like Canadian Tire.

Medals are usually struck in precious metal (bronze, silver or gold) and serve a number of purposes. Medals for awards and recognition acknowledge a variety of achievements and are given to individuals or organizations. An example is the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award medal, made of commercial bronze and plated with 9999 fine gold.

The Mint began making military medals in 1943 to recognize individual acts of heroism or achievement in the service of our country. The Sacrifice Medal, for instance, is awarded to honour those who die as a result of military service or are wounded by hostile action.

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The highest-profile medals produced recently were for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Precision-manufactured in the Mint’s Ottawa facility, the gold, silver and bronze medals created a buzz with the general public. The medals were undulated, or wavy, in form, and the text and motifs were laser-engraved. No two medals were alike.

Medallions are typically struck in base metals or alloys, such as nickel or bronze, and are issued for artistic or commemorative purposes. Two such medallions are the 1983 silver medallion to commemorate the royal visit to Canada by Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and the 1999 nickel medallion issued to honour Wayne Gretzky’s retirement from professional hockey.

Finally, tokens produced by the Mint can be traded for their respective face value, generally in a specific municipality or a commercial enterprise, such as a casino or a theme park.


This video outlines the process of producing the unique 3-D medals for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. It discusses the passion, artistry, engineering processes and technical expertise required by the Royal Canadian Mint to create over 1,014 medals.


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Quiz :

How many countries has the Mint produced coins and/or blanks for?