Oscar Peterson Honoured with Commemorative Circulation Coin

The great Canadian jazz pianist appears on a special-edition loonie

Photo courtesy of the Royal Canadian Mint

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Aug 11, 2022

The late, great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson has been honoured by the Royal Canadian Mint with a new commemorative coin, making him the first Canadian musician to be minted in a circulation piece.

Unveiled today at Roy Thomson Hall, the Montreal-born legend — one of Canada's most decorated musicians, who died in 2007 at age 82 — appears on a special-edition loonie, which will enter circulation on his birthday, August 15. They'll make their way into Canadians' pockets as bank branches replenish their loonie supplies thereafter (that is, if your bank branch hasn't already gone totally cashless and compromised your coin-operated laundry-doing forevermore).

"For generations to come, people will be able to hold this coin in their hands," Peterson's wife Kelly Peterson said [via CTV News Ottawa]. "It is my hope that they will remember Oscar, or that it will inspire people to learn about who he was."

Royal Canadian Mint President and CEO Marie Lemay added in a press release: "Mr. Peterson's music and legendary performances have brought joy to millions of music lovers in Canada and around the world and we are proud to honour him, through this coin, for his exceptional contributions to Canadian music and culture."

While the obverse of the $1 piece has the standard effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, the reverse celebrates Peterson's legacy. It was designed by Ajax, ON's Valentine De Landro and depicts the musician seated at his piano, playing the incomparable civil rights call-to-arms "Hymn to Freedom." The coins with selective colour have a bright burst of Peterson's favourite hue: purple.

Collector editions of the coin, featuring a commemorative keepsake card and two different versions of the dollar — one coloured, one non-coloured — are on sale through the Royal Canadian Mint and its distributors for $24.95. They're expected to begin shipping out on August 18.

Peterson grew up in the Saint-Henri neighbourhood and got his start playing in the predominantly Black and immigrant churches in the city's south side. He went on to become one of the most acclaimed jazz musicians of all time, making over 400 recordings and touring all over the world with his Oscar Peterson Trio over the span of his 60-year career.

The pianist has previously been featured in a Heritage Minute and immortalized with a bronze statue in Ottawa.

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