THE SCOOP | Royal Canadian Mint Honours Pianist Oscar Peterson

By Anya Wassenberg on August 12, 2022

L-R: Phyllis Clark, Chair of the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) Board of Directors, Marie Lemay, RCM President and CEO, The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Kelly Peterson, Céline Peterson and Norman Peterson unveil a commemorative $1 circulation coin honoring Oscar Peterson at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, ON (August 11, 2022). (Photo courtesy of the RCM)
L-R: Phyllis Clark, Chair of the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) Board of Directors, Marie Lemay, RCM President and CEO, The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Kelly Peterson, Céline Peterson and Norman Peterson unveil a commemorative $1 circulation coin honouring Oscar Peterson at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, ON (August 11, 2022). (Photo courtesy of the RCM)

The Royal Canadian Mint has honoured late Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson’s memory with a commemorative circulation coin that was unveiled in Toronto on August 11.

“The Mint is passionate about celebrating stories of exceptional Canadians on its coins, and I am delighted that Oscar Peterson, the first Canadian musician to appear on a circulation coin, is being celebrated as one of the world’s most respected and influential jazz artists of all time,” said Marie Lemay, President and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint in a 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.”

The coin was designed by Ajax, Ontario artist Valentine De Landro. De Landro is an illustrator, designer and noted comic book artist. He depicts Peterson playing the piano with those famous hands, with the two closing bars of his Hymn to Freedom flowing from them.

Peterson began with classical music on the piano growing up in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighbourhood, first learning from his father and sister Daisy. He went on to a storied career as an acclaimed jazz pianist, leaving a legacy of over 400 recordings, eight Grammy Award wins, a Juno for Best Jazz Album, and a place in Canada’s Music Hall of Fame. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. Peterson died in 2007 at the age of 82.

The honour follows the release of the documentary film Oscar Peterson: Black + White last year.

“Throughout Oscar’s career, he received many awards and honours, each of which meant a great deal to him. During the nearly fifteen years since his passing, there have been more. All of them humbling. All of them a source of pride. The addition of this commemorative circulation coin bearing his likeness is something neither he nor I could ever have imagined,” said Kelly Peterson. “Knowing that Canadians now, and for generations to come, will hold this coin and be reminded of Oscar Peterson or be inspired to learn about him for the first time evokes emotions challenging to describe. I am deeply, profoundly honoured. Oscar was a great pianist and composer. He was a staunch advocate for human rights. Above all, he was always a proud Canadian. As his music is timeless, so too now will he be a part of the Canadian consciousness forever.”

The Oscar Peterson coin has a limited mintage of 3 million coins, and 2 million will also feature a purple accent — purple was his favourite colour.

You can wait to receive one as change eventually, or order it from the RCM online here.

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