March 27, 2014

Royal Canadian Mint releases a commemorative Alice Munro coin


The coin freshly minted in Alice Munro's honor. Via Royal Canadian Mint.

The coin freshly minted in Alice Munro’s honor. Via Royal Canadian Mint.

As if a Nobel Prize weren’t recognition enough, Canadian writer Alice Munro was honored with a commemorative coin in her home country earlier this week. In honor of her being the first Canadian to win the Nobel in literature, the Royal Canadian Mint has released a silver five-dollar coin dedicated to Munro, André Picard writes for the Globe and Mail.

As with all commemorative or limited-edition coins, it exists in a somewhat confusing context. Despite being officially worth five Canadian dollars, it’s being sold for $69.95, which seems to defeat the purpose of even having an assigned value for it. It’s clearly meant as a collector’s item, not to be actually circulated—only 7,500 of them will be minted. But then, why bother calling it a five-dollar coin? Why use a coin for this purpose at all? I don’t intend to slam the tribute to Munro in particular; it’s just always struck me as a counterintuitive practice.

Before this devolves into a unhinged rant about Canadian currency (loonies??), I’ll point out that along with the prestige of a coin in Munro’s honor, the Mint has committed to making a donation of $10,000 to a charity in her name. Munro has selected the Writers’ Trust of Canada, an organization founded by Margaret Atwood and four other writers that seeks to “encourage a flourishing writing community in this country.” The Trust awarded Munro a $10,000 prize in 1986 for her work, and now she’s able to return the favor. Her daughter, Sheila Munro, said of the choice, “We cast around and the Writers’ Trust seemed like the right place. We know it will be used appropriately.”

The coin itself depicts part of the text from Munro’s collection, The View from Castle Rock (legible with a magnifying glass), and a laurel to represent the Nobel Prize. Kind of hilariously, Picard clarifies that “the flip side of the coin features the Queen, not Ms. Munro.” Not many authors have earned the honor of being immortalized in currency; Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, had her work celebrated with two collector coins—a 22-karat gold one, and a 25-cent colored (excuse me, “coloured”) coin that featured the book in 2008, to mark its centennial.

Munro herself isn’t quoted in the Globe and Mail article, but her daughter Sheila says on her behalf, “It’s quite an hono[u]r. We didn’t even know this kind of special coin existed.” And the Nobel Prize winner was on hand for the unveiling of an enlarged model of her coin at the downtown library in Victoria, British Columbia.


Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.