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Visiting the Currency Museum at the Bank of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario: brainchild of former Governor James Coyne

Updated on March 17, 2015
Flag of Canada
Flag of Canada | Source
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Main entrance to Currency Museum, Bank of Canada, Ottawa
Main entrance to Currency Museum, Bank of Canada, Ottawa | Source
James E. Coyne, Governor of the Bank of Canada
James E. Coyne, Governor of the Bank of Canada | Source

A great sense of stability

In 1955 James E. Coyne (1910-) was appointed Governor of the Bank of Canada, the country's central bank, a body established in 1935. Mr. Coyne had previously served as Deputy Governor. As Governor, James Coyne sought to maintain a robust independence on the part of the Bank of Canada vis-à-vis the governments of the day, particularly the Diefenbaker government, which first took office in 1957. (A number differences of viewpoint emerged between the Governor and the government, leading to Mr. Coyne's decision to resign from his post in 1961 (1).)

Among the lasting results of James E. Coyne's Governorship was a proposal for a Canadian national currency collection, which led, in 1959, to the retaining of numismatic expert G. R. L. Potter as a consultant. This collection, begun when Mr. Coyne was Governor, has expanded over the years, acquiring a number of other significant collections. Governor Coyne's successor Louis Rasminsky appointed Sheldon S. Carroll as Curator of the currency collection, formally designated in 1977 as the National Currency Collection, becoming the Currency Museum / Musée de la monnaie in 1980.

In addition to tracing the history of Canadian currency over 150 years, the Museum also houses examples of currency from Antiquity, the Middle Ages and modern, foreign currency.

A learning centre for students exists within the Museum. Special exhibitions are regularly held; among these have been included those entitled 'Fake and Forgeries: Yesterday and Today' and 'By All Account: 75 Years of Central Banking'.

When I visited the Museum, among the items which caught my attention was a banknote issued by William Lyon Mackenzie's ill-fated Republic of Canada, based in theory for a very short time in 1837 at Navy Island in the Niagara River. While Canada's history has undoubtedly undergone some turbulent periods, a great sense of stability seems to exude from the history of Canadian currency, as depicted by the Museum.

Addendum: James Coyne passed away on October 12, 2012.


(1) Denis Smith, in his Rogue Tory: the Life and Legend of John G. Diefenbaker, Toronto: Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 1995, has given a detailed account of this period. While in 1961 the House of Commons, at the Government's urging, declared that Governor Coyne's position was vacant (meaning that the Government was attempting to dismiss Mr. Coyne), this was not ratified by the Senate (meaning that the Government had failed in this attempt), giving the opportunity for Mr Coyne to resign with dignity shortly afterwards, leaving to historians the task of assessing the substance of the working relations between the Bank of Canada and the Diefenbaker Government.

Also worth seeing

In Ottawa itself, among its many visitor attractions are: the Parliament buildings, Laurier House, the Chateau Laurier, the National War Memorial, Rideau Hall and many museums.

Gatineau , Quebec (distance from Downtown Ottawa: 2 kilometres); its Citizen's House (French: Masion du citoyen ) has a noted art gallery and the Hall of the Nations (French: Hall des nations ) containing valuable cultural artifacts from around the world. Gatineau Park (French: Parc de la Gatineau ) has exceptional recreational and scenic possibilities.


How to get there: Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa; car rental is available; however, visitors may wish instead to use OC Transpo public transit for travel within the Ottawa / Gatineau area. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 6 years ago

      point2make: Watch out for the very cold weather in Ottawa if you go in the winter, but otherwise it's a very rewarding place for the visitor, and I certainly found the currency museum fascinating. Thank-you for your comment.

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 6 years ago

      Great hub very informative and interesting. I have never been to Ottawa but your descriptions and suggestions make it tempting. Thanks for the tour. Voted up.