Royal Canadian Mint honours Snowbirds’ 50th year with silver coin –

The Snowbirds air demonstration squadron flies into the hearts of millions of Canadians almost every year, and now thanks to the Royal Canadian Mint, they will soon fly into pockets and wallets.

The federal Crown corporation has produced a one-quarter ounce (7.96-gram) pure silver coin entitled Moments to Hold: The Snowbirds (2021) to honour the organization’s 50th consecutive airshow season in North America. The coin is 99.99 pure silver, has a diameter of 27 millimetres, and costs $24.95 per coin. 

The coin’s reverse was designed by Canadian graphic artist Dave O’Malley and features the unique “speed bird” design that has graced the bottom of the Snowbird Tutors since a new paint scheme was introduced in 1974. The obverse features the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt with “ELIZABETH II,” “D·G·REGINA” and “5 DOLLARS” engraved along the outer edge. 

Historical text and production liaison were provided by former Snowbird commanding officer and team leader Dan Dempsey.

This has been a project that the Snowbirds Alumni Association has worked on for the past two years and helped bring to fruition. 

“We are super proud to have the coin. It shows a good milestone. It shows 50 years of (the) Snowbirds,” squadron spokesman Capt. Gabriel Ferris said. “It’s a huge milestone to be able to run with the same aircraft for the past 50 years … .”

Squadron members are thrilled to showcase the coin and even purchase one for themselves as a keepsake, he continued. In addition, past members will likely buy a few for their families since many members spent years with the squadron and hundreds of days on the road performing. 

The Snowbirds’ pilots had some input into the coin’s design, but the base commander approved almost everything and ensured it respected the squadron, Ferris added. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) also gave its approval to the coin.

The genesis of the Snowbirds occurred in 1971 when the base commander of CFB Moose Jaw, Colonel O.B. Philp, decided to form a seven-plane airshow team to carry on the legacy of the Golden Centennaires that he had commanded in 1967 during Canada’s Centennial Year. 

The Snowbirds were granted permanent status as a new squadron in the Canadian Forces on April 1, 1978, when they officially became known as 431 (Air Demonstration) Squadron.

The Royal Canadian Mint is honoured to salute the Snowbirds as they celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2021, said Pascale Poulin, co-ordinator of public affairs. The squadron carries on a proud tradition of aerial excellence that dates back to Canada’s early years of powered flight. 

Their predecessors include the RCAF’s first official aerobatic team in 1929, the Siskins, followed by the Blue Devils, Sky Lancers, Red Knight, Golden Hawks and Golden Centennaires, to name a few. 

In the post-war years before unification in 1968, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) also formed several aerobatic teams, including the Seafire Exhibition Flight and Grey Ghosts.

The Mint has a long tradition of celebrating Canadian individuals and organizations on its coins, which educate Canadians on the history behind those groups, Poulin said. With the Snowbirds, their legacy can be measured in the hearts and minds of millions of citizens who look into the sky to marvel at the team’s acrobatics every year. 

“They continue to be proud ambassadors for the men and women serving in all branches of the Canadian Armed Forces,” he added, “while paying tribute to the thousands of personnel — both military and civilian — who have contributed to their overwhelming success and popularity across North America.”

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