Every coin tells a story and part of the fun of collecting coins is learning about the history of each and the significant landmarks associated with them. While the five-cent piece is the smallest denomination of Canada decimal coins currently in circulation, the largest coin in the world is a Canadian nickel, currently on display at the Dynamic Earth Science Museum in Sudbury, Ontario. This numismatic curiosity is commonly referred to as the “Big Nickel” and is one of the best-known tourist attractions in Canada.
How Big Is the Big Nickel?
The Big Nickel is approximately 64 million times larger than the average Canadian nickel. It weighs approximately 13,000 kilos and is nine metres high, or about 30 feet. It is approximately the height that the Tyrannosaurus Rex would have been and weighs as much as an average school bus.
The Big Nickel also looms large in terms of popularity. An estimated 100,000 people come to see it every year, although no official statistics on the number of tourists is available.
What Is the Big Nickel Made of?
The Big Nickel is not made entirely of nickel. The cost would have been prohibitively expensive if it were. The outer core is stainless steel, which contains nickel as protection against rust. The Big Nickel’s caretakers at Dynamic Earth credit the nickel in the outer core for the spotless outward appearance of the oversized coin. The inner core of the coin is made of steel.
How Did the Big Nickel Come To Be?
The idea for the Big Nickel came from a fireman named Ted Szilva. The year 1967 was the Canadian Centennial, and four years before, the Sudbury Canada Centennial Committee held a contest asking local residents how the city could best commemorate the occasion. Then 28 years old, Szilva read about the contest in the local paper and suggested a mining science centre, in honour of a major industry in the area, with a giant replica of the Canadian nickel attached to it.
Moving ahead on his own following painstaking research, Szilva purchased 17.5 acres near the INCO mining and smelting complex for the project. He was only able to build after leasing an additional four acres from INCO for road access and siting the monument a hair outside the city limits. This land now belongs to Numismatic Park because of a grant. The entire project cost $35,000 to complete, with $1,000 going to the initial land purchase.
Today, the Big Nickel is the only large coin that remains on display, but at one point, there were four others: a $20 gold piece, a Lincoln penny, a Fantasy Penny, and the Kennedy half-dollar. Part of Szilva’s initial concept was to include foreign coin replicas to increase the international appeal.
What Is the Significance of the Big Nickel?
When Szilva chose the nickel for the world’s largest coin, it was to honour a significant scientific discovery. In 1751, Baron Axel Fredrik Cronstedt, a Swedish chemist, had isolated nickel as a metal element. Szilva chose the 1951 version of the nickel from the Royal Canadian Mint as the design for the Big Nickel to pay homage to Baron Cronstedt’s achievement.
When the Big Nickel was unveiled by Canadian Centennial commissioner John Fisher in 1964, a crowd of 1,500 people were on hand to witness it. Over 55 years later, it continues to hold a special place in the hearts of Canadians. In 2009, a birthday party was held on the Dynamic Earth Science Museum’s grounds in honour of the Big Nickel’s 45th anniversary.
Claim Your Own Collectable Nickel at Colonial Acres Coins
Whether seeing the Big Nickel inspires you to start coin collecting or you go to see it because you are already interested in numismatics, Colonial Acres Coins carries five-cent pieces dating to before they were made out of nickel, from the 1800s, all the way to the present. Come visit us to start a new collection or add to an existing one.