This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Forces’ 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, more commonly known as the Snowbirds. The Snowbirds have performed at over 2,500 airshows across North America, entertaining over 150 million spectators with the coordinated excellence they demonstrate by their aerial acrobatics. Based in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, the Snowbirds have represented each Canadian armed service and every province. Not only are the pilots themselves all volunteers, but so are all their support staff and technicians. The Snowbirds’ primary mission is to be ambassadors for the Canadian Armed Forces, and the affection with which they are regarded across the country attests to the success of their mission thus far.
In honour of their 50th anniversary, this year the Royal Canadian Mint is releasing two coins featuring the Snowbirds. Yet this is not the first time that Canadian commemorative coins have paid homage to them. Here is an overview of coins, past and present, that have paid tribute to the team.
1997 Canada $20 Snowbirds CT-114 Tutor Jet
This sterling silver coin was the first to honour the Snowbirds, specifically the Canadian-built plane in which they fly, the CT-114 Tutor Jet. This plane was designed in the 1950s specifically for training pilots and was manufactured by Canadair, with the first one rolling off the assembly line in 1960. In addition to the Snowbirds’ logo, a CT-114 in the foreground, and the nine planes flying in formation in the background, the coin also features a gold-plated cameo portrait of the former Vice President of Canadair, Edward Higgins.
2006 Canada $5 Snowbirds Coin and Stamp Set
This cool piece of memorabilia resulted from a collaboration between the Royal Canadian Mint and Canada Post. The attractively packaged set includes two authentic Canadian stamps depicting the Snowbirds in action and a pure silver commemorative coin with a face value of $5 on one side of the hinged display case, with the Snowbirds’ logo on the other side.
The image on the reverse side of the coin features a close-up of a pilot at the controls, while the other planes are reflected in the cockpit. What makes this unique is that this coin was one of the first pure silver coins to feature a double-holographic image, meaning that the image seems to change depending on how you look at it.
2021 Canada $5 Moments To Hold: The Snowbirds
Moments To Hold is a series of Canadian commemorative coins highlighting the anniversaries of significant events in Canadian history. The third coin in the four-part series celebrates the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Snowbirds. The reverse depicts the entire squadron flying in the “Big Diamond” formation against a backdrop of clouds and sky and in front of a big number 50. The Snowbird Tutors are viewed from underneath so that the “speedbird” design on their undersides, introduced in 1974, is clearly visible. Canadian graphic artist Dave O’Malley designed the image. Dan Dempsey, a former Snowbird team leader and commanding officer, served as a production liaison.
2021 Canada $50 The Snowbirds: A Canadian Legacy
The design on the reverse of this coin was based on a photograph taken by Mike Reyno, a Canadian publisher and aviation photographer, and created by Dave O’Malley. Selective gold plating brings out the detail of the two solo planes in the foreground and makes the remaining seven planes flying in the “Double Diamond” formation in the background really pop. The two solo planes in the foreground are Snowbirds 8 and 9, and because of the way they are splitting away from each other, the viewer gets a good look at both the top and the bottom of the CT-114 Tutor Jet at the same time.
A Canadian institution for 50 years now, the Snowbirds are worthy of multiple commemorative coins. Shop for these and other Royal Canadian Mint items at Colonial Acres Coins.