Late jazz great Oscar Peterson to grace new $1 circulation coin

The coins will begin circulating Aug. 15, which would have been Peterson’s 97th birthday.

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Canadian jazz legend Oscar Peterson will star on a new commemorative $1 coin that will be widely circulated beginning early next week.

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“We are proud to honour him, through this coin, for his exceptional contributions to Canadian music and culture,” Royal Canadian Mint President and CEO Marie Lemay said Wednesday in a statement announcing the coin’s release.

Peterson becomes the first Canadian musician to appear on a circulation coin, Lemay said. The mint will make three million Peterson coins, of which two million will feature an accent in purple, the pianist’s favourite colour. The coins will begin circulating Aug. 15, which would have been Peterson’s 97th birthday.

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While the Montreal-born Peterson died in 2007 at the age of 82, his virtuosity and blues-based creativity continue to inspire musicians around the world. His career stretched over more than six decades, during which he made more than 400 recordings, won eight Grammy Awards and toured the world popularizing jazz.

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Designed by artist Valentine De Landro of Ajax, Ont., the coin shows Peterson at a piano, with the closing notes and chords of his signature composition Hymn to Freedom emanating from the piano.

Kelly Peterson, Oscar’s widow, said in a statement that her late husband, for all the accolades he received during his lifetime, could never have imagined that his likeness would appear on a coin.

“Knowing that Canadians at home and anyone who visits from abroad will hold the opportunity to learn about a formidable figure in our nation’s history in the palm of their hand brings me an immense amount of joy,” added Peterson’s daughter, Céline.

The mint is also issuing special limited-edition Peterson coins for collectors that will feature the same design, including a one-ounce silver coin, of which 5,000 will be minted, and a pure gold coin, of which 400 will be struck. These and other Peterson coins are already available for ordering at

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