100 years later.
Canada’s money maker The Royal Canadian Mint is commemorating the centennial anniversary of the discovery insulin with three new coins: two general circulation toonies (Canadian two-dollar coins) and a 1oz Pure Gold coin valued at nearly $4000 CAD.
Synthetic “human insulin” is used to treat diabetes, a disease in which sugar accumulates in the blood, causing damage to important organs. The human body typically produces and uses its own insulin but people with diabetes either don’t produce enough of it or cells aren’t receptive to it. Either way, the synthetic insulin helps manage blood sugars, prolonging life and improving the overall quality of life.
The idea for creating such insulin was being researched in 1920, with major breakthroughs coming in 1921, and the final published analysis released in 1922. The team of researchers – including Frederick Banting, John MacLeod, Charles Best, and James Collip – would later famously sell the patent to their discovery for $1, in an attempt at ensuring insulin would be widely available and affordable for those that need it. (In the United States, insulin has seen skyrocketing prices, largely due to a concentration of drug manufacturers, with prices nearly 10x the price of insulin available to diabetics in Canada.)
The coins themselves feature several nods to the discovery – a maple leaf (naturally), mortar and pestle, an Erlenmeyer flask, and an early vial of insulin, along with depictions of the hormone at work featured prominently. On the coloured toonie, it’s featured in a vibrant blue, while the rest of the two-toned coin remains traditional in colour.
A 2021 circulation set–with both versions of the toonie–is available for $24.95, while rolls retail for $79.95. The special gold coin has a limiting mintage of 450.
Find out more about the coins on the Mint’s website.