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The party heard ’round the world

Ask artist Pandora Young where she’d time travel if she could revisit V-E Day and she’ll tell you, “Wherever the crowds were the biggest.” The day the news broke that the Second World War was over in Europe was one of the first truly global moments in history — and that spirit of mass celebration inspired Young’s design for the 2020 Fine Silver Proof Dollar marking the 75th anniversary of V-E Day.

“With today’s technology, we share all kinds of things instantly,” Young says. “We’re used to it. But in the spring of 1945, it was exceptional that media technology had advanced to the point that people all across Canada and around the world, on every continent, could join together and share that amazing moment.”

A self-described “history buff,” Young wanted to learn everything she could about the celebrations of May 8, 1945, when she began working on her coin design. She scoured old newspapers for photos and was struck by the joyous tone of every picture she came across: throngs of ecstatic people from St. John’s to Vancouver—laughing, cheering and dancing with elation and relief on every face.

“You see it in old movies all the time,” Young says, “these moments when people break into song. But on that day, it really happened. People were singing and dancing in the streets.”

She adds that she realized she’d seen crowds like those before, in a way—on the streets of Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics. She was able to use that personal experience in her coin design as well.

FACES FROM EVERY FRONT

Young’s 2020 Fine Silver Proof Dollar design foregrounds three silhouettes representing the branches of the Canadian military—Navy, Army and Air Force—recognizing their vital role in making victory possible. Behind them is a crowd, those who kept the country going and poured themselves into the war effort on the home front, who loved and lost and were jubilant that the war was over.

For Young, it was especially important to make sure women were prominent in the coin’s design.

“Not to diminish the role men had on the front lines,” she says, “but I wanted to make sure everyone who doesn’t normally get featured on a coin had a place here: grandparents, children, mothers.”

CONNECTING ACROSS TIME AND SPACE

Acknowledging that sometimes people find history old and dusty, Young wanted the 2020 Fine Silver Proof Dollar to be an “extension cord” connecting today’s generations to that important moment in world—and Canadian—history.

“Whenever you look back at the past, you’re looking at humans who had quirks and fell in love and sang songs and ate breakfast,” she says. “They were as alive and complex as you or me.”

The coin is a unique blend of old and new, with an innovative technique used to create the faded effect of the crowd appearing alongside a historical obverse featuring the same effigy of King George VI used in 1945. Both sides have a stunning proof finish that highlights every last detail.

GLORIFYING PEACE

As a pacifist, Young has been honoured to design several war-themed coins for the Royal Canadian Mint. She appreciates being able to highlight the human element of the events and to build that connection with the past. Being selected to design the V-E Day coin was especially exciting because it gave her the unique opportunity to create a coin focused on peace.

“This was a moment that capped off a truly horrific period,” says Young. “This war pushed us just about as far as we could go as a society and, while we’ve had other conflicts, we haven’t had another world war. That gives me hope, and I hope people looking at this coin will feel the same.”

She adds that the Mint’s willingness to look beyond the traditional ways of commemorating wartime events is one of the things she loves about designing coins.

“Sometimes the bravest thing of all is to glorify peace,” she says. “The Mint is one of the bravest, most imaginative in the business. I can’t wait for the next collaboration!”

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