Creating limited edition collectible coins for the Royal Canadian Mint has been a highlight of my career. I have been very fortunate in my art career so far to have worked on many exciting and meaningful projects. This past year, I began a project which is not only of such nature, it is without a doubt the most important art project of my career so far. I was contacted by an art director of an ad agency who sent me an email stating he was a big fan of my work and would I be interested in creating artist designed collectible coins with a limited run for the Royal Canadian Mint. The art director was then asked me in a very straight-ahead, no-nonsense kind of way if I would be interested in doing….get this, a coin for The Royal Canadian Mint. (!!!!) I forwarded the inquiry to my lovely and amazing agent and sister, Vandana Taxali, and we replied back stating that I was very interested. Vandana then met with the art director and the two of them engaged in numerous discussions, phone calls and emails which finally resulted in The Mint selecting me to design a total of SIX limited edition 25¢ coins. Fees, terms, usage and contract finally sorted out (thanks, sis!), the project was a green light.
I have to stop here for a second and state something for the record. Taxali is not my original last name. It was changed 300 years ago to Taxali by a Maharaja in India. My ancestor invented a coin that was difficult to counterfeit and was subsequently knighted Taxali by the Maharaja. It means, “Maker or Steward of The Mint”. How serendipitous!! Here I am, 300 years later, honouring my ancestor’s achievements and mine and my sister’s family name.
Back to the story. OK, admittedly, I had my reservations at first because while the project was to be of very high stature and profile, I was concerned about compromising my artistic integrity. Vandana assured me that this was not to be the case and that they wanted me, for me. This was affirmed by my first meeting with Dave who assured me that that I was free to interpret the SIX 2012″Celebration” themes in any way I envisioned. “They want you to do do the thing you do! These will be Gary Taxali coins and that’s what The Mint wants!”. Dave’s enthusiasm is contagious. My relief quickly turned to excitement and I began working on ideas like crazy.
I was given the themes of “Wedding”, “New Baby”, “Tooth Fairy”, “Birthday”, “O’ Canada” and “Holiday”. I jumped in head first and started sketching. Dave told me that I had to consider the “engraving” and so creating designs that would translate graphically to that process was important. Dave loved my sketches. This guy was in my camp!! He and I would have discussions and I was amazed at easy the ideas flowed all thanks to Dave’s “hands off” approach.
The “Birthday” coin was also almost too easy. It was a blast! Minor tweaks here and there but no problem, Dave and the Mint loved the idea of a cupcake sailing into the sky holding balloons. No cake, no candles, just a fun and happy picture! “O’ Canada” was also a breeze. Vandana was head-over-heels with my idea of depicting various maple leaves of different shapes and facial expressions. Dave also dug this idea and voila!, so did the Mint. Yes, even a leaf with his tongue sticking out! I wanted to represent things in non-obvious ways yet still aim to represent the spirit of Canada and its people. “New Baby” seemed best to approach it from the perspective of not showing an actual baby, but a mobile that may be found in a child’s room. Besides, I didn’t want to show any gender of ethnicity and just focus on the idea of new baby than a actual baby. In creating the mobile, I gained inspiration from a very important 2 year old named Reggie, who is the son of my dear friends and is also my nephew. The little guy LOVES cars like no child I have ever seen. Spending time playing cars with him gave me the eventual idea to stick a car in the design. Done, Reggie! “Tooth fairy” was a bit of a struggle. I was stuck on the idea of just showing a tooth but it didn’t feel magical, it felt dental! Eventually, the fairy was introduced and this magical nymph seemed to make the whole thing come alive. She’s my muse! “Holiday” was fun! I’m going to keep that coin description a secret for now because it will be released this fall in time of the holidays.
The real struggle came with “Wedding”. Dave was not liking my ideas and I have to admit, neither did I. It was a big struggle for me to depict a man and woman in the institution of marriage because I kept getting sucked into clichés and nothing felt strong compared to the other coin designs. One day, I was listening to Dan Savage’s podcast, a sex and relationship advice expert who also has a widely syndicated column. Dan reminded me of something in listing to his podcast: gay and lesbian people in America are fighting a big and important fight to have same-sex marriage legalized. It dawned on me that same-sex marriage is legal in Canada and as such, the coin needed to reflect that! I came up with an idea of showing 2 wedding ring characters intertwined. They are non-gender specific so they can represent any 2 humans. Two men, two women, a man and a woman, it doesn’t matter. What they are is 2 people in love and that is what matters. I was elated that Dave and The Mint loved the idea and it makes me proud to think, and I could be wrong, but Canada is the first nation to depict federal currency that celebrates the institution of marriage in a non-gender specific way. Thank you, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty! Thank you for signing off on a coin that shows what a “wedding” coin should be and I hope other nations follow suit. Dan thought this was “lovely” and so please check out his blog in the coming days as he will post about my coin.
Once the designs were approved, I began the final inking. Dave and The Mint were elated for me to do the coin typography! Anyone that knows me and my work well, knows that I am a huge lover of type and any chance I get to integrate my own type into my work makes me a very happy artist. I decided to include my own font, Chumply, into the designs and Dave was ecstatic. The Mint loved the idea and what began with me thinking I would be just doing the art, turned into my having the ENTIRE real estate of that side of the coin to do my thing. If the those weren’t enough, the third piece of excitement came. The Royal Mint liked the idea of each coin bearing my initials on the designs. These became true Gary Taxali coins and considering this is not something the Mint often does, I was proud to say the least.
Phase 2 of the project was just as magnificent. I worked with a wonderful man named Dave Toeg who is the Production Manager at the Royal Canadian Mint. Dave is such a darling, I can’t even begin to describe how kind and dear this man is! He walked me through the engraving process and we discussed in depth how the coins would come to life in such a a process. The Royal Canadian Mint is one of the BEST minters in the world. Their engraving process is second to none (they even do coins for other countries such as Australia) and I was amazed at the wonderful things they told me they could do with my designs. We spoke at length about this process and which parts of the designs would be recessed and which would be raised. They wanted to capture the “volume” of my characters so I sent Dave the designs indicating how they should look. Dave informed that the metal pours outward so that there needed to be a uniform level of relief to allow the designs to come through in the way I envisioned them. The results were spectacular as you can see below!
The flip side of the coin is ALWAYS The Queen. That side cannot be messed with!
Each package the coins come with features a sticker I designed.
I thought it would be a nice idea to showcase and offer a limited edition print in support of the coins. Below is a limited edition digital print called “Coins” I created recently. These retail for $250 and can be ordered through my online store by going here. You can see a sneak peak of the”Holiday” coin below but I assure you, he has more friends in the coin’s final design!
The press for these coins has been so great! Maclean’s magazine did a 3 page feature that you can read here and I have been getting a lot of nice TV interviews including CBC’s The National and Canada AM.
On Monday, January 23rd, my limited edition coins (circulation of about 20,000) will be officially for sale via The Royal Canadian Mint’s site that you can purchase by clicking here. In addition, they can be purchased through Canada Post retail outlets.
So that’s my coin story! If you are in Toronto, you are welcome to come to a special cocktail reception at the Spoke Club this coming Wednesday, January 25th. Please make sure to email me at gary @ garytaxali.com for the information and I will send you a special invitation.