Roadside-attraction showdown: Campbellford’s Giant Toonie

This community pays homage to a local artist — and Canadian currency — in a very big way
By Marsha McLeod - Published on Jul 16, 2021
Campbellford’s Giant Toonie was installed in 2001. (Logan Roddy)

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Maybe you’ve already been to Niagara Falls or up to the top of the CN Tower. But have you made a pit stop near a giant goose? Or snapped a selfie next to a giant wheel of cheese?

Those are just a couple of the roadside attractions on offer in towns and cities across Ontario, which have devised unusual and eye-catching ways of setting their communities apart.

If you’re looking for summertime fun close to home, you can hit the road and check out these local legends. If you’re looking for summertime fun even closer to home, you can check in with TVO.org over the next two months — each week, we’ll be bringing you profiles of the weirdest, wackiest, and largest objects gracing Ontario’s roadways.

At the end of August, you’ll get the chance to pick your favourites when we open up the voting brackets. So travel Ontario with us, and get ready for a showdown.


“No need to drive all the way to Sudbury just to see a nickel when you can see a toon right here in our area.” 

So says one Trip Advisor reviewer of Campbellford’s giant monument to Canada’s two-dollar coin, or “toonie.” At more than eight metres tall, the monument may be bested in size by Sudbury’s Big Nickel — the subject of Wednesday’s feature — by just under a metre, but there’s no competition in terms of value, says Catherine Redden, a councillor with the Municipality of Trent Hills and former mayor of Campbellford. 

a giant coin replica
The Giant Toonie stands more than eight metres tall.
(William Stewart)

“How many nickels go into a two-dollar coin, for heaven’s sake?” Redden says with a laugh. “We can match up any day.” 

Campbellford’s monument pays homage to the wildlife and landscape artist Brent Townsend, who created the now-iconic image of a polar bear on an ice floe that adorns the tails side of the toonie. Though born in a suburban Toronto neighborhood, Townsend has long been a resident of the Campbellford area. His design was introduced in 1996, when the Canadian government made a switch from two-dollar bills to coins. 

The toonie was a great cost-saver: although in the switch-over, vending machines and parking metres needed to be adapted to fit the new bi-metallic coin, its lifespan is about 20 years, while the two-dollar bill’s was only a year. Since 1996, more than 675 million toonies have gone into circulation and found their way into Canadians’ pockets, change purses, and wallets. 

The push for a monument in Campbellford was led by late council member Lillian Potten-Turner, who approached the federal government for permission to create a toonie replica — and to dub Campbellford the “Home of the Two Dollar Coin.” Potten-Turner was “an incredible person,” Redden says. “Her focus was on promoting the community, bringing people together to celebrate their heritage, celebrate the community — the people within it, their talents — and she felt this was one way to bring recognition.” 

In the paperwork, Campbellford was asked not to refer to the giant coin as a “toonie.”

man with arms raised in front of a giant coin replica
Campbellford is dubbed the “Home of the Two Dollar Coin.” 
​​​​​​​(Facebook/Bay of Quinte)

Asked why, Redden pauses, then says, “I am not really sure. I think ‘toonie town’ and those kinds of words were not exactly how they wanted it described.” While the town agreed, Redden says, “I think that’s gone by the wayside.” The monument, which was installed in 2001, was made by a local welder named Steve Redden, who is also the nephew of Redden’s husband. 

Located in Campbellford’s Old Mill Park alongside the Trent-Severn Waterway, the coin brings a steady stream of people seeking a picture underneath it, Redden says, noting that they often pose with their arms stretched up, as if they’re holding it. It sits on the former site of the Trent Valley Woollen Mill, established in 1879, which later became the Campbellford Cloth Company — that business was demolished in 1979.

“It's a monument not only to the artistry of Brent Townsend but to mark the spot where so many people earned their living for many years in this community,” Redden says. “It draws attention to the fact that we have such a creative community — there are so many artists, artisans, and musicians in this area.”

The previous instalment: Sudbury's Big Nickel.

Next up: Amaranth's golf bag​​​​​​​.

This is one in a series of stories about issues affecting eastern Ontario. It's brought to you with the assistance of Queen’s University.

Ontario Hubs are made possible by the Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust & Goldie Feldman.

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