Coin by Chilliwack artist for War of 1812 bicentennial

Ardell Bourgeois designed these three figures from the war of 1812 which are now on the silver dollar coin. - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Ardell Bourgeois designed these three figures from the war of 1812 which are now on the silver dollar coin.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

When your art is stamped onto a Canadian coin, it tends to last a lot longer than with other artistic mediums.

A new 2012 silver dollar commemorating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 was designed by artist Ardell Bourgeois of Chilliwack.

It's a little hard to describe what that honour feels like.

"It's obviously gratifying," Bourgeois said. "It's certainly going to be around a lot longer than my other works."

Bourgeois won a design competition for the new commemorative coin.

Officials with Department of National Defence had been seeking people with an art background and an interest in military history to submit designs into the competition, and Bourgeois' design was chosen by officials at the Canadian Mint last summer.

His design commemorates the War of 1812 with examples of three combatants: an English sergeant, an Iroquois warrior and a Voltigeur Canadien.

"The concept was to bring in the three main groups involved in the founding of Canada."

The pre-confederation conflict is considered significant in Canadian history, uniting English, French-Canadian and First Nations forces in defending the borders and values of a future Canada in what would become Windsor, Ontario, according to the details from Mint officials.

"The Mint is proud to commemorate this turning point in Canadian history with its annual Silver Dollar," reads the announcement.

The end of the 1812 skirmish also kicked off 200 years of peace between Canada and the United States, and as such there are 200 tiny beads of silver around the rim of the silver dollar.

Bourgeois, an Emily Carr grad, was inexorably drawn to the world of military aviation from the time he was a very young boy.

"It's something about the wings," he said. "I have been interested in aviation and military history for as long as I can remember."

He started drawing planes at four, and still has a copy of the first book he read at six, about the war in the air over the Pacific, Outraged Skies, which might have been the catalyst for his passion.

Born in Alberta, the Bourgeois family moved to B.C. after his dad retired from the Canadian Armed Forces.

Over the years, the freelance artist has earned 14 awards at aviation art shows, and has seen his work displayed in museums, from the Canadian War Museum and Canadian Aviation Museum in Ottawa to features in magazines.

Coin collectors from all over the world have been talking about Bourgeois' keepsake coin online.

He said he hopes it will be as popular as the Year of the Dragon coins released at the same time, which are "selling out like crazy."

The coin is made of 99.99 per cent pure silver and is available in both "proof" frosted highlights against a mirror-like background and "brilliant" or shiny finish. With a run of 40,000, the 1812-2012 proof coin is going for $59.95 and its brilliant version, with a mintage of 25,000, is retailing for $54.95.

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