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Assortment of military and challenge coins from Calgarian coin maker housed at Pictou County Military Heritage Museum

Rod McLeod, a designer and manufacturer of coins for the Canadian military, poses with David Avery, president of the Pictou County Military Heritage Museum on Sunday. McLeod donated a collection of coins to the museum.
Rod McLeod, a designer and manufacturer of coins for the Canadian military, poses with David Avery, president of the Pictou County Military Heritage Museum on Sunday. McLeod donated a collection of coins to the museum.

WESTVILLE

A designer and manufacturer of coins for the Canadian military has a soft spot for the Pictou County Military Heritage Museum.

That’s a significant part of the reason a good deal of Rod McLeods work can be found at the museum, located in Westville.

Over 1,500 different military coins can be found now among the extensive collections of the museum.

McLeods decision to donate coins to the Westville museum first was based on a deep admiration for the work done there, and the many exhibits it features.
I came here one day, it was Armed Forces Day, and (the museum) had a display here, the cadets were here and the reserve unit was here, said McLeod. I was gob-smacked at what I saw. The depth of what I see here and upstairs, and the uniforms is impressive.

He noted that several of the uniforms on display are some of the most difficult uniforms to get a hold of in Canada, and (Curator Vince Joyce) did it. He was the squeaky wheel to get the grease, said McLeod. Nobody would think to ask the governor general Can I have your uniform after you’re done working? So, to me, thats just amazing.

McLeod said he began gathering coins for a collection three to four years ago, and that Joyce was eager to feature them.
Everyone in the military is a packrat, said McLeod, with a chuckle. If anything shines, they love it. Vince is guilty of that, and so am I – and who better to help display the coins?
The coins in the museums collection run a gamut of purposes. Some are commemorative – such as the Vimy Ridge Coin – along with challenge coins, awarded to members of the military for a job well done. There are those that represent the assorted military units housed in garrisons across the country.

If you joined a regiment youd be awarded one of these coins as soon as you got your hat badge after basic training, McLeod explained.
Coins represent anniversaries for squadrons as far away as Moose Jaw, Sask., and Cold Lake, Alta.
Another prominent type of coin featured in McLeods collection is the challenge coin – a tradition that goes back generations in the Canadian military.

Theres a process called coining, if we go to the bar and I reach into my pocket and put a coin on the bar, you better have yours or youre going to be paying for my drink, said McLeod. But if I put mine on the table, and you bring yours, then I have to but you a drink – thats why its called a challenge coin.
McLeod notes the concept of challenge coins has been polished to the point where most military regiments have their own challenge coins, and every commanding officer has their own coin.

If you go into peoples offices in the military, you see huge collections of these coins on their credenzas, say theyve collected from those people (in the military), said McLeod. For Canadian Armed Forces chiefs of staff, chiefs of defence – ever since Hillier, theyve done their coins. They hand them out if theyre in the battlefield and they see a soldier do a particularly good job.

I will eventually be giving a collection to the war museum in Ottawa, and another one to the military museums in Calgary, but for now, this is the largest collection of my coins anywhere in the country, said McLeod.

That said, McLeod was emphatic in his praise of the museum in Westville: Everyone in the area trusted Vince and the museum to allow them to take what they prized as family heirlooms and to share them with the public – thats remarkable.

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