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'Unbelievably beautiful': Here's the story behind the snowflake on new $20 coin

Photographer Don Komarechka is the artist whose sparkling snow crystal is featured on one side of the Royal Canadian Mint’s first hexagon-shaped, pure silver coin
Don Komarechka, who left Barrie for Bulgaria a few years ago, photographs snowflakes.

What’s more Canadian than a snowflake?

Don Komarechka reflects that sentiment as an artist on the new $20 Canadian coin, which is as unique as a snowflake.

The pure silver hexagon coin with crystal features the former Barrie resident’s stellar dendrite (tree-like) snowflake on one side, and the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, by Susanna Blunt, on the other.

“I think that seeing a snowflake … those times you look out on the yard or the lake and you can see it’s glistening, it’s sparkling a little bit … to know that every one of those little sparkles is something as unbelievably beautiful as what is on that coin,” Komarechka said. 

“Nobody gets to truly appreciate it,” said the 37-year-old. “When people see these (coin) images, they get a glimpse into that world. They can get well into the detail you can’t see with your own eyes and gain a greater appreciation.”

It’s the Royal Canadian Mint’s first hexagon coin and features a sparkling snow crystal.

The $20 pure silver hexagon coin with crystal - snowflake. Contributed

Komarechka — who now lives in Bulgaria with his wife, Desislava, and their seven-year-old daughter, Danika — bills himself as a nature, macro and landscape photographer.

His snowflakes have graced two other Canadian coins, one issued in 2017 and the other in 2018.

And it began in Barrie, where almost all of his snowflake photos have been taken.

Originally from Sudbury, Komarechka spent his formative years in Barrie after high school, is a former president of Barrie Photo Club and has sat on its executive.

But before that he was working for an advertising agency and getting into photography.

He had brought his camera with him to work during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. He noticed it was snowing, so he went outside to take photos, but the white-on-white background didn’t work.

“And I remembered my grandmother had knit all of her grandsons, myself included, a pair of black mittens and said ‘keep them in your car in case you break down on a lonely stretch of highway,'” Komarechka said. “I kept them in the car.

“I just went out and grabbed a mitten, laid it down as a nice black contrast-y background, with the fibres that lifted the snowflake away from the background. It was the perfect solution,” he added. “Every one of my snowflakes have been photographed on my grandmother’s mittens. That’s become a tradition.”

Like a coin, Komarechka says there are two sides to public opinion about snowflakes, which makes them such a Canadian thing.

“They’ve had a wide appeal. I’m glad that everyone still finds beauty in such a troublesome little thing,” he said. “I think that we’re often bitter about winter, even if we don’t want to admit it to anybody. I know I certainly was. 

“When you’ve got to go out and deal with the snowblower, and then the plow comes by and puts another billion of them (snowflakes) at your doorstep…”

Komarechka believes he used a Panasonic S1R camera, with a Canon MPE 65mm macro lens, to photograph his latest snowflake photo to grace a Canadian coin.

“The actual gear kind of makes you feel like you’re holding a microscope outside. It’s all done hand-held,” he said. “You get to see all the shadows and all the textures among the surface (of the snowflake), which makes a great transition to an engraving on a coin."

Komarechka says it’s great to have a third snowflake on a Canadian coin.

“I hope it sells well and I can come back with a fourth,” he said.

The Royal Canadian Mint is the Crown corporation responsible for the minting and distribution of Canada’s circulation coins.

For more information on the pure silver hexagon coin with the crystal snowflake, click here.

For more on Don Komarechka, visit