By Fred Borgmann
My wife and I took a short Canadian vacation during the last week in June. Nowadays everyone is thinking “green’ and it has also rubbed off on me. Being a numismatist I know that it costs a fair amount of money for any country to produce coinage. I also know how many Canadian coins show up in change around here.
Years ago as a youngster filling in my Whitman coin folders I put together some very good Canadian coin sets, mostly cents and nickels just from circulation finds. I also know that banks cannot exchange foreign coins like currency so they are stuck with lots of coins.
Therefore I went to the local bank and offered to buy their Canadian coins at full face value in U.S. money. If you ever want to see a banker smile that will do it. I also went to the local coin dealer and made him the same offer. He was another happy camper and sold me coins plus some old very worn $1 and $2 Canadian currency notes with the warning that the notes may no longer be redeemable.
All in all I bought almost $350 worth of Canadian coins and currency which saved me about $30 based on the exchange rate difference and service fees that we would have been charged if we simply had exchanged currency at a bank. Since we drove, the weight of the coins was not a problem and we did not have to worry about going through electronic security.
After we got into Canada, the first thing on my list was to find a bank where I could cash in all my coins for paper. All of the Canadians we ran into were very polite and friendly, especially in Sault St. Marie where we ended up in a small branch of the Scotia Bank. They were delighted when they saw the old bank notes and I suspect we may have witnessed the birth of some new collectors.
The coins got a different reaction. Yes, they could accept the coins, but since they did not have a coin counting machine we would have to roll the coins in paper wrappers, which they gave us with a smile. So at a closed teller window my wife and I got rolling.
The teller noticed that we had some old looking coins and with a concerned look asked if any of the coins were silver. I just smiled and told her no. Since most Canadian coins are magnetic it was easy to check the non-magnetic ones to see if they were silver and sadly only one of those coins was. Needless to say that silver dime stayed home.
The Canadian currency is really neat, especially the $50 and higher denominations. They include reflective laser images and see-through sections plus denominations in Braille. The notes themselves are made of some type of plastic and a bank teller told me that the notes are virtually indestructible and cannot be torn. Much to my surprise the notes are not too slippery and are easy to count, unlike new U.S. notes that tend to stick together making it easy to miscount.
This “Viewpoint” was written by Fred Borgmann, a numismatist from Iola, Wis., and former new issues editor for Krause Publications.