Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

Way back in the mid-twentieth century, if you lived in proximity to the border, finding Canadian coins in your pocket or coin purse was common. Even rolled coins dispensed by banks likely had a Canadian coin or two. Because of a difference in weight or metal content, vending machines had to display notices that Canadian coins could not be used. The exchange rate typically favored the U.S. but not by much. Many merchants would accept Canadian currency, but at a discount.

When I operated a retail business on the northern Oregon coast, occasionally a customer would refuse to accept a Canadian coin in change and I thought, Oh, you’re from California. Over time, the exchange rate widened and Canadian coins no longer were generally accepted anywhere.

Canada, unlike the U.S., stopped circulating pennies a few years ago because the cost to produce a copper coin was more than one cent. Also unlike the U.S., dollar and half-dollar coins are commonly in circulation. They also have a two-dollar coin. The smallest currency denomination is five dollars. The Canadian dollar coin featured the image of a loon, so it became known as a “loonie.” The two-dollar coin, naturally, is a “toonie.”

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