We had finally got used to the Euro and had reached the stage where we knew what each coin was without needing to peer at it before paying. But then we went and changed currency again, this time to the Canadian Dollar. So back to squinting and holding up coins to the light to see their monetary worth before handing them to the waiting cashier.
(After holding up the queue whilst I desperately search for the numerical value hidden on the coin, I then put on my best clipped British accent to pretend I am ‘just visiting’ – never mind we have been here nearly five months…)
The preferred method of action on holiday I find is to use notes wherever possible, maybe the larger coins for coffee or bottle of water; leaving the smaller change for tips (or, as is more likely, completely forgetting about it in the bottom of my purse or pocket and bringing it back home, where it then sits in a box...)
But when you live in the country, sooner or later you have to bite the bullet and use the coins...
My method of using paper money was not all plain sailing; I did experience a slight confusion with the notes too. I went and took $60 cash out of the ATM a couple of months ago. I held the cash in my hand, sensing something was different about it. I had to count it just to make sure that I hadn’t been short changed, but I hadn’t been. But the money in my hand felt different. They were crisp new notes, but there was something else different…
I didn’t remember there being a clear plastic strip on the $20 notes - had the bank given me counterfeit notes?
It turns out it was a brand new style of note. Instead of the old paper ones, these are made of polymer (the same as used in Australia); which is supposedly stronger. Both new and old are green, both have the Queen’s head on them, but the new one has this clear strip running from top to bottom, as well as a transparent maple leaf. (Which, I have just read in the paper, may not be a Canadian maple leaf but some other maple leaf…somebody will not be popular in the design department…)
At least I wasn’t the only one to be confused by them; I handed one over to the cashier in the local store and she peered at both it and then me suspiciously before finally accepting it.
From the 4th February, the Royal Canadian Mint stopped distributing them (production ended in March 2012). Now it is collecting them to recycle and melt down. The reason the penny's life has come to an end is that it costs 1.6 cents to make each penny, and the penny is worth a cent.
The name of this disappearing coin is reminiscent of the great English penny; a great childhood friend of mine as it could buy one whole sweet! With this identical name I was therefore not surprised to discover the Canadian penny was originally made in Great Britain, before production moved to Canada in 1908.
But what about the loonie?
The coins out here are currently: 1c, 5c, 10c, 25c, 50c, $1, $2; colloquially referred to as the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar, loonie and toonie.
The loonie acquired its name from the bird featured on the back of the coin ‘The Great Northern Loon’ or ‘Common Loon.’ It is a waterfowl which lives mainly in northern Canada, I think. The hunting of the bird is forbidden under Canadian law and, together with the maple leaf it is apparently a symbol of Canada.
The term ‘Toonie’ is given to the two-dollar coin: its value being two loonies = doubloonie = toonie.