Canadian money

canadian money

I took a friend to my bank to exchange some dollars a while back, because my bank has better exchange rates than his. He turned 354 American dollars into 345 Canadian dollars, just like that.



And what beautiful currency they have in Canada these days!



The twenty-dollar Canadian bills have a little clear plastic window in them, along with the shiny metallic strips. Some of the bills have pictures of Helen Mirren, or possibly Elizabeth II. The five-dollar bills have images of a sport – either curling or hockey, I couldn’t tell which. (My friend tells me that it’s curling, but he’s not Canadian, so how can he be sure?)



These are far more entertaining than our dull old American greenbacks. I’ve folded a one-dollar bill into thirds and made George Washington’s head into a mushroom too often; it just ain’t fun anymore. And who cares what car’s represented on the ten-dollar bill? (I always thought it was a Duesenberg, but evidently I was wrong)



Why can’t we put Walt Whitman on our money, or Mark Twain, or Edward MacDowell, or Leonard Bernstein? What about Humphrey Bogart, or Artemus Ward? We put everything in creation on our postage stamps – flowers and dragons and cartoon characters and movie stars. Why not on our money too?



Most countries celebrate their culture on their currency, not just their political history. They put their writers and musicians on the money. We don’t. I don’t think Americans like to be reminded that we have a “culture.” We’re far too macho to have “culture.” On our money, we have only Founding Fathers, Male Presidents like Wilson and Grant, and Miscellaneous Political Figures, like Alexander Hamilton and Salmon Chase.



I vote for variety, and culture, and entertainment.



If the Canadians can do it, then surely we can do it too.




Canada recently decided to stop making pennies. “What will they do?” Apollonia wondered.



“Presumably,” I said, “they will start rounding prices at the five-cent point.”



She grimaced. “I wouldn’t like that.”



“No one much cares what you’d like,” I said. “Pennies are a curiosity, a thing of the past. Get modern, babe.”



In Tunisia we had aluminum coins worth five millimes: five one-thousandths of a dinar, less than an American penny in those days. It was the smallest change available on a daily basis. Street vendors sold single cigarettes for a few of those coins, which were called “durus.” Quite a few people didn’t bother to spend them.  I knew people who had huge jars full of them. Some people actually threw them away.



Smaller coins – worth one or two millimes – were available, but you seldom saw them. Everything in the market was generally priced in a rounded amount – 1 dinar 500 millimes – but your electric bill was always precise: 7 dinars 879 millimes. And, when you paid it (say, with a ten-dinar note), they gave you exact change, in coins smaller than the nail of your little finger.



Ah! That was fun.



Also back in those days, when the Italian lira was 2000 to the American dollar, they gave you change in hard candy. If your change came to 25 or 30 lira, they’d gesture to the bowl of hard candy on the counter and say, “Take one!”


All things considered, Canadians (and Americans, eventually) can live without the penny.



Who doesn’t like a little piece of candy once in a while?


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