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Thanks A Mint

by Stephen Lautens


January 3

, 200

A little, tiny article caught my eye in the paper the other week. It was a single paragraph that said the Canadian Mint faces a $1.2 million loss in 2002. It took a minute to register - the people who make our money somehow lost over a million dollars.

How Canadian - even the people who make our money can't make money. I can understand how you can lose money if you are making cars or computers, but how do you show a loss if you are actually printing up the green stuff (and the blue, purple and red stuff) in the basement?

I suppose there's the cost of ink and printing presses and the people who run them. And you have to buy the metal to make the coins. A few years back they found out that making our one cent piece out of copper cost more than a penny, so now they're just plated. But a look at the Mint's website shows a list of the coins they have for sale. When they charge more than twenty bucks for a fifty cent piece, you'd think that would be enough of a markup to make money, even for the government.

It's amazing how many different coins the Mint makes in a year. In 2002 there were no fewer than eight different fifty-cent pieces, including such classic commemoratives as "Squamish Days Loggers Sports", the "Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival" and "The Shoemaker in Heaven" coin. Maybe that's part of the problem. As a kid I collected coins, but I'm not sure I would have paid $24.95 for 2002 "The Pig That Wouldn't Get Over the Stile" fifty cent piece. I bet these babies are collecting dust in the Mint basement.

For a while the Mint literally came out with a different quarter design every month. That's got to be expensive, even though it gave "ordinary Canadians" the chance to design our money. For a while there I had so many different looking quarters in my pocket I thought that eventually every single Canadian would be issued their very own coin.

In fairness, the Canadian Mint did bring in almost a quarter billion dollars in revenue in 2001, so how did they manage to lose money last year? Here are some of the programs I think might have contributed to the loss:

  • Their "2 for 1" dime sale.

  • Printing up a spare billion "when no one's looking" to pay for the gun registry.

  • Their disastrous "all you can grab for a dollar" barrel at the end of the Royal Canadian Mint tour.

  • Having to withdraw the unpopular "Brian Mulroney - Not That Bad A Prime Minister When You Think About It" commemorative quarter.

  • Accepting Canadian Tire Money at par.

  • Running out to Kinkos to print up sheets of five dollar bills on their expensive colour copier when the Mint's printing presses broke down.

  • Losing the money that sticks to people when allowing them to roll in the bank vaults.

  • A metric miscalculation that accidentally put $200 worth of gold in the $20 gold coin.

  • Constantly lending ten bucks to friends who "swear they'll pay it back next payday" but never do.

  • Using a pitchfork and a leaf blower to fill bags of money going to banks.

  • The Mint's accounting department holding a stack of bills up to their ears, riffling through them and saying "sounds like a million to me".

Maybe the answer if for the Mint to start charging GST on money. 

On second thought, maybe I should keep my big mouth shut.

© Stephen Lautens 2003

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