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Funny Money

by Stephen Lautens


XXX

January 14, 2000

I wasn't expecting to have to work this January. Because of the Y2K thing, this week I was expecting to be dressed in black leather, driving around the countryside rescuing people from cannibalistic mutants intent on stealing our gasoline and canned luncheon meat.

As far as that's concerned, 2000 has been a bit of a disappointment. I didn't even have to dip into what my wife refers to as "The Millennium Fund", i.e. the couple of hundred bucks in cash we have stashed behind the furnace.

The same goes for the Canadian Mint, which printed and stockpiled a boatload of extra bills in case there was an end of the century financial crisis and we all had to resort to - gasp - cash.

If things ever got that bad, I'm not sure Canadian dollars would have been the basic unit of trade in a post-apocalyptic world. More likely it would have been US greenbacks (the favourite of every crisis or revolution) or perhaps ammunition, which like all solid currencies opens many doors and guarantees you the best seat in the house.

Quite apart from the fact that the Canadian dollar is at the moment rather puny and undernourished, it stopped looking like real money some time ago. The bills still look okay, but let's face it ­ our coins stink.

It seems like every week the Royal Canadian Mint is issuing a new coin to keep some group happy. Apparently no event in recent Canadian history is too insignificant to merit its own coin.

In 1999 the Mint issued a new quarter every month. Every time someone gave me change I had to check to make sure I wasn't getting coins left over from the clerk's holiday in Togo.

Over the next year the Royal Mint will be releasing another dozen different quarters as part of "Centsations 2000", a coin design contest they ran last year. The idea was that ordinary Canadians should design the coins, and the winners would be picked by a bunch of art students.

It should come as no surprise that most of the quarters you'll be getting this year look like runner-up medals given out at a county fair.

The 25-cent piece for October 2000 apparently commemorates that turning point in Canadian history when a half dozen balls of yarn floated away on a taco shell. Or maybe they're meatballs. I don't know.

The rest of the coins are the customary collection of fish, trees and people standing around on maple leaves.

The quarter is the last useful coin we have. You can't buy anything anymore with nickels and dimes, and pennies are just dead weight. If you're going to mess with our coins, do it with the pennies. No one will notice.

The Mint is proud of letting ordinary Canadians design their own coins. I'm not sure where it will all end. Pretty soon every Canadian will get to make their own personal money. This used to be called counterfeiting, and would get your inky fingers thrown in the slammer.

When I get to make my own coin, mine will have chocolate inside and have on the face that great Canadian, William Shatner, dressed as Captain Kirk.

It's futuristic, and what could be more Canadian than worthless money you can eat in an emergency?

XXX

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