Category Archives: Canadian Money

A Nickel of My Thoughts on the Death of the Penny

The Death of the Penny

On February 4, the Royal Canadian Mint and financial institutions across Canada stopped distributing the Canadian one-cent piece. Production on the penny had ceased in May of 2012 looking forward to February 2013 when the penny would no longer be sent out to clink around in the pockets of Canadians. On that same day in February, the Canadian Mint began melting down the first of the 35 billion pennies in circulation.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty shows the last penny produced in Canada. (Keep an eye on Ebay).
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty shows the last penny produced in Canada. (Keep an eye on Ebay).

One-Cent Worth of Patriotism

All Canadian coins minted between Confederation (1867) and 1935 have included the proud maple leaf but the penny has always shown it like no other. The first penny was produced on January 2, 1908 and was struck by Countess Grey at the official opening of the Ottawa branch of the Royal Mint (renamed in 1931 to the Royal Canadian Mint). The modern 1-cent coin that features two maple leaves on the same twig was designed and created by G.E. Kruger Gray. It was first used in 1937 and has remained unchanged until 2013 with the exception of the 1967 centennial coin, which used a rock dove, designed by renowned Canadian artist Alex Colville.

The 1967 Centennial Penny

It Costs to Save Pennies

The beloved and seemingly pointless one-cent coin costs Canada 1.6 cents to produce and therefore the mint will melt down the 82-million kg of steel, nickel and copper-plating that remains in circulation and selling it.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is indeed correct to say that eliminating the penny will save Canadian tax-payers but his estimated 11 million dollars savings per year in production costs will actually result in a less impressive but still worthy $4 million savings. The cost to redeem the 6 billion coins will cost the Canadian government about $80 million over the next 6 years. The $80 million expense is a result of about $53 million to redeem the face-value of the 6 billion pennies jangling about in people’s pockets, and an impressive $27 million in administration, handling, and little signs that will be placed on fountains throughout Canada informing romantics that wishes now cost a nickel or higher.

Toronto's Mayor, Lord Ford at Edmonton's City Hall. On an earlier trip, Ford had become enamoured with Edmonton's Skating Rink by Winter, Wading Pool Fountain in the Summer. Ford visited his favourite versatile fountain with a little present. Even with tight security, Ford was overheard whispering to the fountain, "join me and we can rule the fountains."

Toronto’s Mayor, Lord Ford at Edmonton’s City Hall. On an earlier trip, Ford had become enamoured with Edmonton’s Skating Rink by Winter, Wading Pool Fountain in the Summer. Ford visited his favourite versatile fountain with a little present. Even with tight security, Ford was overheard whispering to the fountain, “join me and we can rule the fountains.”

Recycling the zinc and copper from melted-down pennies will bring in about $42.5 million in revenue. That, and the additional savings of $11 million per year, Canada will walk away with a savings of about $4 million per year over the 6 years it is expected to collect most of the circulating pennies.

A Pretty Penny

It will be great to save all that money in producing the penny but perhaps the Canadian government is missing an opportunity to make a little extra.

When King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, the Mint was just finishing up the tools to produce the new 1937 penny with the new king’s portrait. While the 1936 penny still had the image of King Henry V, the 1937 penny recycled the 1936 penny die along with a new portrait of the abdicating king’s on the reverse. To differentiate between the 1936 and 1937 pennies, the mint included a dot below the 1936 date to mark it as the 1937 penny.

The 1937 Penny. CanadianCultureThing is accepting any of these useless, cumbersome hunks of me...2 cents a piece guaranteed!
The 1937 Penny. Canadian Culture Thing is accepting any of these useless, cumbersome hunks of junk…email me…2 cents a piece guaranteed!

This of course makes this penny quite rare, there are only seven known rare dot coin specimens known to exist, as all other specimens are believed to have been melted by the mint. It might be worthwhile for the Mint to hire some students to pick through the pennies they collect and pull out any rare ones. I’m not a coin collector but being a comic book collector, it would horrify me to know that Marvel was collecting any comics they found and were recycling them. The idea that they would destroy an Avengers #4 amongst a heap of Alpha Flights sends me into a tizzy.

CanadianCultureThing postcard #0018 features Liberty Magazine from December 1959. The Duke of Windsor was a title created for Edward once he abdicated the throne. This issue of Liberty also featured an ongoing concern that Canadians were facing in late 1959 - a dollar valued higher than the U.S. Canadian businesses that relied heavily on American patronage we forced to take the greenback at par and sometimes even sweeten the deal with incentives.
Canadian Culture Thing postcard #0018 features Liberty Magazine from December 1959. The Duke of Windsor was a title created for Edward once he abdicated the throne. This issue of Liberty also featured coverage of an ongoing concern faced by Canadians in late 1959 – a dollar valued higher than the U.S! Canadian businesses that relied heavily on American patronage were forced to take the greenback at par and sometimes even sweeten the deal with incentives.

Now, that’s crazy-talk you might say but these precious 1937 pennies are worth a pretty penny (I couldn’t resist). These King Edward VIII pennies fetch as much as $402,500. In other words, ten of these little coins equals the $4 million dollars the Canadian government is going to save. Not to mention the other rare pennies they’ll come across. Now that’s worth enough to have a guy hand sort them.

Because the Royal Canadian Mint still doesn’t know what they’re going to do with any American pennies they collect, it might be possible to separate all those American pennies at the same time and let the U.S. redeem them from us. Ca-ching!

A Fishy Situation

While the beautiful koi swimming in Chinese restaurant ponds might want to take a deep figurative breath that they will be safe from copper toxicity, and only in danger of getting pelted with monetary projectiles, they will be disappointed to learn that pennies aren’t the end of copper coins. In fact, every Canadian coin, except the $1 coin, is made of copper of varying quantities.

Koi doing what koi do best. symptoms of copper toxicity are gasping at the surface and disorientation.
Koi doing what koi do best. symptoms of copper toxicity are gasping at the surface and disorientation.

Pennies are Icky

While the death of the penny might fill Canadians with varying degrees of sentimentality, remorse and reluctant acceptance, it will certainly be relief for one group of Canadians. People with cuprolaminophobia will find solace in the death of the copper sibling of the coins that fuel their phobia. While people suffering from cuprolaminophobia are repulsed by all coins, the copper coin seems to bring far greater dread, even to those with mild cases. While some might read into that as some racial profiling, the truth is that this is often developed in childhood. the taste of a copper coin brings to mind the taste of blood and this connection seems to have remained with many people throughout their lives.

For those of you who failed third grade math, here's how you'll deal without the penny.
For those of you who failed third grade math, here’s how you’ll deal without the penny.

Other (sort of) True Canadian Penny News:

  • Thoughts will now be a nickel but a lucky penny will still be a lucky penny, perhaps even luckier for it’s rarity.
  • Penny (played by Kaley Cuoco who dated Canadian actor-model Kevin Zegers) from the Big Bang Theory, the television show that follows the “Big Bang Theory Theme” by Canadian super-group the Barenaked Ladies, will still remain in circulation.
  • Penny from Inspector Gadget, co-produced by Canadian animation giant Nelvana, is still no longer in circulation.
  • Penny Marshall, Television’s Laverne of Laverne and Shirley, worked at a fictitious Milwaukee brewery called “Shotz Brewery“. Shotz was based entirely on a Labbatt’s/Molson-esque brewery and had nothing to do with the fact that Milwaukee was once the home to four of the world’s largest beer breweries (Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst and Miller), and was the number one beer producing city in the world for many years…um…ah…because Canada invented Beer…and Laverne and Shirley were Canadian spies in the War of 1812.
  • Other countries have also nixed the penny, including Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Now that Canada has eliminated the one-cent coin, there is still the issue of the United States continuing to use the penny. What to do? What to do? I can recall vividly, traveling and living in the U.S. and I can remember times when some cashier went out of their way to make me feel worthless, a bit of a penny one might say. These were times when I was making a purchase and a lowly Canadian penny was mixed in with coins! The cashier would give me a look of disgust, segregate my Canadian penny, and push it back across the counter as if I had attempted to pull one over on her. Old ladies would clutch their purses and I would be treated like some penniless drifter.

Well now, here we are with some pretty strong currency and no longer using that lowly penny. I suggest we ready our index fingers and, while continuing to be polite because we should be better than to make them feel ashamed about their little Lincoln-headed (I think the other side is a radiator), but push it back across the counter all the same. Pay-back’s a bitch, eh?

Goodbye one-cent coin. You will be remembered like the one, two and one thousand dollar notes and you will be sort of missed.

In case you still don't get it.
In case you still don’t get it.
Posted in Canada, Canadian Art, Canadian Money, Canadian Wlidlife, Canadiana, Historical, Ottawa, Politics, Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dear Thingy, I need your raccoon wisdom…

Dear Thingy,

I don’t know if you can help me, but I bought several of your postcards (I think I purchased them at Toronto’s First Post Office), and I am using them to send to people’s names I get through (a hobby of mine).

Anyway, one of your cards is a vintage-looking, faded colour one reading “TORONTO” in large letters across the middle. Inside each letter is an image of a famous Toronto landmark. I think I have all of them figured out but one. I think, in order, they are: Old City Hall, Queen’s Park, Fairmont Royal York Hotel, the Princes’ Gates, [unknown], Canada Life Assurance Co., and University of Toronto’s Hart House. However, I have been unable to figure out what the image is in the letter “T.” Can you help me, Thingy? I’d like to be able to list all of the buildings in my message to the recipient, when I use this card for a Postcrossing person. Please let me know if you can help me, Thingy, or even where I might look online (although I’ve checked a few sites, as well as a few books already).

Thank you in advance.
Most sincerely,
Virginia C.

Hello Virginia,

As far as Canadian Culture Thing Large Letter Toronto postcard CCT0034,  you were pretty close…

The T is Old City Hall (1899) at Bay and Queen, the O is the Ontario Legislative Building (1893) at Queen’s Park, The R is the Royal York Hotel (1929), the middle O is the Prince’s Gates (1927) at the CNE, the N is Osgoode Hall (1829) at Queen and University, the last T is the CIBC building (1931) on King street between Bay and Yonge and finally the last O is Soldier’s Tower(1927) at the University of Toronto.

In the foreground is Sir Henry Pellatt’s Casa Loma (1914).

Most of the building are government buildings or structures with the exceptions of the Royal York and the CIBC building. For the purpose of postcards like this one, directed primarily at tourists, it was important to feature significant city buildings and historical landmarks. The Royal York is used because it was an important landmark hotel and one that many of the postcard-buying tourists would be staying at or at least wishing they were.

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada Building was the tallest building in the British Commonwealth having overshadowed the Royal York by by 21m (69′). It held this title until 1962 when it was surpassed by La Tour in Montreal by 35m (115′). In 1967 it ceased to be the tallest building in Toronto when it was surpassed by the TD Tower by a whopping 78m (256′) which brought the Commonwealth title back to Toronto. It’s hard to believe when looking at the Toronto skyline today, that the CIBC building, while beautiful in design, was once the tallest building in the British Empire.

In another CCT Large Letter Toronto postcard (CCT0087) we have a similar assortment of buildings with the inclusion of a seldom used landmark building in the centre O, Maple Leaf Gardens on Carleton at Church.

I hope this answers your question.

Yours Truly, Thingy the Raccoon.

Posted in Architecture, Canada, Canadian Money, Canadiana, Historical, Ontario, Postcards, Toronto | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

E.J. Lennox: Toronto’s Architect

If you build it, they will make postcards of it

This Large Letter postcard highlighting Toronto’s key landmarks feature three of E.J. Lennox’s designs c1954.
Architect E.J. Lennox 1885

Edward James Lennox was born on September 12, 1854 in a Toronto of just over 30,000 people. The son of Irish immigrants, Lennox would one day be Toronto’s most important and influential architects during the great growth and expansion of the City of Toronto during the 1880’s through the 1910’s.

Looking northwest from the top of the Canadian Bank of Commence building on King near Yonge St. c1915. The monolithic clock-tower of (Old) City Hall seen from everywhere much as the CN Tower is today.

Having designed over seventy buildings in Toronto, prolific architect Edward James Lennox near single-handedly designed the look of Toronto. Graduating in 1874 first in his class from the Mechanics’ Institute, Edward apprenticed for five years with William Irving before forming his own firm in 1881.His quickly rose to the top of his profession, winning the contract to build Toronto’s third City Hall on the northeast corner of Bay and Queen streets.

Looking west on Queen Street West at Bay Street past the front of City Hall at 5:15pm, April 13, 1923.
Looking north up Bay Street toward the towering clock-tower of City Hall c1912.

Built in the Richardson Romanesque style, the now-Old City has been and is still one of Toronto’s great features. Due to time-delays, cost over-runs and legal disputes, City Councillors spitefully refused to allow a plaque titling E.J. Lennox as the architect of the building. E.J. Lennox was not to be denied and had stonemasons engrave “EJ LENNOX ARCHITECT AD 1898” on corbels around the entire building on upper floor eaves as well as a carved portrait of himself on the facade. This was not enough for Lennox who also included grotesque caricatures of City Councillors and opponents.

Toronto’s City Hall at Queen Street West and Bay Street c1919.

E.J. Lennox would go on to build many landmarks in Toronto including St. Paul’s Anglican Church (1909-1913) on Bloor Street West, the Neo-Classical Bank of Toronto Building (1905) on Yonge Street and the King Edward Hotel (1905) on King Street. Lennox would pioneer in the Romanesque Revival style, the Annex House, an indigenous Torontonian house named for the Annex neighbourhood but used in most elite neighbourhoods. The Annex House blended Richardson Romanesque style of large rounded archways with Queen Anne turrets and were built mainly of brick and Credit Valley Sandstone.

In 1908, Lennox would be commissioned to design Toronto’s most famous house.

Former residence of Sir Henry Pellatt, the Casa Loma (the House on the Hill) c1930.

E.J. Lennox was notorious in Toronto society for his bravado, self-promotion in the press and networking at high-society parties. Infamous for publicly criticizing and insulting anyone who disagreed with any of his many opinions and he would shamefully slight other architect’s work. It was only a matter of time before his brazen antics brought him together with another larger-than life character, Sir Henry Pellatt.

Casa Loma

Commissioned in 1908 E.J. Lennox began construction on Casa Loma between 1911-1914, and it proved to be an exercise in the excessive vanity of the two men. With materials brought from as far away as Scotland and Italy, Casa Loma proved to be too much for Sir Henry’s pocket-book and with the start of World War One, Casa Loma would never be finished.

Aeriel view of Casa Loma c1954.

During this same time, E.J. Lennox would begin building his own dream-house just northeast of Casa Loma called Lenwil, a combination of Lennox and his wife’s name Wilson. Built between 1912 and 1914, E.J. Lennox now almost 60, saw Lenwil as an ideal 21-room retirement home and in 1917 sold his firm and retired from architecture. Though retired and no longer designing buildings, Lennox continued being involved in several architectural societies and associations and returned to the architecture spotlight in 1931 when the Province of Ontario passed legislation that required architects to be certified. Though retired for 14 years, a 77 year-old Lennox was certified, having written and passed the exam. E.J. Lennox passed away two years later at the age of 79 leaving behind a lifework that proves to be the cornerstone of the City of Toronto.

The now – “Old” City Hall looking northwest in 1929 showing what would eventually be raized to become “New” City Hall.
Old City Hall’s clock-tower after the gargoyles were reattached. The original stone gargoyles were lost after many years of absence were finally replaced with these cast bronze monsters.
Posted in Architecture, Canadian Celebrities, Canadian Money, Historical, Ontario, Postcards, Toronto | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Canadian Beaver: A Dam Industrious Rodent.

When I think of the noble beaver, I think of him like one of our founders. I think of how he and his kin built this great nation one dam lodge after another. Planning out our waterways while commingling with it’s fellow future-Canadians, the Moose and Goose, the Salmon, Loon and Caribou. The great beaver deciding one day, while gnawing down a sap-oozing tree as he built the Parliament buildings, that a leaf should be the symbol for this great tree-covered nation. These proud Beavers would name the country Can-ada because the word Can’t wasn’t in a beavers vocabulary!

The beaver was only found in Canada (Castor Canadensis) and before the discovery of Canada by the French Vikings of Portugal, no one had ever seen such a creature! Travelers bringing back tales of the 12 metre-tall beast with mighty teeth that was known to raze forests and it’s paddle-like tail that could flatten man or beast. Oh, the beaver, the Great Industrious Beaver…I digress.

Dominion of Canada postcard c.1909

But seriously, the beaver is as important as any of our founders and definitely more recognizable.

Did you score more than 1 point? Did you get lucky with your guessing?

The cute little beaver has been symbolic of Canada since the first settlers came to Canada and hunted them till near-extinction. But, hey, it was before down-filled, Gore-Tex® jackets and heated cars. Let’s face it, if a fur-trade hadn’t been developed in Canada, there would have been little motivation to explore the country. The explorers who charted Canada were really just charting out where to hunt beavers.

Trade began between the Native people and the French in the 1500’s, swapping beaver pelts in exchange for cooking pots and knives. By the the early 17th century, Samuel de Champlain"" had come to Canada and on orders by Henry IV, the King of France, to develop the fur-trade. Before long, the English got into the fray and as the competition took off, both the French and English began sending shiploads of beaver pelts back to Europe. The industrious beaver became the industry of a fledgling nation.

In 1670, the newly founded Hudson’s Bay Company was given sole control of the Hudson’s Bay region by the English government and their territory continued to grow as they overcame many of their challengers. The fighting over beavers between French and English fur-traders became so fierce it eventually led to the The French-Indian War"" of 1754. The English won the war and in 1763 took over France’s North American colony. There had been an estimated six million beavers in Canada before the fur-trade began but at it’s peak traders were shipping as many as 200,000 pelts a year back to Europe. Luckily, by the 1830’s, the felt hats that beaver fur had been used for in Europe began falling out of favour and silk became a more popular choice. The fur-trade was almost entirely finished by 1870 and beavers all over Canada let out a huge sigh of relief.

Sandford Fleming (1827-1915)

As the years passed things would get better for the beaver and in 1851, one (let’s call him Olaf Joaquin Duguay) would even adorn the first Canadian postage stamp. Known as the “Three Penny  Beaver” and designed by Sir Sandford Fleming, the stamp was the very first stamp anywhere in the world to depict an animal instead of a monarch!

The “Three Penny Beaver” Stamp 1851

This became trend-setting and a mere 86 years later, in 1937, the beaver, in a design by G.E. Kruger-Gray, shared it’s place on the Canadian five-cent coin"" where (with the exception of 1943-1945 and 2005 – damn war!) it still remains.

1937 Canadian Five-Cent Coin, the first depicting the Beaver.

Suddenly, there were beavers everywhere. Besides stamps and money, they were found on product packaging, books, advertising, postcards, toys, and souvenirs of all kinds. When someone visited Canada, they always left with a little beaver. They appeared on company logos like the Canadian Pacific Railway"", on newspaper mastheads and on more Government buildings across Canada than you can shake a beaver tail at. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, Canada and Ireland led the way in introducing the Beaver Scouts"" programme. Soon little boys (and eventually girls) began dressing in blue and brown paramilitary uniforms embellished with beavers. These little scouts saluted by hooking two fingers on each hand like claws while making tsk tsk noises with their front teeth. The beaver now had an army! Perhaps, they could form an air force comprised of De Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver"" airplanes!

My Mémère, Juliet Gendron and I on my way to Beavers c1975 (I only lasted a few weeks!)

Life became relatively stress-free for the Beaver until late 1954 when worry would return. The success of Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett"" created a new-found popularity for the coonskin cap and the beaver feared it was only a matter of time before they would be, once again, adorning fashionable human heads. The mighty Beaver began a campaign against the fad by burning effigies of Fess Parker but as luck would have it the fad had passed by the late 50’s and the beaver was safe. A mere 30 years later their population numbers were considered stable.

The Maple Leaf Forever postcard c1916. Featuring Canada’s 9 Provincial Coats of Arms. Newfoundland and Labrador entered the Canadian Federation in 1949.

On March 24, 1975 beavers were finally given their due respect when, by Royal assent, they became an official emblem of Canada. Furthermore, it seemed that some of the Canadian elite began keeping beavers as pets. It was said that the wife of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau"", the vivacious and unsinkable “Margaret"", was seen sitting in the front row at a fashion show with her pet beaver. High Society magazine reported: “…Maggie Trudeau, no longer Canada’s leading lady has guaranteed the beaver a place in Canadian culture as the national pet.”

High Society Magazine September 1979

The final thing I would like to add about the beaver is that it should be said that, through all of it’s trials and faced with extinction at the hands of humans with cold heads, the beaver has never lost it’s manners or decency. The beaver is industrious, the beaver is a survivor but most importantly: the beaver is polite.

Posted in Canada, Canadian Celebrities, Canadian Money, Canadian Wlidlife, Canadiana, Historical, Politics, Pop Culture, Postcards | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments