To Canada I will go with pockets a-jingling.

So, I'm getting ready to go to Vancouver, BC, next week for the Philosophy of Science Association meeting (which coincides with the Society for Social Studies of Science meeting and the History of Science Society meeting). And I'm really jazzed that I'll get to meet John Lynch and John Wilkins and Ben Cohen and David Ng in the three-dimensional world.

But I'm also psyched that I'm going to be able to get rid of all the Canadian coinage that has found its way into my hands over the last several years.*

Naturally, this has led me to wonder whether there is a typical Canadian experience that is analogous to the experience those of us in the U.S. describe as "being stuck with a Canadian penny" (or nickle or dime).

In the great white north, does receiving change that includes the odd U.S. penny have the same undertone of being cheated? I mean sure, you've ended up with a currency that is not legal tender in your country, so it's unable to perform the functions one typically wants the coins in one's pockets to perform. But at the same time, you've gotten change that (according to the currency exchange rates) is worth a bit more than the change you were entitled to. Does it feel like an extra bonus? Or is it completely outweighed by the need to actually transact commerce with an American?

Or do Canadians never get U.S. currency in their change by mistake? Is there some other foreign currency of lower value that Canadians get stuck with instead? Is there some set of economic and/or perceptual forces that drives erroneous change-making in such a way that change containing unnoticed foreign currency never (or hardly ever) exceeds the value of the analogous coins in the local currency?

I welcome reports from the field on this matter.
*I'm also going to get rid of about 12 kronor I've had since May, but I may be the only one traveling to Canada to accomplish that particular goal.

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We were just in Vancouver a little over a month ago and, yes, there was the odd Lincoln mixed in with the Loonies, and I think a Jefferson too. Let me know if you want oyster bar recs.

By Uncle Fishy (not verified) on 26 Oct 2006 #permalink

I'm looking forward to it, too. They rejected my (groundbreaking!) paper, so for the first time in a long time I'm going to a conference just to listen and meet and greet.

In the great white north, does receiving change that includes the odd U.S. penny have the same undertone of being cheated?

Not while the U.S. currency is worth more. My experience has always been that they are perfectly happy accepting American currency up there. You probably won't receive a lot of American change though because why would they give you back something that's worth more than there own currency?

I hate to have to tell you, but Canada doesn't accept Canadian money anymore.

Okay, you can bring the money. But bring an umbrella -- the rainy season has started here and will last for the next 6 months.

I'm glad your conference is in our fair city, and welcome to all Sciencebloggers!!

Speaking as a resident of the Great White North, I can assure you that we do get a considerable amount of US coinage mixed with our change. Probably much more frequently than USAns get Canadian coins.

It's not that much of a bonus, though, as we either have to spend it as Canadian (and thus lose out on the potential exchange rate benefit), or save it up until we travel to the USA and spend it there. The banks won't exchange it at the US rate, as it's not worth the bother for them (or so I've found - maybe somewhere there's a Canadian bank that will offer the US exchange rate for coins).

Saving it up to spend on a trip to the US is probably not too bad for border-town dwellers who frequently cross the border, but for those of us who live a considerable distance away, it can be problematic. How do you spend the $5 in pennies you can accumulate over a year? Not many merchants are happy to take rolls of coins as payment (again, based on my experience).

As for other currencies showing up in our change, it happens, but much more rarely than with US coins. I have a few "pennies" that look like they might be Chinese.

Its always sort of depressing to get a few American quarters in the mix... not because I have anything against american money - but because the vending machines just don't accept them. Its tragic when you're short $0.25 for an apple juice all because the machine doesn't like american money.

Our money needs all the differnet colors too because we need to be able to tell the different mroe than Americans mostly based on the fact that our beer actually has alcohol in it.

Oh, and I get dominican republic money all the time instead of nickles.

I like to use this situation to illustrate that money is purely a matter of belief. That's not news to this audience, but there are plenty of Americans who have no cause to examine their faith in the magical properties of green paper.

In Anytown, USA, we can offer a total stranger a scrap of paper (or a chunk of metal) and get a cup of coffee in return--because it's money. Try to hand that person a different scrap of paper, and we get no coffee, just that look. Funny, how influential, and how pervasive belief can be...

Enjoy your visit, Dr. Freeride, and good luck buying koffee with kronor.



I got the thumbs down this time, too -- and the proposed panel had a couple of heavy hitters on it. They getting that many more proposals, accepting that many fewer, or what? Never seemed this tough to get in before.

As a Vancouverite (actually I'm from just outside of Vancouver a lovely place called Langley), I'd like to welcome you to our fine city and hope you enjoy your visit.

As for your question, for those of us who live near the border we are quite happy to see American coins in our change, not only because they are marginally more valuable than the change we were expecting but also because of the convenience. In my case I separate out the US coins and keep them in a box at home. Like many Vancouverites I cross the border every now and again (to go to Seattle for a Mariners game, to go for a run, or just to visit someplace new) and use the change during my visits. Since the shops on the other side of the border don't like Canadian change it is great to have enough US pennies, nickels and dimes to pay for things with exact change. That way you can make sure you get your change in bills which can then be exchanged (or saved for the next visit).

Growing up in Canada, I found that US coins were used just like Canadian coins. My piggy bank was always a mixture. I always wondered why the US coins had nothing but men on them (and I recall thinking about this at the age of four...hmmm...early feminist instincts?).

However, trying to use US paper money in Canada doesn't work. Plus it is considered incredibly rude to even suggest that a Canadian merchant should "naturally" accept US paper money. I've actually observed Americans visiting Canada try to do this from time to time.

Back to the coins; in my first trip to the US when I was 20 (I went to Oklahoma), I was kind of shocked when I pulled out a handful of change to pay for a cup of coffee and the cashier deftly picked out all the Canadian coins and handed them back to had never occured to me that Americans didn't freely mix US and Canadian coins in their monetary interactions. How naive and un-worldly I was back then. A true Canadian country bumpkin.