The ¼ buck stops here

A Canadian quarter from 1907 turned up in my wife’s change from the liquor store last weekend. I like to think it ended up there by way of a slow-moving nonagenarian war bride in a cardigan purchasing her bi-monthly supply of Harveys Bristol Cream. She is also the last person in Canada to pay for items in small change, including pennies.

Of course, there’s no way of knowing for sure where this coin has traveled over the past century-plus. Given that it’s been virtually rubbed smooth, with only a hint of scrollwork and a barely discernible “25” on one side and the worn silhouette and the word “EDWARDVS” on the other, how has it made it this far at all?

I mean, it barely looks like a quarter anymore. In other words, are liquor store clerks so inattentive that I could basically pay with washers and subway tokens?

The U.S. Mint reports that the average lifespan of a coin is 30 years. I expect that would be somewhat higher in Canada because our coins contain less cholesterol.

But still, 110 years! That’s a pretty rare coin, which raises the very important question: are we rich?

Before you start getting the gang back together for one last heist, according to coinsandcanada.com, a 1907 quarter in this condition (terrible) is worth about $3.60. But when you think about it – a 25 cent coin worth $3.60 – that’s a 1440% return on investment, or something mathematical like that. Not too bad. Also: not too rich.

Still, I can’t stop thinking about where this coin has been. How many times has it travelled across the country? Was it ever swallowed by a toddler? Should I wash my hands?

I know that 1907 quarters were minted in London, England; the Royal Canadian Mint didn’t begin production in Ottawa until 1908.

And that’s the last fact you’ll get out of me. The rest I can only imagine.
Perhaps in 1909, the coin jangled in the pocket of Lomer Gouin, 13th premier of Quebec, who always kept loose change in his pocket ready to fling at terrible children who made fun of his name.

The flung coin is retrieved by young Louis Petit of Quebec City, age 7, who gladly sports an angry welt above his eye in exchange for the quarter, which would have a value of roughly $5 today. Louis quickly spends the bulk of it on salt pork lollipops, which were a fad that year and, unfortunately, riddled with trichinosis. Sadly, Louis dies, but childhood mortality was commonplace in 1909, so we shouldn’t feel too sad. There were 10 other little Petits at home.

From the soon-to-be-bankrupt Palais-du-Porc-Sucette, the coin changes hands several times, ending up in Stitsville, Ontario, where, in 1914, Alice McCreedy, age 19, uses it to pay for entrance to the newly opened Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. While gazing enraptured at the fossilized trilobites, she meets her future husband, Stanley Ferguson. Together, they have four children and form the musical act well known locally as The Stitsville Six and unknown everywhere else.

From 1928 to 1937, the quarter is jammed beneath a wobbly table leg in Red Deer, Alberta. In 1938, the table collapses during a game of full-contact Pinochle and the coin is presented as restitution.

On September 10, 1939, Canada declares war on Germany. On September 11, the coin is swallowed by a toddler.

At this point, we lose track of the quarter for several decades, which is perhaps for the best.

The quarter resurfaces on a Halifax street in 1973, where it is flung nonchalantly into the open guitar case of a group of buskers whose band would probably have been a huge success if they didn’t insist on calling themselves “The Slow Drains.”

In 2007, recognizing that the coin is 100 years old, Marie-Celeste Lacasse of Alma, Que. puts the quarter in her jewelry box for safekeeping. Two years later, she spends it on a lottery ticket, after a vivid dream convinces her she is destined to win. She is not.

2017: Stanstead, nonagenarian, Bristol Cream.

The coin is now in my wife’s jewelry box. If we wanted to, we could sell it for $3.60. It’s not much, but it would buy a decent-sized bottle of hand sanitizer.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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36 Responses to The ¼ buck stops here

  1. A fun read from heads to tails.
    If you ever want to write the Prequel to this story, you can tell your readers that the silver was mined in Cobalt, Ontario. Back in 1903, silver was discovered and a mining boom took off to develop the world’s largest mineral deposit for its day.
    I’ve retired to the area, and am learning all kinds of nifty things. Can you tell?

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Well, there you go.
      But as this was minted in England, would it be Canadian silver? I find it odd that these first Canadian coins were minted outside Canada. Why didn’t they just wait until the Ottawa mint was ready?

      • Apparently, according to my coin collector hubby, Cobalt Ontario silver was indeed shipped to the mint across the pond.

        Originally, the processing of nickel ore was also completed offshore. It was cheaper to ship the raw materials than to build a new domestic facility. And in those days, I suppose the commonwealth factor came into play, too. Rule Britannia, and all that.

  2. Yes, swallowed by a toddler and pooped out some 70 years later I hear; hence it’s preservation.

  3. My father received an “Indian Head/Buffalo” nickel some time ago from the supermarket. Not too much later, I found one while walking around the Zombie-fied landscape of downtown St. Louis. As far as I could tell, mine was from 1920, and his 1918. I stuck them in my jar of “old” coins and waited. Finally, I just said he should see if they’re worth anything. Since they were kind of worn, we got $10 for both. I also had a 1952 quarter and a few steel pennies…worth nothing.

    I can’t help but wonder how much that gold standard $5 bill some idiot in high school put into a soda machine would be worth. I was going to buy it from him, but some other girl popped up and said it wasn’t worth much. He believed her, so he put it into the machine. Only thing was, soda machines in 1993 didn’t take $5 bills! So he made a sign for the soda machine guy/office workers to return it, and they did! I’m pretty sure he bought terrible Woolworth’s pizza with it, and the cashier decided to exchange it herself!

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I’m still amazed at the soda machine guy’s willingness to make the effort. 1993 was an innocent time.

      • It was! I’m still pissed at the fact that I didn’t buy it–I only had $5, and if I’d offered more (I would’ve offered $10–that bill was in GREAT SHAPE!), he’d have gotten suspicious. Somewhere, there’s a Woolworth cashier chuckling over the fact that a dumb high schooler bought crappy pizza with a gold standard $5!

  4. HonieBriggs says:

    We are always on the lookout for old coins that somehow end up in the till. My grandmother once sent me to the gas station with nine Mercury head dimes to buy her a pack of cigarettes. Yes, back then cigarettes cost only ninety cents a pack and yes, children of all ages could purchase them. Mercury, that fleet footed Roman god of commerce, adorned the coins now worth anywhere from a buck fifty to a couple of hundred dollars. By now they’ve had time for many gastrointestinal adventures, but most likely are in someone’s sock drawer.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I had a paper route as a kid and for a while collected pre-1968 dimes, which were silver. Yup, spent ’em, probably on gum.

    • uncleclyde says:

      Hi, I’m Robert. Nice to meet you.
      …it’s been a LONG time since I saw a, um, if you will, FLEET-FOOTED dime. I can picture it too.

    • Heh. That reminds me of when our father would send my older sister to the store for a pack of Pall Malls (To be smoked when he talked on the phone. He never talked on the phone.) Of course, when in HS, EVERYONE smoked, but there weren’t that many 18 year olds. Yet, we didn’t even think about it! Ah, the early 90s…a different time!

  5. shoshana5000 says:

    Yes, you should always warsh your hands. (The ar felt important to me, not sure why. Maybe I’m channeling some Iowan who briefly had possession of the coin. Or maybe cardigan clad Doris has some roots in Iowa. Or maybe Iowa isn’t even one of those places where they imagine an ar in “wash.” Are you really wearing cardigans up there already, or is Doris always ahead of the weather?)

  6. List of X says:

    If I were you, I’d hold on to this coin. If it continues to appreciate by 1340% every 110, in just 770 years it would be worth half a billion.
    Unfortunately, due to inflation, half a billion would be worth about 25 cents in today’s money.

  7. ksbeth says:

    i say it was up a magician’s sleeve and he lost it up there, as he was not very skilled. upon his unexplained death, the coroner recovered it, though by that time, it had managed to relocate itself to a location on his person which was listed as ‘the flip side’ on the official report, with no further explanation.

  8. pinklightsabre says:

    Along with ‘pinklightsabre’ and ‘Slick Buttons,’ I think I actually had the name Slow Drains on my list of punk bands but decided that was a very bad idea, for obvious reasons. All of it, a very bad idea. ALL OF IT Ross. But I like this. That’s fun, where you went with it…down a rabbit hole, or a drain. Where you’d least expect to find what you do.

  9. I’m always astonished when an old coin shows up in my pocket but I don’t have a story to match this. Not even close. How did people keep passing it around? I’d have kept it. The breadth of its history makes you feel kind of insignificant, doesn’t it?

  10. “our coins contain less cholesterol”

    I have two words for you: Poo. Teen.

    “I can’t stop thinking about where this coin has been”

    (reaches for Purell)

    “the coin is swallowed by a toddler…At this point, we lose track of the quarter for several decades, which is perhaps for the best.”

    Considering how it exited the toddler, I’d say yes.

    He doesn’t mention if it removes toddler doody.

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