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Peter Black
Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Few people are travelling for pleasure or business these days. Before the pandemic hit, when folks could travel wherever time, money and a visa would allow them, they would inevitably bring back purses or fanny packs jingling with foreign currency. This essentially worthless metal treasure would then be squirreled away in drawers and closets around the family home.

One of the few positive aspects of this prolonged pandemic detention is that we have no more excuses to avoid doing little tidy-up jobs around the house – like sorting out the aforementioned bags and boxes of foreign coins.

So, equipped with sandwich baggies labelled for various countries, the separating and sorting began. Not being much of a numismatist, the variety and oddity of coins of the world came as a bit of an eye-opener for me. For example, how many bloody types of British coins are there out there? New pence, old pence. Why not just dispense with the pence altogether? (Oh, right, the Brits had the chance with the European Union. Say no more.)

Several hours and disturbingly soiled fingers later, the sorting revealed an intriguing inventory of travels dating back to well before the euro became the currency of many of the EU nations – 19 of the 27 to be exact

All told, the coins of 14 countries are represented in our collection. The top four baggies in terms of weight were Belgium, France, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. The coins of the latter place, in dollar and cent denominations, are the most thick and clunky of the lot, and, we learn, one of three valid Chinese currencies in circulation.

Surprisingly, there were even a few unclaimed Canadian coins in the pile, including a 1918 big penny and a 1939 coin to commemorate the royal tour of King George and Queen Elizabeth to Canada to whip up support for the looming war with Nazi Germany. Each worth less than $10 on Ebay, it turns out.

The question now, however, is what to do with all these neatly baggied bits of money of insignificant value. I suspect banks might be coaxed to cash in coinage from places like France, the U.K. and maybe Mexico, but coins from other nations will likely remain in their baggies and once again be chucked in a drawer.

This proliferation of dozens of coins from but a fraction of the countries on the planet provokes the question: What in the world is happening with cryptocurrency, you know, that Bitcoin business? The short answer, based on five minutes of in-depth internet research is, who knows?

What is obvious is that new cryptocurrencies are popping up at a steady pace. One investment site lists the “top 10” of cyber currencies that are not Bitcoin, the best known and longest lasting of these things. Some of them have confidence-inspiring names like Tether, Stellar, Polkadot (I kid you not) and Chainlink.

Regardless, much as credit cards, debit cards, ATMs, e-transfer and phone apps have revolutionized the way average folks go about their financial business, cryptocurrency seems destined to play an increasing role in daily commerce.

There are signs of this trend in unlikely spots. Take the Bell Centre in Montreal, for example, where as of last week an advertisement for Crypto.com appeared on the ice near the centre faceoff circle. Apparently the advertising deal is the first of its kind between a cryptocurrency company and an NHL franchise.

Crypto.com is a Hong Kong-based online currency exchange where some 50 such algorithmic currencies are traded. If you thought British coinage is mind-bogglingly complicated, try to figure out how this bewildering array of computer-based currency works.

There’s nothing new about currency speculation, the difference with cryptocurrency being these are corporate profit-driven currencies, not money backed by national governments.

Meanwhile, perhaps ominously, China is “undertaking a huge experiment that could transform the future of money,” according to a recent report in the Washington Post. Pilot testing of the “digital yuan” is underway in major cities and, if adopted, China would be the “first powerful nation to offer a national digital currency.” There are already concerns China could (and would) use such “unprecedented digitable access to ramp up surveillance of ordinary citizens.”

Coins may be a nuisance, but they only invade your sock drawer, not your privacy.

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Image from depositphotos.com

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency invented in 2008 by an unknown person or group of people using the name Satoshi Nakamoto. It is a decentralized digital currency, without a central bank or single administrator, that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries. (Source: Wikipedia)

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