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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at rossgrantmurray@gmail.com
Posted 3.18.17
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

The one-quarter 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 Harvey's 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 percent 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, thirteenth 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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