I don’t know if it’s different in other areas of the country. But my city is right on the U.S.-Canadian border. And people where I live typically find alot of Canadian pennies (i.e., one cent pieces) in their change. I swear it is at least 25 to 30% of the change received at cash registers. Sometimes more. This of course not entirely an accident. The Canadian one cent piece is the only coin allowed in U.S. change, at least where I live. Cashiers generally accept it, and Canadian tourists (who you also typically see alot of where I live, BTW) simply bring it across the border with them.
But that brings up an interesting question, which I think is partly a legal question. What does the U.S. ultimately do with all the Canadian pennies found in our change? Do we send it back? Do we keep it circulating in the change? Do we destroy it? Or do we do something not covered in what I just said? As I’ve said, it is an interesting question, because I think those Canadian one cent pieces are technically the property of the Canadian government, aren’t they?
I’d guess the banks are charged with ridding the currency stream of waste like that (well, waste as far as Amercians are concerned), just like they retire worn-out bills and such. They also inject new currency into the system, to make up for what they remove (more or less).
Banks: The liver and bone marrow of the nation’s currency supply.
I’m in Detroit, and we see tons of Canadian change here. The chain drugstore I used to cashier at had a policy that all small change was accepted at full value, as long as the total was under a dollar. Canadian bills or change totalling more than ninety-nine cents had to be keyed in using a special Canadian key that automatically inserted whatever the current exchange was.
I can’t imagine the store was willingly taking a loss on turning all that in, were they?
How do you propose that they separate them?
As I recall from my Michigan childhood, we did have large quantities of Canadian change in our pockets. Nobody blinked twice if you had a Canadian dime in with your dollar-fifty in change.
At the time, one could separate “silver” coins with a magnet – the Canadian coins were made of steel. I assume that this is still true.
The pennies were another story: aside from a few odd years when they were made as many-sided polygons instead of circles, there is little to distinguish a Canadian penny from its American counterpart. You could salt ten Canadian pennies in a roll of fifty and nobody would know the wiser without examining the image stamped on each coin.
Actually the banks can tell. Back when I was a kid with a paper route I would have to deposit my collections at a bank branch. They’d always know if there were Canadian pennies in the roll. Of course this was maybe 20 years ago, but I can’t imagine technology would have taken a step back.
I’m from Michigan, too, and most large corporate chains take Canadian change on par up to a reasonable limit (whereby each chain sets “reasonable”). Plus the they take paper cash at their set exchange rate. It’s usually the smaller, individual-owned places that complain or won’t take it at all. I remember trying to buy 12 beers at such a place. I had exact change, except one was a Canadian quarter. The clerk/owner asked if I had another quarter, so I whipped out the credit card instead. She was dumb; the credit transaction cost her well over the value of that quarter.
In Vermont, which also borders Canada, we get a fair amount of Canadian money in the local cash flow. I have never had Canadian change (including loonies and toonies) refused by a local vendor.
Vendors that depend on Canadian tourism often make the decision to accept Canadian at par as an incentive, if the exchange rate isn’t too huge. This is cool for the locals… we go to a bank, buy Canadian, and give it to the vendor. At the moment, though, I think most vendors are discounting Canadian as the exchange rate is pretty sizable.
Canadian coins are all slightly smaller in diameter than their US versions, allowing coin-sorting and vending machines to separate them easily. In practice, US stores generally accept Canadian pennies on par with US ones - and why not, neither is worth anything anyway.
A reply from the forum at the Royal Australian Mint.