TORONTO — Colin Cutler has been going to coin shows since he was 14 but has never come across a coin as popular as the black-ringed toonie the Royal Canadian Mint released to memorialize the late Queen Elizabeth.
"I have never seen a coin with this kind of demand in the 52 years I've been doing this," said the Chatham, Ont. man, who runs Collectors Corner Coins.
"There's never been a coin that's had this kind of response."
The two-dollar coin with a black band of nickel-plated steel features the late monarch's effigy in the centre of one side and the usual polar bear on an ice floe on the other. It's marked 2022, the year of the queen's death.
The mint produced about five million of the toonies, amounting to about one for every eight Canadians.
"So if you had one, seven of your friends couldn't," Cutler said.
When the coin was due to be released in December, he contacted the mint and was told there were none left, so he scrambled to buy two boxes, or 1,000, of the toonies collectively worth $2,000 from a distributor.
Within a month and a half, 700 had sold for $8 apiece and his listing on Facebook Marketplace had racked up more than 10,000 views, far higher than the usual coins he sells which typically nab less than 100 views.
Most of Cutler's buyers weren't collectors or even royalists.
"They just wanted to have something from Queen Elizabeth from her death," he said.
Jared Stapleton's customers weren't collectors either, but people who saw the queen as a grandmother-like figure.
"People really love the queen," said the owner of the Metro Coin and Bank Note shop and director of the Toronto Coin Expo scheduled for May 5 and 6. "Whether they've met her or not, I think they can relate to her."
Stapleton snatched up $20,000 worth of the toonies and estimates he only has $4,000 of the coins left. He's sent them to buyers all over the globe, like Cutler who had customers as far as Paraguay, Bolivia, Mexico and the United States.
Most have been elated with the memento, but Cutler said many share that they're surprised the coins "don't look as black as they do on the mint pictures."
Spokesperson Deneen Perrin says the mint doesn't have data on the popularity of the toonie, but public feedback has been "overwhelmingly favourable." Coin exchanges the mint hosted for the toonie have been "extremely well attended," she added.
About 4.4 million are in circulation so far, she added.
"I talked to people down here and nobody's seen one in their pocket change," said Cutler. "But I do know that in the Toronto area there are some in circulation. I was in Mississauga two weeks ago and I got one in my change at McDonald's."
However, Cutler said demand has dampened since February, when he noticed the mint listed rolls of 25 coins for sale on its website for $79.95.
"After that our sales dropped way off," he said, noting $79.95 is a much lower price than his distributor charged.
He's since dropped his price to $4 apiece and has about 200 left. (Stapleton is charging between $4 and $5 per coin, down from the $6 he started at.)
Demand for the coin hasn't picked up again, despite King Charles's May 6 coronation nearing, Cutler said.
But people are stocking up on the 50 pence piece England has released with King Charles's effigy, said Stapleton.
"A friend of mine came over from England and brought what he could. It was probably 200 coins and I've already sold a quarter of them," he said.
If Canada releases a circulation coin honouring the new monarch, Cutler expects it to generate even more buzz.
"Everybody's waiting on the first coins with Charles on them," he said.
"But we don't know if we're going to see any this year because the mint cannot just go ahead and produce them. The mint has to wait for parliament to authorize them and so far parliament hasn't done that."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2023.
Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press