Advertising on money can carry some pretty steep charges

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Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

How can a little, round sticker pressed against a loonie cause so much trouble?

The dollar coin raised eyebrows when a Town Crier reporter came across it a week ago. He was handed the loonie at his favourite lunch counter and was told by the nice lady giving the change that the coin had a little sticker on it.

Instead of the engraved image of Queen Elizabeth, there was a round sticker, just a bit smaller than the coin itself, affixed in perfect size and shape to cover one side of the coin.

Is this on purpose? Are people actually paying to advertise on coins? Makes sense, perhaps, that thousands could potentially see the message in the average 20-year lifetime of a loonie.

Eileen Melnick McCarthy, manager of communications at the Royal Canadian Mint agrees the idea is interesting. Trouble is, it’s illegal.

“Call the RCMP right away. We take this very seriously,” she says.

“I am not being a goodie-two-shoes about this — we are talking about our currency here. Think about it, the next step is counterfeiting.”

As it turns out, putting the sticker on a coin is “defacing money,” and is in breach of the Criminal Code.

Police say they could lay a charge, but a warning usually keeps them from doing it again.

Melnick McCarthy said she hears about the creative advertisement placement every few years — the last call came from Northern Ontario about two years ago.

Jim Kambourakis over at Tonic nightclub said the stickers weren’t meant to be advertisements. He suspects patrons took it upon themselves to put the sticker on the coins and then pass them along. He said the stickers are meant only for use inside the club to identify patrons who are permitted access to specific areas of the club.

“We just hand them out to people who come into the club and to promoters and that kind of thing — using them as ads is not something we want to associate ourselves with.”

He admits, however, he was impressed with the concept itself.

“It’s not meant for advertising at all, but I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “I saw somebody put one of the stickers on a toonie and I thought it was pretty funny.”