The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 1, January 7, 2024, Article 27


John Regitko of Toronto, Canada submitted this two-part story of his adventure curating a paper money exhibit for the annual Canadian National Exhibition. Here's part one. Previously published in Canadian Coin News, it is republished here with permission. -Editor


  Another view of a part of the coin exhibit at the CNE

One of the exhibits mounted on the wall of the Coin Exhibit at the Arts Crafts Hobbies Building during one of the annual Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto was a display of how paper money was printed by the Canadian Banknote Company and the British American Banknote Company. It covered the printing process of the 1954 series of $1 notes in colour.

I set up the display during the days when the law stated that you could not reproduce banknotes in colour, regardless of the size of the images. (The legislation has changed where you can now legally reproduce images providing it is less than half or more than double actual size.)

Even though tens of thousands of people would view the exhibit, I was not concerned about anyone calling the police accusing me of counterfeiting and/or possession of counterfeit notes.

I had already done my due diligence prior to displaying it as a competitive exhibit at a convention held at the Westbury Hotel in Toronto.

The eight-case display, which are the first eight cases of the 12-case exhibit at the CNE shown in the photo, showed enlargements of the various stages of the printing process of the $1 notes of 1954, from the creation of the artwork, engraving, printing plates and to the printing of the various colours, serial numbers and signatures.

To avoid any potential problems for me, I decided to show the exhibit to Corporal Walton, in charge of counterfeiting of O Division for the RCMP covering Toronto, before exhibiting it. This was just as well, as events eventually unfolded at the Convention.

I asked Corporal Walton for an opinion on its acceptability. He asked me why I didn't come to him before I made up the display. I told him that it might be that either I didn't think at first that there would be a problem, or that I thought I might be told I couldn't do it and that, if I still decided to go ahead, I might be charged since I had been warned in advance.

He pulled out a copy of the Criminal Code of Canada, turned to the appropriate section, and started reading out loud the part about reproducing the likeness of Canadian paper money and/or possession thereof. When he was finished, he looked at the display and after some thought, suggested I contact the Fraud Squad of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Department who has overlapping jurisdiction in the Toronto area for matters involving counterfeiting.

I made an appointment with a detective at police headquarters and after showing him the exhibit and explaining that I wanted to exhibit it, he reached for a copy of the Criminal Code of Canada from the bookshelf behind him, turned to the appropriate section and read out loud the part about counterfeiting. He then asked me why I didn't call him before I made up the display. I gave him the same answer I gave to Corporal Walton at the RCMP.

He told me I should go and visit one of the attorneys in the Attorney General's Department at Queen's Park for an opinion. I called them and explained why I wanted an appointment.

A few days later, I took my display and walked up the stairs at Queen's Park, wondering what I had gotten myself into. But after all the time I spent making up the display, after showing it to the RCMP and the Toronto Police and making the Attorney General's Department aware of what I had been up to, I thought I better show up for my appointment.

After you tell them you printed paper money and you don't show up, you know what happens? You become a fugitive and they hunt you down.

After the usual preliminaries, I pulled out the display from my carrying case and showed it to him.

The next two words coming out of his mouth bothered me. He said: Oh, Boy! That was it, Oh, Boy! He sat there for a while staring at the display, then looked at me. I said I guess it's no problem. I'll just get out of your office so you can carry on with your work. Obviously a two-word man, he said Sit Down! in a stern voice.

I sat down.

He reached over to his library and pulled out a copy guessed it...the Criminal Code of Canada.

Since by now I had become quite familiar with the appropriate section of the book, I felt he was reading it out loud for his benefit, not mine, so I let him.

When he was finished, I asked him what that part upon summary conviction meant. Although I knew the answer, I thought that I would help him see it my way. He said it means that it is not cut and dried like, say, murder or a bank robbery. A judge has to determine if what I did constituted an attempt to commit a crime, and fraudulent intent was part of it.

He asked me who did the printing, obviously on a quite expensive offset press. I said Golly, I think I don't remember. He just stared at me. I didn't think he believed me.

After some further discussion, he said: I suppose if I let you walk out of here and down the steps without stopping you, you will assume that you have our permission to display it in public. I responded with: I suppose that is what it will amount to.

As I walked out the main doors with the display and started walking down the many steps, I confess I was worried. I looked back a few times to see if an RCMP officer or Queen's Park security was coming to arrest me. Nobody did!

I entered the exhibit in the paper money category at a coin show at the Westbury Hotel in Toronto. I am reasonably certain that is was the 1986 CNA Convention, because I don't know what other coin show it could have been that was held at the Westbury Hotel (it was not the 1991 CNA Convention, of which I was chairman).

I set up the display on Friday morning. Just before noon the next day, a gentleman came up to me and said that he understood that was my display. I asked him if he was a reporter. Just a feeling I had because of all the camera gear hanging over his shoulder. He said that he was with the Toronto Star.

He asked me if I thought the contents of the display were legal. I told him that I didn't see why it couldn't be, sparing him the details of what I had gone through. I expected him to pull out a copy of the Criminal Code from his camera case and read me the appropriate section as happened every time someone talked to me about the display.

Within the hour, two gentlemen in suits and ties approached me. They introduced themselves as detectives of the Metro Toronto Police. I thanked them for attending the coin show and asked if I could help them in any way.

They asked me if that was my display. Apparently they were not there for entertainment. I suggested we go to the empty meeting room across the hall.

I asked them if the Toronto Star reporter had called them. One of them said that they could not reveal that information. I suggested that I should have the right to know who my accuser was. They simply ignored my question.

They asked me if I was aware of what the criminal code says about the reproduction of paper money. You will forgive me for thinking that he was going to pull out a copy of the Criminal Code from under his jacket.

I told them that I had made a few people aware of the display and I gave them the names of Corporal Walton of the RCMP, the two detectives of the Metro Toronto Police Department's Fraud Squad and the Crown Attorney whose names I no longer recall. They looked at each other and without saying a word, the one who had written down the names left the room.

The other police officer and I made some small talk about coin shows, dealers and the educational aspect of educational displays in general and my display specifically.

When the officer returned, he nodded to his partner and in a firm voice said to me: Okay, we will leave now, but on the basis of a complaint from a member of the public, we must ask you to remove the display. When do you think you will be able to remove it? (I actually wrote down his words after they left in case someone else made an issue of it.)

I replied: How about 5:00 p.m. tomorrow?

He asked me when the show was over. I told him 5:00 p.m. tomorrow.

He looked me straight in the eye and in a very authoritative voice said: Okay, but make sure it's not even a minute later!

He then broke into a smile, said goodbye and left with his partner.

But it doesn't end there. Look for part two in the next issue.

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