Imagine going through security at the airport with $500 in stacks of Canadian Tire Money in your bag.
As Corin Raymond watched his bag go through the X-ray machine at YVR, on his way home to Toronto after a concert tour of BC, he couldn’t wait to see the look on the face of the security agent. “I thought, they’re gonna want to check this out,” said Raymond. “I was so excited about them finding this criminal amount of Canadian Tire Money in my bag.” But they didn’t spot it, and Raymond boarded the plane feeling like a gangster getting away with some kind of heist.
That was in 2012 when “the caper was at full blast,” as Raymond described. No, he didn’t rob a Canadian Tire and make off with the famed currency. It all started with a line in one of Raymond’s songs, “Don’t Spend it Honey,” in which he sings “Don’t spend it honey! Not the Canadian Tire Money!” and describes all the items he was saving up for. The song inspired fans to start donating their Canadian Tire Money (CTM) to him during performances. Once he found out that the Rogue Music Lab in Toronto, where he had already planned to record his next album, actually accepted CTM as a form of payment, that’s when everything came together.
After about 15 months Raymond ended up with over $7,000 in CTM and was able to fund the recording of his album, Paper Nickels. The experience inspired him to write his second one-man show, The Great Canadian Tire Money Caper, which he first performed in Hamilton in 2014 and has toured to fringe festivals across the country.
“It was a perfect storm of beautiful circumstances, of music, art, community, and generosity,” according to Raymond. As the donations of CTM flooded into his mailbox, so did the personal stories and pieces of people’s lives. They would include cards, artwork, and letters explaining what they had originally planned to spend the rewards money on. “People could get involved in this project for five cents, and they were investing in art,” said Raymond. The 150-page booklet that comes with Paper Nickels includes many of the letters and artwork Raymond received. “It’s humbling and inspiring to be on the receiving end of so much love,” he said.
Once media got wind of this story, Raymond was doing all kinds of interviews with outlets such as the CBC, The Globe and Mail, and the Toronto Star. He was even on the cover of The Wall Street Journal, who sent a correspondent to see the stacks of money for themselves.
“Canadian Tire got a lot of really great press. I know their stock increased in value during that time, and I think I had something to do with that,” he laughed.
Raymond gives credit to James Paul of the Rogue Music Lab for accepting the currency to pay for the album in the first place. Paul had been accepting CTM for 20 years, and Raymond said, “I think in the back of his mind he hoped someone would pay for an album with it one day.”
The Great Canadian Tire Money Caper is a piece of theatre about Raymond’s unique experience — something that could only happen in Canada. It’s also about the value of art and small acts of generosity. Not everyone will understand the poetic beauty of this story, and that’s a pity, but just like the $500-stack of bills that went through security unnoticed, therein also lies its magic.
The Great Canadian Tire Money Caper will be presented at the Surrey Arts Centre Studio Theatre on November 18, and Raymond will be in concert at the China Cloud in Vancouver on November 15. For more information, visit corinraymond.com