Ecstacy is what speculators feel when they dump their hoard of silver or gold at record prices. But that feeling swiftly turned to agony last week when the checks paying for some of those treasures bounced.

Three hundred checks totalling about $400,000 turned out to be what Canadians call NFS or what the British call "stunners."

The bouncing checks were issued by Charlton's an important Toronto coin and precious metals dealer. By Saturday, more than $200,000 had been paid in cash or certified checks to irate clients.

The sky-high price of silver ($57 Canadian) has folks turning in everything from Aunt Millie's silver spoons to bridgework with teeth attached to cash in on the bonanza. But like refiners throughout North America, Canadian refiners stopped buying silver scrap last week as storerooms overflowed.

William Cross, Charlton's president, said, "I regret the inconvenience we caused these people, and I don't blame these people who had a check bounce for being mad."

Cross said the cash shortage resulted from refineries abruptly halting purchasers. The normal flow of cash from refiners was interrupted and the company's bank account was wiped out temporarily.

Cross said that dealing in silver was taking "65 to 70 percent of our cash. The refineries went from buying 225,000 ounces a month from us to nothing."

You can't blame Charlton clients for being upset about the bum checks. Earlier, they had lined up in the icy Canadian winter for up to four hours to buy precious metals.

To get rid of it this week, they again lined up outdoors. Gold fever is so intense in Tornoto that the largest dealer, Bank of Novia Scotia, surveys the line of eager buyers before opening.

A bank official counts the number waiting in line, estimates how long it will take to serve them, then deals out numbers to the first 150-200 customers. w

Only one Toronto refinery -- a small one -- is still willing to buy scrap silver. Its latest price was $21 an ounce.