Banknotes of the Canadian dollar

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Face sides of the 2011 Frontier Series depicting, bottom to top and right to left, Wilfrid Laurier, John A. Macdonald, Queen Elizabeth II, William Lyon Mackenzie King, and Robert Borden.

Banknotes of the Canadian dollar are the banknotes or bills (in common lexicon) of Canada, denominated in Canadian dollars (CAD, C$, or $ locally). Currently, they are issued in $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 denominations. All current notes are issued by the Bank of Canada, which released its first series of notes in 1935. The current series of polymer banknotes were introduced into circulation between November 2011 and November 2013.[1] Banknotes issued in Canada can be viewed at the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada in Ottawa.

History[edit]

The first paper money issued in Canada denominated in dollars were British Army notes, issued between 1813 and 1815 in denominations between $1 and $400. These were emergency issues due to the War of 1812. The first banknotes were issued in 1817 by the Montreal Bank.

Chartered Banks[edit]

$1 Banknote of the Colonial Bank of Canada issued in 1859.

Large numbers of chartered banks were founded in the 1830s, 1850s, 1860s and 1870s, although many issued paper money for only a short time. Others, including the Montreal Bank (later called the Bank of Montreal), issued notes for several decades. Until 1858, many notes were issued denominated in both shillings/pounds and dollars (5 shillings = $1). A large number of different denominations were issued, including $1, $2, $3, $4, $5, $10, $20, $25, $40, $50, $100, $500 and $1000. After 1858, only dollar denominations were used. The Bank Act of 1871 limited the smallest denomination the chartered banks could issue to $4, increased to $5 in 1880. To facilitate purchases below $5 without using Dominion notes, some charted banks issued notes in unusual denominations, such as the $6 and $7 notes issued by the Molsons Bank in 1871.

Colonial Governments[edit]

$1 Dominion of Newfoundland note issued in 1920.

Prior to Canadian confederation, dollar-denominated notes were issued by the governments of British Columbia, Canada, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Of these, the Province of Canada, established in 1841, was the most prolific issuer of paper money. Notes were produced for the government by the Bank of Montreal between 1842 and 1862, in denominations of $4, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. In 1866, the Province of Canada began issuing its own paper money, in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 and $500. The Dominion of Newfoundland issued notes denominated in Newfoundland dollars from 1901 until it joined confederation in 1949.

Government of Canada[edit]

25 cent Dominion of Canada note issued in 1900.
$1 Dominion of Canada note issued in 1898.

For a temporary period following confederation in 1867, Province of Canada notes served as the Dominion of Canada's first national currency, and notes were dispatched from Ontario and Quebec to the other provinces. In 1870, the first Dominion of Canada notes were issued in denominations of 25¢, $1, $2, $500 and $1000. $50 and $100 notes followed in 1872. The bulk of later government note production was of $1 and $2 notes, with a $4 denomination added in 1882. $5 notes were issued starting in 1912. The last 25¢ notes, known as shinplasters due to their small size, were dated 1923. Special notes called Bank Legals were issued by the Dominion of Canada only to banks for transferring large sums of money in denominations of $500, $1000, $5000, and $50,000.[2] Issuance of all Dominion notes ceased in 1935, after the establishment of the Bank of Canada.

Other public issuers[edit]

Some municipalities also issued dollar-denominated notes. This was most prevalent in the 1930s, when depression scrip was issued in an attempt to alleviate the effects of the Great Depression on local citizens. The province of Alberta also launched its own scheme in 1936 by issuing prosperity certificates.

Bank of Canada[edit]

$1 Bank of Canada note issued in 1935.

In 1934, with only ten chartered banks still issuing notes, the Bank of Canada was founded and began issuing notes in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $25, $50, $100, $500 and $1000. In 1944, the chartered banks were prohibited from issuing their own currency, with the Royal Bank of Canada and the Bank of Montreal among the last to issue notes. From that point forward, the Bank of Canada has been the sole issuer of bank notes denominated in Canadian dollars. A liability of more than $12 million remains on the Bank of Canada's books up to the present day, representing the face value of Dominion of Canada, provincial, and chartered bank notes still outstanding.[3]

Production[edit]

Notes are issued by the Bank of Canada, but the actual production of the banknotes is outsourced to the Canadian Bank Note Company and BA International Inc (part of Giesecke & Devrient of Germany) in accordance with the specifications and requirements of the Bank of Canada. All wording on the notes appears in both of Canada's official languages, English and French. Bank notes were printed on paper composed of pure cotton. In March 2010 the government of Canada announced that beginning in 2011, cotton fibre will be discontinued and replaced by a synthetic polymer.[4]

A breakdown by banknotes issued by the Bank of Canada as 31 December 2012 by denomination in millions of dollars is:[5]

$ Millions Denomination
$ 1,130.5 $5
$ 1,204.1 $10
$17,202.1 $20
$10,144.8 $50
$32,742.5 $100
$ 1,276.0 Other bank notes
$63,700.0 Total Bank notes in circulation

Counterfeiting[edit]

Efforts to reduce counterfeiting in recent years have sharply reduced the number of counterfeit notes in circulation. The number of counterfeit notes passed annually in Canada peaked in 2004, when 553,000 counterfeit notes were passed. Counterfeiting has decreased annually since that peak, with only 53,536 notes passed in 2010.[6] The new Frontier Series of banknotes significantly improves security primarily by using a polymer substrate to make up the note instead of the previously used fabric. Even as Canada’s counterfeiting problem escalated, the shift to polymer was viewed as too expensive. A polymer note costs 19 cents to produce, compared to 9 cents for a typical cotton-paper note.

Counterfeiting is measured using a system borrowed from chemistry known as parts per million (PPM). Normally used to judge the potency of molecules in a solution, PPM in the counterfeit sense refers to the number of fake banknotes found in circulation for every one million genuine notes. In 1990, Canada's counterfeit ratio was just 4 PPM, ranking its currency among the most secure in the world. By the late 1990s, the rise of powerful and affordable home computers, store-bought graphics software, easy-to-use scanners and colour ink-jet printers were breeding a new generation of counterfeiters. The number of fake Canadian bills rose as high as 117 PPM by 1997. In 2004 Canada’s counterfeit rate had ballooned to 470 PPM. In 2008, the counterfeiting rate had fallen to 76 PPM. Most G20 nations used 50 PPM as their benchmark to stay below.[7]

Withdrawn denominations[edit]

The 1935 series was the only series to have included $25 and $500 denominations. Both denominations were short lived. The $25 note was withdrawn on May 18, 1937. Stacks of unissued 1935 $500 notes were destroyed in February 1938, and issued $500 notes were recalled and withdrawn from circulation five months later.

Some of the most significant recent developments in Canadian currency were the withdrawal of the $1, $2, and $1,000 notes in 1989, 1996, and 2000 respectively. The $1 and $2 denominations have been replaced with coins, colloquially referred to as the "loonie" and "toonie" respectively. The $1,000 note was removed at the request of the Solicitor General of Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as it was reported that they were largely being used for money laundering and organized crime.

List of Bank of Canada bank note series[edit]

1935 Series[edit]

The Bank of Canada was created in 1934 and given responsibility, through an Act of Parliament, to regulate the country's money supply and to "promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada." Accordingly, it was given the exclusive right to issue bank notes in Canada. On 11 March 1935, the Bank of Canada issued its first series of bank notes.

1937 Series[edit]

The creation of a second series of bank notes, only two years after the first issue, was prompted by changes in Canadian government legislation requiring the Bank of Canada to produce bilingual bank notes. Another contributing factor was the death of King George V on 20 January 1936 and the subsequent abdication of Edward VIII.

1954 Series[edit]

The third series of banknotes of the Canadian dollar issued by the Bank of Canada was the 1954 series. The banknotes were designed in 1952 following the accession of Elizabeth II to the throne after the death of her father George VI.[8] Her portrait appeared on all denominations in the series. The banknote designs differed significantly from the 1937 series, though the denomination colours and bilingual printing were retained.[8] The design changes were made to portray themes more typical of Canada.[9] This was the first series to include the Canadian coat of arms, which appeared centrally in the background of the obverse.

The banknote series became known as the "Devil's Head" series, leading to design modifications for all denominations. The second variant of the series was issued in 1956.[8]

1969 Scenes of Canada Series[edit]

Because of a growing concern over counterfeiting, the Bank of Canada began to release a new series of bank notes in 1969.

This series represented another complete departure in design from earlier issues:

  • colourful, wavy patterns were introduced;
  • a new series of Canadian scenic vignettes was created;
  • portraits of former Canadian prime ministers were re-introduced. Both Laurier and Macdonald were on the 1935 and 1937 series, but now joined by King and Borden.

1986 Birds of Canada Series[edit]

In 1986 the Bank of Canada introduced new banknotes called the Birds of Canada Series. The design on the back of each note features a bird indigenous to Canada with a background representing the typical landscape for that bird. The portraits on the front of the note were made larger than those of previous series, and a metallic patch was introduced on the larger notes. Each banknote weighs 1 gram.[10] This series was the first to include a bar code with the serial number. This allows the visually impaired to distinguish notes with the use of a hand-held device that tells the note's denomination.

This was also the last series that the $2 and $1,000 notes were issued. The $2 note was withdrawn in 1996 and replaced by the $2 coin known as the toonie. The $1,000 note was withdrawn by the Bank of Canada on 12 May 2000 at the request of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) as part of a program to reduce organized crime.[10] At the time, 2,827,702 of the $1000 bills were in circulation; by 2011, fewer than 1 million were in circulation, most held by organized crime.[10]

2001 Canadian Journey Series[edit]

Beginning in 2001, the Bank of Canada introduced a new series of notes called "Canadian Journey", featuring images of Canadian heritage and excerpts from Canadian literature. The $10 was first issued on January 17, 2001; the $5 on March 27, 2002; the $100 note on March 17, 2004, the $20 on September 29, 2004, and the $50 on November 17, 2004.

The $20, $50, and $100 notes introduce watermark security features for the first time on Canadian currency since the four-dollar Dominion notes; they also boast significantly expanded holographic security features. Also among the new features are a windowed colour-shifting thread woven into the paper, a see-through number, and enhanced fluorescence under ultraviolet lighting. These features are designed to help Canadians protect themselves by detecting counterfeit notes. All post-2001 series notes also include the EURion constellation, on both sides of the note. The new notes have a tactile feature, which is a series of raised dots (but not Braille) in the upper right corner on the face of each note to aid the visually impaired in identifying currency denominations.

The security features new on the $20, $50, and $100 notes were added to an updated version of the $10 note released on 18 May 2005, and the Bank of Canada began issuing a $5 note with upgraded security features on 15 November 2006 as part of its ongoing effort to improve the security of Canadian bank notes. The illustrations on the front and back of the upgraded notes are the same as those on the $5 and $10 notes issued in 2001 and 2002.

The "Canadian Journey" literary excerpts are printed in English and French, with the English versions being:

  • $5: The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons. We lived in three places—the school, the church, and the skating-rink—but our real life was on the skating-rink. (Roch Carrier (born 1937) from his short story Le chandail de hockey (The Hockey Sweater))
  • $10: In Flanders Fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row, / That mark our place, and in the sky / The larks, still bravely singing, fly / Scarce heard amid the guns below. (John McCrae (1872–1918), from his poem In Flanders Fields)
  • $20: Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts? (Gabrielle Roy (1909–1983) from her novel La Montagne secrète (The Hidden Mountain))
  • $50: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights (from Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948)
  • $100: Do we ever remember that somewhere above the sky in some child's dream perhaps Jacques Cartier is still sailing, always on his way always about to discover a new Canada? (Miriam Waddington (1917–2004) from her poem Jacques Cartier in Toronto)

Canadian Journey banknotes (2004 style) incorporates background color and consists of series years 2001, 2003, 2003A, 2004, 2004A and 2006. All the notes except the $100 note have additional series years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2009A (some banknotes only). The $100 2009 series began issuing to the public in early 2010 and was printed in 2009 before they were issued. The 2004-2009 series of the $100 note was withdrawn from the circulation in November 2011. The $50 note was withdrawn on March 26, 2012 and $5–$20 notes would be withdrawn in the next 2 years before it will be officially announced.

2011 Frontier Series[edit]

Beginning in 2011, the Bank of Canada introduced a new series of polymer banknotes. The $100 note was issued on November 14, 2011; the $50 was issued on March 26, 2012; the $20 banknote was issued on November 7, 2012, and the $10 and $5 denominations were issued on November 7, 2013.

These are the first Canadian notes produced on polymer. In place of a watermark are two visual features: a translucent maple leaf and a transparent window. The leaf includes a security feature that, when viewed close to the eye with a single-point light source behind, produces a circular image displaying the note's denomination. The window is fringed by maple leaves; at its top is a smaller version of the portrait, and at its bottom a light-refracting metallic likeness of an architectural feature from the parliament buildings. The portraits on the face are more centred on the note. The backs of the notes introduce new cultural and thematic imagery, but the literary quotation is not continued. The polymer notes continue the tactile feature, from the Canadian Journey series.[11]

Commemorative Issues[edit]

Commemorative Issues
Image Value Main Colour Description Date of
Front Back Front Back printing issue
[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]
$25‡ Purple King George V and Queen Mary Windsor Castle May 6, 1935
[5] [6] $1‡ Dark Green Elizabeth II Old parliament buildings in Ottawa - destroyed by fire in 1916 1967 3 January 1967
These images are to scale at 0.7 pixels per millimetre.

‡ Withdrawn from circulation. Currency withdrawn from circulation is still legal tender. Despite the introduction of new notes, older notes are still in use.

All notes of 1954 series or later measure 152.4 mm by 69.85 mm (6 by 2¾ inches).

See also Withdrawn Canadian banknotes.

Myths[edit]

A number of myths have circulated regarding Canadian banknotes.

  • An American flag is flying over the Parliament buildings on Canadian paper money. This is not the case. The Birds series notes depict a Union Flag flying over Parliament on the $100; a Canadian Red Ensign (a former Canadian flag) on the $5, $10, and $50; and the modern maple-leaf flag was on the $2 notes. (The $20 depicts the Library of Parliament, with no flag visible.) Those fooled by the rumour were likely fooled by the notes with the Red Ensign, as the flags are very small and not shown in full colour, and the Ensign with its contrasting canton somewhat resembles the American flag.[12]
  • When a note depicts a past prime minister, the Parliament buildings behind him are flying whichever flag Canada was using at the time of his tenure. The face of the Birds series featured images of prime ministers (or the Queen) and the houses of Parliament. However, as noted above, the $10 note featured the Red Ensign alongside Sir John A. Macdonald, who became prime minister 25 years before the Red Ensign was approved for use on the Merchant Marine and more than 50 years before it was used on government buildings.[13] Also, the Union Flag is on the $100 with Sir Robert Borden, who came after Laurier who appears with the Red Ensign. This is sometimes explained by the fact that Borden governed during World War I.[14] The views of the Houses of Parliament on the current Canadian Journey series do not feature any flag.
  • The Canadian Journey series $10 note is being recalled because there is a misprint in the poem In Flanders Fields. The first line as printed, "In Flanders fields the poppies blow," startled many people, who believed the last word should be "grow". John McCrae wrote two versions which were both published, but his original manuscript, the one used by the government and widely used for Remembrance Day ceremonies, reads "blow". (The last two lines are "We shall not sleep, though poppies grow/In Flanders fields.")[15][16]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]