The Bank of Canada unveiled its long-awaited new polymer notes at
its head office in Ottawa June 20.
Finance Minister James M. Flaherty and Royal Canadian Mounted
Police Commissioner William J.S. Elliott joined Bank of Canada
Governor Mark J. Carney for the unveiling ceremony.
Carney said: “This new series of bank notes combines innovative
technology and Canadian ingenuity. They were developed by a team of
physicists, chemists, engineers and other experts from the Bank of
Canada and from across the bank note industry.”
Carney added: “This work was born out of necessity. Beginning in
2001, counterfeiting in Canada increased dramatically, to levels that
were very high by Canadian and international standards. By 2004,
counterfeiting was at a historic peak of 470 counterfeit notes
detected per one million notes in circulation.”
While the current level is just 35 counterfeits detected per
million notes, the Bank of Canada turned to polymer to reduce that
number even more. It also turned to polymer for savings, according to
Although the initial production cost of the polymer notes is
higher than that of the current cotton-fiber notes, the Canadian
government expects to save some $200 million over the life of the
series because the polymer notes will last at least 2.5 times longer.
The workhorse of the Canadian economy, the $20 note, currently
lasts about three years. Canadian officials expect the replacement
polymer $20 notes to last as long as seven years.
According to Charles Spencer of the Bank of Canada Currency
Department, bank notes still hold an important place in Canadian
“Despite the popularity of the other means of payment, such as
credit and debit cards, and electronic transfers, bank notes remain an
important way for Canadians to pay for goods and services. Indeed, the
total value of bank notes outstanding continues to grow in line with
the overall growth of the economy and reached $57.9 billion at the end
of 2010,” Spencer writes.
The new Canadian notes are being printed on what bank officials
say is a well-established substrate: Guardian, manufactured by
Securency International of Australia. A biaxial-oriented polypropylene
substrate, Guardian has been used successfully for printing bank notes
of 32 countries since 1988, according to the bank.
However, the Bank of Canada boasts that “Canada’s new notes are
unlike other polymer notes.”
While clear windows have been used successfully as
anti-counterfeiting devices on notes of other countries, Canada has
gone a step further by combining them with a holographic foil. “The
images on the foil, which is placed in a large vertical window, are
large, brilliant and complex, and the details and colors can be seen
clearly from both sides of the note. A second, smaller window contains
a frosted area that, when viewed against a single-point light source,
shows a circle of numbers matching the note’s value,” according to the
Bank of Canada.
Traditional security features, such as fine-line printing and
intaglio printing, which results in raised ink, are also used.
In addition to these security features, the new notes retain the
features contained in the current Canadian Journey series to help the
blind and partially sighted to identify notes: large numerals against
contrasting backgrounds, dominant color schemes, codes that can be
read by an electronic reader supplied to the blind, and a system of
raised dots in a different pattern for each denomination. Improvements
in this category were made in two areas: the electronic reader will
now work on both ends of the notes and, thanks to the characteristics
of the polymer substrate, the raised dots will last longer in
circulation, according to the bank.
In discussing the designs to appear on the notes, Finance Minister
Flaherty spoke about the importance of Canadians seeing their story
reflected in bank note designs.
“These bank notes evoke the country’s spirit of innovation, and
their designs celebrate Canada’s achievements at home, around the
world and in space,” he said. “Bank notes are cultural touchstones
that reflect and celebrate our Canadian experience.”
In describing the design process, Spencer writes: “… a conscious
decision was made to retain those elements that worked well in earlier
series. The notes are therefore the same size, to minimize their
impact on note-handling equipment, and the five denominations will
each be the same dominant color as in past series, to help people
quickly identify each denomination.”
While the new series is currently dubbed the “Polymer series,”
Flaherty indicated that it should be called the “Frontiers series”
because it celebrates Canada’s achievements at the frontiers of innovation.
The $100 note, scheduled for release in November, features images
that focus on Canadian innovations in the field of medicine including
pioneering the discovery of insulin to treat diabetes, the invention
of the pacemaker, and the role Canadian researchers have played in
mapping the human genetic code.
Sir Robert Borden, prime minister of Canada from 1911 to 1920,
remains on the face of the note, albeit in an updated portrait. The
date of issue has been moved from the lower margin on the back of the
note, to just below the “100” in the upper right corner on the face.
The $50 note, scheduled for release in March of 2012, features
images of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Amundsen in the North,
reflecting Canada’s leading role in Arctic research. An updated
portrait of William Lyon Mackenzie King, the Canadian prime minister
from 1921 to 1930 and again from 1935 to 1948, is on the face of the note.
As for the other denominations, scheduled for release in 2013, the
$20 issue will feature the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, to mark
the contributions and sacrifices of Canadians in conflicts throughout history.
The $10 note will feature the train Canadian to highlight the
great technical feat of linking its eastern and western frontiers by
what was, at the time, the longest railway ever built.
The $5 note will feature Canadarm2 and Dextre, which symbolize
Canada’s continuing contribution to the international space program
through robotics innovation. ■