Paper Money

Bank of Canada continues appeal, but Trekkies still alter $5 bank notes

The Bank of Canada would like individuals to stop turning a portrait Sir Wilfrid Laurier into a portrait of Mister Spock from Star Trek. Some $10 Federal Reserve notes are also being altered, including this one with Alexander Hamilton turned into Princess Leia of Star Wars.

Original images courtesy of

Paper money collectors are used to looking to Paper Money Guaranty and its chat boards for currency discussions, so it was only a small leap for Canadian paper money to become a subject on the chat board of its CGC Comics affiliate.

The more than four-year-old story won’t go away, and it is giving the Bank of Canada fits. It started when the American actor Leonard Nimoy, who played the character of Mister Spock on the TV show Star Trek, died on Feb. 27, 2015.

Trekkies in Canada found a unique way to pay tribute to him. Using the $5 bill from the Canadian Journeys series, issued in 2002 and 2006, they altered the portrait of Sir Wilfrid Laurier to make him look more like Spock, complete with the typical Vulcan pointed ears, haircut, and eyebrows.

At the time, the Toronto Star reported that some people felt Laurier’s face wasn’t that interesting, anyway, so this was a permanent improvement to the currency. The Bank of Canada wasn’t so thrilled and issued a statement saying that although the alterations were not illegal, “... there are important reasons why it should not be done. Writing on a bank note may interfere with the security features and reduces its lifespan. Markings on a note may also prevent it from being accepted in a transaction. Furthermore, the Bank of Canada feels that writing and markings on bank notes are inappropriate as they are a symbol of our country and a source of national pride.” 

The bank’s appeal to propriety and reason did not have much effect, and early this month, the request was all over the news once again, prompting one Reddit wag to post “The very, very best way to make something happen more is to publicly ask for people to stop doing it.” 

There’s more. The website posted not only the Spock alteration, but a half dozen similarly doctored U.S. $10 bills on which Alexander Hamilton is transformed into luminaries such as Willy Wonka, Yoda, and Van Gogh. Showing deference to women in altered bank note design, some notes’ portraits are modified to resemble Princess Leia and Frida Kahlo.

Nimoy’s Star Trek sidekick, William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk, actually is Canadian. 

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