Paper Money

Canadian note is only the second of its type

Paper Money Guaranty revealed that it recently certified the second-known example of a 1920 Home Bank of Canada $5 note.

The note was previously thought to be unique, with the only example being in the National Currency Collection of the Bank of Canada. The new discovery is privately held.

The grading service graded the note as Choice Fine 15, but says it has the eye appeal of a Very Fine example. 

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The face has a portrait of Maj. Gen. Sir Isaac Brock at the left, and a seated allegorical Commerce portrait at the center with ships in the background. The back of the note shows three students in a vignette titled Mutual Improvement and the bank name.

The Home Bank of Canada existed from only 1903 to 1923, accounting for the rarity of its issues today. PMG estimates that a little more than 50 notes of all denominations exist today, in addition to 14 in institutional collections. Notes from 1920 are the rarest. All denominations, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100, were printed by the American Bank Note Co. in Ottawa.

A description of the bank’s history by PMG is a portrait of a corrupt disaster. A Canadian Royal Commission inquiry in 1924 revealed that the bank president made several questionable loans to a close family friend, and to other companies with whom he and other bank directors were closely involved. The debts grew so large that the bank felt it couldn’t let them fail so they loaned more money and covered it up until Aug. 17, 1923, when a notice was nailed to the door of the head office in Toronto saying “Bank Closed. Payment Suspended.”

The portrait of Brock is of cross-border interest. He was called “The Hero of Upper Canada” for his role in the War of 1812 and his image, PMG says, was meant to “instill confidence in the strength and leadership of the bank’s management.”

Brock was commander-in-chief of British forces in Upper Canada. In one of his victories, on Aug. 16, 1812, he crossed the border and took Fort Detroit by force. He was killed by a musket ball to the chest in the Battle of Queenston Heights on Oct. 13, 1812, and became Canada’s first true hero. 

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