Answering Common Questions About Canadian Money: Part 2
We recently published a blog post answering common questions that people have about Canada’s paper money and Canadian coins. This post is a continuation of the previous one in which we answer some additional specific questions about what our money is made of, what it looks like, and how we use it.
Why Is Canada Paper Money Made Out of Plastic?
Plastic banknotes are a relatively new innovation. Just over ten years ago, they were a type of paper made of cotton. The Canadian Banknote Company switched to a synthetic polymer in 2011. Technically, it is not actually plastic, although it has similar qualities.
There are two reasons why the government adopted polymer material for Canadian paper money. In the first place, it was possible to incorporate more security features to prevent counterfeiting in the polymer material than it was using paper. Polymer notes also have less of an environmental impact because they last four times longer than notes made from traditional paper. They are more sustainable because they are recyclable.
Why Does Paper Money Have Serial Numbers?
Every individual banknote has a unique serial number. This is used for identification, and it can also be used to track certain bills as part of a criminal investigation. It may also be used to authenticate a bill that may be particularly valuable, such as a “devil’s head” banknote from 1954.
Who Designs Canadian Money?
Canadian coins and paper money are produced by different agencies within the government. The Royal Canadian Mint is responsible for designing coins in addition to producing them. Ultimately, the federal government has to approve coin designs that are presented by the RCM after consultations with historians and artists and feedback from the general public. The Currency Department at the Bank of Canada is responsible for finding images to incorporate into the designs of paper money. The final choice belongs to the Minister of Finance. In recent years, the Bank of Canada has solicited opinions from the public about which designs they want, specifically for the Viola Desmond $10 note.
Who Gets to Appear on the Money?
Because the government wants the images on the money to reflect well on Canada and Canadians, there are some rules that images on coins and paper money have to comply with.
For example, it has been a tradition for centuries that the ruling monarch appears on Canadian money. Queen Elizabeth’s effigy appears on all Canadian coins and her portrait has appeared on the $20 banknote for decades. Apart from that, people have to have been deceased for over 25 years before their portraits can be considered for the money. This way, the people represented on the money are people who aren’t just currently trending and whose popularity may soon fade, but people who have had a significant, long-term impact on the country.
Other requirements for portraits on Canadian money include the following:
- Must be Canadian, though not necessarily a natural-born citizen
- Must have done something important for the country or community to instill a sense of pride
- Must be a real person, not a fictional character
As an example of the last requirement, Canadian comic book artist Joseph Shuster meets all the criteria and could, conceivably, be featured on a coin or banknote someday. However, the character he created, Superman would not have his picture on the money.
Can You Still Pay for Things Using Older Banknotes and Coins?
Denominations of bills that have been discontinued, including the Canadian one-dollar and two-dollar bills, are no longer considered legal tender, meaning you cannot use them to buy things. The penny has also been discontinued. Otherwise, you can use most older banknotes to make purchases as well as circulation coins minted after 1952 (those bearing Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait). It may not be advisable to try to spend older coins and bills because of the lack of current security features.
Furthermore, an older bill or coin that is rare may be worth more than its face value. Learn more about collecting and valuing monetary items from Colonial Acres Coins.
Check out the Part 1 common questions about Canadian money here.