National Currency Collection built on 60 years of acquisitions

By Jesse Robitaille

Since its humble beginnings in the late 1950s, the National Currency Collection (NCC) has acquired more than 130,000 economic artifacts from both private collections and institutional holdings.

Today, the NCC’s material, which comes from around the world and spans four millennia, serves as the foundation for the Bank of Canada Museum. The museum displays about 1,400 artifacts – a little more than one per cent of the total collection – alongside interactive exhibits in downtown Ottawa. The NCC’s library also holds about 10,000 books, pamphlets, catalogues and journals. While only about 10 per cent of the NCC is currently available to view online, Bergeron expects the entire collection to be published on the museum website,, “in the coming years.

“The Bank of Canada Museum has an active acquisition budget that is earmarked for making acquisitions that will enhance the National Currency Collection,” said NCC curator David Bergeron, who has worked with the bank since 2002 but took on the lead curator role in 2019. “The downside to that is – especially since COVID – the markets have been kind of frothy. It’s hard to buy things, so we always try to find other ways of making acquisitions as well.”

Bergeron, who’s a Fellow of the Canadian Numismatic Research Society, receives regular requests from people offering to sell material to the NCC. While he would prefer to acquire most of these artifacts, he’s sometimes restricted by the bank’s acquisition budget, which he declined to share, and by sellers’ inflated value estimates.

The bank’s budget has remained “consistent” over the decades, but the material eyed by the NCC’s acquisitions advisory committee has greatly increased in value, Bergeron said. The bank doesn’t disclose the financial terms of these transactions.

To help lower costs, the committee also solicits people to donate material or offer a right of first refusal, which would give the bank the option to acquire an item before it’s offered elsewhere.

The acquisitions generally come from both Canadian and foreign sellers, and while they’ve been “constant” since the 1960s, they’ve become “more notable” in recent years, Bergeron added.

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