Vertical notes considered by Bank of Canada as early as 1998

Canada’s first vertical banknote – a $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond – entered circulation last fall, but it wasn’t the first time the Bank of Canada considered the upright format.

In 1998, after the central bank held its first-ever public consultations for what would become the Canadian Journey series, security printing firms were briefed on the notes’ design and thematic criteria.

“Their design teams went to work and came back with a surprising result: vertical notes,” wrote Graham Iddon, of the Bank of Canada Museum, in a recent blog post entitled “The Vertical Note That Almost Was.”

It was “a complete departure from anything before seen in Canada,” Iddon wrote of the designs proposed by a team led by art director Jorge Peral, of the Canadian Bank Note Company.

“Though freshly modern, the fronts were essentially traditional bank note patterns,” wrote Iddon. “The backs of the notes, meanwhile, were anything but. Vertical notes had occasionally popped up in Europe, but on this side of the Atlantic, these proposed notes were indeed radical.”

Eventually, a horizontal format was chosen and the wildlife theme was abandoned for what Iddon calls “a very different approach to Canadian identity.”

In addition to the Canadian Journey series – the sixth issued by the Bank of Canada since 1935 – Peral also designed the commemorative $10 note issued in 2017 to mark the sesquicentennial of Canadian Confederation.

To read Iddon’s full post, visit

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