OTD: Canadian Bank Note Company prints final dollar bills

On today’s date in 1989, the Canadian Bank Note Company (CBN) printed Canada’s last $1 banknotes.

The notes were printed as part of the “Scenes of Canada” series, which was the fourth series issued by the Bank of Canada.

The Scenes of Canada $1 bill was first issued on June 4, 1974, and circulated until it was withdrawn on June 30, 1989. After the $1 note was withdrawn from circulation, banks were asked to stop circulating the denomination and all remaining dollar bills were to be sent to the Bank of Canada for destruction.

These $1 notes are rarely seen in circulation today; however, like all notes issued by the Bank of Canada since 1935, they retain legal-tender status as well as their full monetary value—for now.

REMOVING LEGAL-TENDER STATUS

In May 2019, the federal government received Parliamentary approval to remove legal-tender status from banknotes—something it could not do before a 2018 budget proposal supported by the Bank of Canada.

Effective Jan. 1, 2021, the feds will start using its newfound power to remove legal-tender designation from $1, $2, $25, $500 and $1,000 denominations, all of which are no longer produced. It’s “the final step to fully removing them as transactional notes in Canada,” according to a statement issued by the Bank of Canada last May.

Many other countries have been removing legal-tender status from old banknotes “for years,” according to the Bank of Canada. More than 20 central banks, including the Bank of England; Sweden’s Sveriges Riksbank; the Swiss National Bank; the Reserve Bank of New Zealand; and the European Central Bank, have the power to remove the legal-tender status.

Because the government is indicating the notes will be redeemable at the Bank of Canada for an undisclosed amount of time, the impact on the general public should be “minimal,” Henry Nienhuis, then president of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association, told CCN in 2019.

“Even though they’re removing legal tender status, which is a first for Canada – and any first is going to cause some concern among collectors and the general public base – other countries do it on a pretty regular basis, it seems. As far as my understanding goes, they also leave the notes to be redeemable at the Bank of England for an undetermined amount of time,” he said. “In the same way that certain Charter banknotes today are redeemable at the Bank of Canada, I would expect that well into the future the current notes that are becoming non-legal tender will be redeemable at the Bank of Canada.”

SCENES OF CANADA DESIGN

The obverse of the Scenes of Canada $1 banknote features a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II while the reverse depicts an image of Parliament Hill from across the Ottawa River.

Showing a tugboat in the midst of a broken log boom on the Ottawa River, the reverse was engraved by C. Gordon Yorke based on a 1963 photograph taken by Malak Karsh, the brother of fellow photographer Yousuf Karsh.

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