Rare bird back test note will go to auction

Some time this year, the first public sale of a Canadian banknote printed on Luminus paper will take place. Brian Bell, of Geoffrey Bell Auctions, confirmed to Canadian Coin News that the note, a $5 bird back, will appear in an upcoming sale by the firm. Although Luminus test notes are known, they appeared in the Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Government Paper Money only in the 2013 edition, and no public sales have taken place to Bell’s knowledge.

The note was part of a small collection that had been given to the owner by his mother. “I personally hadn’t known these existed,” Bell said. “Everybody here had to learn fast. “We are really excited to represent the owner of this note,” he added. Luminus notes were created by Domtar, a Canadian paper company with a head office in Montreal. The firm employs nearly 10,000 people and is the second largest producer of paper in the world. Consisting of a sandwich made up of rag paper over a polymer core, the notes were expected to be more durable than paper and allowed the use of a coloured ink on the polymer substrate similar to a watermark. It was eventually expected to be used for all Canadian notes.

According to the Autumn 2007 edition of the Bank of Canada Review, 100,000 bird back $5 notes were produced and tested in active circulation between 1995 and 1998, before being withdrawn. “No major problems were identified, and in June 1998, the bank was preparing to use Luminus as the substrate for the first two denominations of the Canadian Journey series: the $10 and $5 notes. In September 1999, this decision was extended to the higher denominations as well.” The article goes on to state that the technical production issues, and questions about its market potential, led the manufacturer to withdraw its offer to supply the product.

As a result, the Canadian Journey series was produced on a 100-per-cent cotton fibre substrate, selected because it has similar surface characteristics to Luminus. At that time the Bank of Canada also obtained the Canadian rights to Luminus and continued to develop it as a potential substrate. The Domtar plant in Cornwall, Ont., which produced Luminus, has since been closed. Numismatist Jared Stapleton said his research indicated that the serial number range for the test notes was GOG 0100000 to GOG 0199999. “This note is the best condition one that I know of,” he said. “If this is like previous test notes, half the notes would be made of regular banknote paper, and the other half would be made of the test; Luminus in this case. “This was done to compare regular notes against the test paper notes in a controlled range,” he said.

The Bank of Canada has not confirmed if any part of the test notes were printed on regular stock. He added that it should not be compared with error notes, since these notes were planned by the bank and should be compared with other test notes. Known test notes are listed in the Charlton catalogue with estimations substantially above most regular notes of the series. The GOG polymer test $5 notes are listed, but simply described as rare. In the later 1990s, Domtar produced additional Luminus test notes. The notes, which were used as samples, show portraits of people with the word Luminus across the top, a denomination of 100 and signatures for the director and general manager, presumably of Domtar at the time.

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