By Jesse Robitaille
This is the second story in a multi-part series exploring Canadian banknotes.
You can start your banknote collection today by tracking down the country’s most recent issue, a vertical $10 bill in circulation for four years this November.
Banknote collectors (also known as notaphilists) collect according to a large variety of specialties, including by type, by topic or by finding scarce or rare varieties, errors and replacement notes. Each collector decides how to pursue their hobby, and the possibilities are vast, but if you decide to start a collection today, there’s a simple approach.
“This is something you could reasonably get at the bank machine to start your collection this afternoon,” said Stephen Adams, a Mohawk College professor and collector since childhood. “It’s easy to get these modern notes at face value.”
While the Bank of Canada began issuing notes in 1935, the year it was founded, its latest issue – the first of a new series – came out in 2018. The $10 bill, featuring Black rights activist and business owner Viola Desmond, leads the bank’s as-of-yet-unnamed eighth series.
“All of the new notes will be vertical,” said Adams, who added the series’ $5 and $20 issues are currently in the planning stages.
The theme for the new series is “banknote-able” Canadians, and the $10 issue tells the story of Desmond’s 1946 arrest for refusing to leave the whites-only section of a Nova Scotia theatre.
“We figure this stuff was in the south, but no, it was here, too,” said Adams.
Other symbols shown alongside Desmond’s portrait relate to “social justice issues,” Adams added. Stylized artwork depicts Halifax’s north end, where Desmond lived and worked, to the left of her portrait. The Library of Parliament’s vaulted dome ceiling sits below alongside the Canadian flag, the national coat of arms, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, an eagle feather, a laurel leaf and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“This is a great way to start a $10 collection,” Adams said. “I bet you by the end of the day, you could get one of these in your pocket.”
The main question, he added, is can you find all the varieties?