When I was a beginning collector at the age of 10 or 11, my Dad purchased for me a 1937 $1 Canadian banknote at a coin show. At that time, it was put away as an interesting piece of money, but since coins were my main focus, I didn't really build my paper money collection further at the time. I never dreamed that many years later, collecting Canadian paper money could become so fascinating and variety filled. That single note became the beginning of an interesting collection. It need not cost a great deal of money to build a collection of Canadian paper money that fascinates. In fact, with a little luck and a lot of persistence, many interesting and collectible banknotes can be had either at face value (The value marked on the bill) by checking one's wallet, by asking bank tellers for some help, or by purchasing one for a little above its face value. Below are some of the many ways a person can collect Canadian banknotes.
Collecting the current "Bird Series" of Banknotes
The present day paper money used in Canada is known as the "Bird Series". Each note from the $2 bill through to the $1000 bill feature a Canadian bird on the back of the note. Try finding a crisp, unfolded and clean (known as "uncirculated") example of each of the notes, since most collectors prefer to have their banknotes in the best condition possible (of course the $50, $100 and $1000 bills are expensive to collect!) This type of collection is known as a TYPE collection since the collector attempts to get one type of each banknote. Mr. Jerry Remick published an article about TYPE collection the $1 banknotes of Canada, since first being issued until they were replaced in 1987 by the one dollar coin. He can be contacted by writing him at P.O. Box 9183, Sainte-Foy, Quebec, GIVE 4B1 for more information.
Collecting by Signature
Many collectors attempt to collect banknotes signed by certain Governors and Deputy-Governors of the Bank of Canada, whose signatures appear at the bottom of the face of the note. For example, the latest Deputy Governor and Governor have signatures appearing on the bottom as "Bonin" and "Thiessen", so SIGNATURE collectors are assembling a collection of "Bonin-Thiessen" notes. A number of different people have signed the banknotes of Canada over the years, so finding different signature combinations can offer an interesting challenge to the paper money enthusiast. One way to keep your banknotes flat, clean and protected is to purchase a stiff plastic "currency sleeve" available from most coin dealers at a cost of about 40 cents each. You can also place your banknotes in a three-pocket "currency page" which can be put into a binder. These cost around 90 cents each, but it is still recommended to put the banknote in a stiff plastic sleeve first, since the soft vinyl of the currency page may tend to damage the note over the years. Also putting the note in the stiff plastic sleeve will allow you to put a label on the sleeve to mark down the information about the note, like year, grade (condition), signatures et cetera.
Collecting Replacement Notes
"Replacement Notes" are banknotes specially printed to replace any notes that may be spoiled during the printing process, such as damage by ink smears or other imperfections (remember, banknotes are printed for the Bank of Canada by two different printing companies - they do not come from the Royal Canadian Mint. The Mint is responsible for our COINS!) These special replacement notes currently have an "X" in the serial number appearing on the back, where the third letter appears. For example, $20 replacement notes might have a serial number like "AIX 0037345" or "EIX 1225774". These "X-notes" or replacement notes are much harder to find, since relatively few of them are printed, so they can be a challenge to collect. In the past, $20 replacement notes for the 1979 series had a serial number beginning with the numbers "519" and "510". Earlier issues than those had serial numbers beginning with an ASTERISK, which is the symbol which looks like a star (*).
Collecting Special Serial Numbers
Since most banknotes mainly differ from one another by their serial number, SERIAL NUMBER collectors look for interesting serial numbers to collect. What follows are some of the many, many examples of special serial numbers:
(a) "Radar" or "Palindrome" notes
- These are banknotes with serial numbers that read the same backwards and forwards, much the way the word RADAR does. For example, a note with the serial number ATN1157511 is a radar note since the number portion reads the same backwards and forwards. There are many different types of radar notes, the best kind being a "solid numbered" note, like ATN8888888, for example, which would be very hard to find and consequently, quite valuable.
(b) "Million numbered notes"
- This type is very hard to find in circulation (that is, in your wallet in change) but are often seen at coins shows. A young collector friend of mine recently received one as a gift. with the serial number something like "A/T1000000" on a 1967 $1 notes. It is worth well over $100 and is a prize in his collection.
(c) "Low serial number note"
-These can be found in circulation, but not very often. Advanced collectors try to get such notes with a serial number lower than ten (Example, A/U0000008, with the serial number 0000001 being very scarce. I was lucky to find in a circulation a $20 note recently with the low serial number EIP0000029 which I added to my collection. If you are fortunate, you too can find such a treasure, which hopefully will not have any tears, missing corners, stains or smudges, or holds, scotch tape, rubber stamp marks, or pencil and pen marks to make the note look ugly.
There are many more different types of special serial numbers to collect. For more information, why not purchase a good paper money book like "the Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Paper Money" which explains and Illustrates the different types of special serial numbers.
Paper Money Errors
While the quality of our paper money is high, there sometimes escapes into circulation a note or two with some type of mistake or "error" on it. These can range from a crease in the paper which left a blank (unprinted) part, to larger unprinted sections, to ink smears, to "offset printed" areas where another still we note left its mark, to cutting errors and serial number mistakes. Most of these will need to be purchased since few errors are easily found in circulation, and can be quite costly to buy. Generally speaking, the more dramatic the error, the more valuable will be the note. Keep your eye on the little gold hologram on the $20 and higher notes. Sometimes these can be in the wrong spot, and this sort of error can be quite valuable.
Collecting Canadian Paper Money can be as simple or as complex as you choose. From a simple type collection of one example of each recent note, to a very complex "Prefix" collection (some collectors try to collect a note from each different letter of the alphabet in the prefix!) there is enough challenge and interest in collecting Canadian banknotes to appeal to every collector. For more information about Canadian paper money, why not contact the Canadian Paper Money Society: P.O. box 562, Pickering, Ontario L1V 2R7. Happy Collecting!