For over 50 years, the Bank of Canada released multiple series of Canadian bank notes that included a $1 bill before it was discontinued in 1987 in favour of the loonie coin. We are happy to offer collectible $1 Canadian bills for sale and proud to be able to educate people about their fascinating history.
The Bank of Canada wasn’t created until 1935, but the groundwork for it was laid in the mid-1800s. Prior to that time, multiple banks had received charters from the British Crown to print their own money in addition to providing other financial services.
The Economics of the 19th and early 20th Centuries
As far back as 1841, the Governor General proposed a provincial bank that would bear the sole responsibility for printing paper money. The proposal failed in Parliament, partly due to lobbying by the banks themselves.
By the 1850s, many of these banks had failed spectacularly, creating a political environment more open to the idea of Canadian paper money issued by the government.
In August 1866, the Provincial Notes Act received royal assent. While this would create a system for the government to issue Canadian bank notes, it did not prevent chartered banks from continuing to print their own money. It was not until 1935 that the Bank of Canada Act gave the government sole authority to issue its own paper money, including $1 bills.
The Canadian $1 Banknote was Issued
In 1935, one of the first tasks of the newly formed Bank of Canada was to start issuing paper money. It wasted no time, releasing the first series on its first day of operation. The bills in this series were designed by security printers in consultation with the federal government and had a Victorian sensibility. There were nine denominations of bills in all, each featuring a different colour and a portrait of a different member of the Royal Family to make them easier to tell apart.
The $1 bill was green and featured a portrait of the reigning monarch at the time, King George V.
At the time, the law did not require Canadian paper money to be bilingual. Instead, some bills were printed in English and some in French.
In all, there were three series of Bank of Canada paper money including the $1. Here are the series as well as information relating specifically to the $1 bill in each:
This series was necessitated by new legislation requiring bilingual Canadian bank notes and Edward VIII’s abdication. The $1 bill in the series was green and featured a portrait of King George VI on the front and an allegorical figure representing agriculture on the back.
1954 Landscape Series
Redesigned following Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne, the plate then had to be altered to remove a pattern in her hair that resembled a demonic face. The $1 bill is green and features a Saskatchewan prairie scene on the back.
1967 Commemorative Issue
In honour of the nation’s centennial, special notes were released based on the 1954 design, but with the centennial emblem and a scene of the original Parliament buildings on the back. Some bore the dates ‘1867 1967’ in place of the serial number.
1969-75 Scenes of Canada
The green $1 bill, released in 1973, features a portrait of Queen Elizabeth on the obverse and the Parliament buildings in Ottawa on the reverse. These notes used multicoloured “rainbow printing” to hinder counterfeiting.
We carry $1 bills from each of these series in stock in addition to the first series from 1935.
Changing to the Loonie Coin
The change to a $1 Canadian coin came about because of the cost to produce money versus its value. Coins last many more years than paper money, and in the early 1980s, the government projected that, by changing to a dollar coin, it could save up to $250 million over 20 years.
The loon was not the original design intended for the coin’s reverse. Originally, the reverse image was supposed to be a voyageur, like on the previous silver and nickel dollar coins, but the dies were lost or stolen between Ottawa and Winnipeg. The government approved an entirely new design featuring the common loon to prevent counterfeiting. The last $1 notes were printed two years after the loon dollar was released.
For more information about our stock or questions about collecting coins or paper money, don’t hesitate to contact us.