Over the decades,
Canada paper money has gone through multiple series, each placing an emphasis on a different aspect of Canadian life. We invite you on a trip through time to learn more about each series of bills, particularly the $5 banknotes.
First Series (1935)
Until the mid-19th century, Canadians were using a strange mix of British coins, local tokens, and coins from other countries. Believing it necessary to give the Canadian monetary system some order, the British government first started minting Canadian circulation coins in 1858, one of which was the Canadian 1-cent.
Even following Confederation in 1867, all Canadian coins, including the Canada 1-cent, continued to be minted at either the Royal Mint or Heaton Mint in England until 1908. That year, the Royal Canadian Mint was established in Ottawa. The need for a new minting facility was first recognized in 1960, but construction on the Winnipeg facility would not begin until 1972. It would take another four years to complete but, starting in 1976, every one-cent Canada coin was minted in Winnipeg until they were discontinued in 2012.
Officially, the Royal Canadian Mint refers to the coin as the “one-cent piece.” The word “penny” derives from “pence,” which was part of the British monetary system initially used in Canada. In America, the one-cent coin is referred to as the penny, which probably influenced Canadian colloquialism.
Landscape Series (1954)
In the early 1950s, the Bank of Canada planned a new series of bills that would promote a somewhat romanticized and outdated vision of the Great Lone Land of Canada. From photographic archives, it chose eight images featuring Canadian landscapes with little or no human activity evident. The image on the back of the $5 bill is of Otter Falls on Yukon’s Aishihik River.
This was the first Canadian paper money series to feature the new monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, and the only one to bear her portrait on all denominations. This sparked some controversy when an engraving error produced an image that some interpreted as a leering demon face in the waves of hair behind the Queen’s ear. The error was corrected for subsequent printings, and today, the so-called “devil’s head” bills are uncommon and valuable.
Birds of Canada (1986)
The reverse of the notes in this series features images of Canadian birds, which were visually simple and politically neutral. This was the
first series to discontinue the $1 bill. On the $5 bill, the blue has accent colours confined to the background. The reverse features a belted kingfisher.
Frontiers Series (2011-2013):
The term “Canada paper money” is now symbolic as this is the first series printed on synthetic polymer, which is stronger and more difficult to copy. The reverse images feature technological advancement. For example, the reverse of the $5 bill features robotic innovations that contribute to the International Space Station.
From 2013 to the present, the $5 bill hasn’t changed. The front features a large portrait of Laurier in blue, which has been duplicated in a smaller, holographic window as a security measure.
Bilingual Series (1937)
The Bank of Canada Act established a new national bank in 1934 and gave it exclusive rights to issue Canadian bank notes. The newly established Bank of Canada released the first true bank note series in 1937, which shows fascinating hints of an emerging Canadian identity. The bills were printed in French as well as English, and higher denominations featured Canadian prime ministers.
Each denomination in the 1937 series was a different colour, a tradition that continues to this day. Here is a list of the denominations of bills included in the series with their respective colours:
$100 (featuring Sir John A. Macdonald): Sepia
$1,000 (featuring Sir Wilfrid Laurier): Pink
Blue is the predominant colour on all $5 bills in subsequent series. The $5 bill in the 1937 series featured the King’s portrait, as did all the denominations from $1 to $50. On the back, it features an allegory representing electric power. These bills had to be redesigned twice following the death of King George V and the abdication of King Edward VIII before being issued.
Scenes of Canada (1969-1979)
While the previous series celebrated Canada’s untouched natural beauty, the next series of Canadian banknotes would emphasize the transformation of landscapes by human activities. For example, the reverse of the $5 bill features a salmon seiner fishing Vancouver Island’s Johnstone Strait.
This series features Canadian prime ministers more prominently. Queen Elizabeth’s portrait only appears on three denominations. The $5 note features Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and the $5 notes in each subsequent series feature a different portrait of Laurier. In addition to blue, accents of different shades are also present.
Canadian Journey Series (2001-2006)
A lot had changed since the previous series. This was the first series in which the $5 bill was the lowest denomination, the $2 bill having been discontinued in 1996. This was also the first series designed on a computer to deter counterfeiters. For the first time, the Bank of Canada asked for feedback from Canadian citizens about what achievements best represented the "Canadian Journey" for the reverse designs. The reverse of the $5 bill depicts children playing hockey and other winter sports.
Browse the website to see and learn more about all the Canadian bank notes for sale at Colonial Acres. If you are looking for something specific, reach out to us and we would be happy to help.