Canada’s new $5 and $10 bills were unveiled Tuesday to mixed reviews. Some people, it seems, were not wild about the designs.
Members of a focus group formed a few years ago to study the designs thought the $5 bill was too “cartoonish.”
Funny money, anyone? Laughing all the way to the bank?
And the train on the $10 bill, some said, was too quaint, celebrating an outmoded method of travel, although that locomotive coming through the Rockies looks reasonably modern.
The new currency is certainly colourful and lively, but it’s difficult to compare the new designs to the old designs, mostly because I can’t remember what’s on the old ones. Currency and I see each other so briefly, we scarcely have time to form a casual acquaintance, let alone a lasting friendship.
Today’s non-coin currency (can’t call it paper money anymore) is made of polymer, a kind of plastic, so it will last longer. It hasn’t worked for me — the new bills disappear just as fast as the old ones.
The new $5 bill celebrates Canada’s role in space exploration with a picture of the Canadarm. The bill was introduced Tuesday from the International Space Station by Cmdr. Chris Hadfield.
“Now Canadians can remember, every time they buy a sandwich, a coffee and a doughnut, what we are capable of achieving,” Hadfield said, as one of the new bills floated in the air in front of him.
Canada’s favourite astronaut is privileged — the rest of us will have to wait until November to get the snazzy new bills. Meanwhile, we’ll have to pay for our purchases with the dreary old bills.
Does it matter what our money looks like as long as it’s good? Our U.S. neighbours close to the border don’t seem to mind, but the farther south you go, the higher eyebrows are raised when they see Canadian money. They take their money seriously there, preferring drab tones for their currency, and all that colour in Canadian bills seems a little frivolous.
And those loonies and toonies can be confusing. An American friend visiting us a few months ago bought some gifts in downtown Victoria. “Something’s wrong here,” he said as he looked at his handful of change, which came to just under $5. He had expected to see some bills among the change and saw only coins.
If he had come to Victoria before B.C. joined Confederation in 1871 (although he’s not quite that old), he would have been even more confused. The main currency was the B.C. dollar, issued by the Bank of British Columbia in denominations of $1, $5, $10, $20 and $50. But U.S. silver dollars were also legal tender, according to Money and Exchange in Canada to 1900 by A.B. McCullough.
Canadian money would also have been used, as well as a fair amount of British coinage — Governor James Douglas had the British government ship over a supply of coins in 1860: tens of thousands of florins, shillings, sixpenny pieces and threepenny pieces.
So don’t grumble if you occasionally find a few U.S. coins in your change — they’re easier to add up than florins, shillings and pence, and it’s a sign that the American tourists are still coming here.
Not like they were in times past, though, when the Canadian dollar was not as strong against the U.S. dollar, and coming here was a real bargain for them. Remember back in 2002 when the Canadian dollar hit 61.79 cents US? When the dollar is just a bit above the peso and a little below Canadian Tire money, it makes arguments about the designs of banknotes seem a little silly.
But if you find the new currency too cartoonish or marred by quaint design, that’s fine. Just hand the bills over to young families trying to pay rent in Victoria, or hoping to save up a down payment for a house. They won’t care what the bills look like, as long as they can get enough of them.
And we can direct you to any number of worthy charities that will be happy to relieve you of the offending currency. They will set aside artistic considerations and put it to good use.
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