From the Vault of the Currency Museum
By Jamie Horkulak
The bank of Canada currency Museum is located in downtown Ottawa, and is a must-see for any paper money collector. I was lucky enough to visit it on the delegate trip to Ottawa for the CNA convention. The entrance is situated in the middle of a modern enclosed courtyard.
Once you enter, the first display is Gallery 1, which examines the concept of money and demonstrates how it had been interpreted and represented differently by various objects around the world.
Gallery 2 displays the development of coinage in the west , illustrated by pieces from different eras: antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern era up to the current day. Also illustrated is the technical evolution in minting coins, the origin of the dollar, the development of paper money, the use of unusual paper money, and hyperinflation. Other galleries go on to show the evolution of the fur trade, and how British rule introduced banks and bank notes, which became very popular, with both merchants and banks issuing their own notes. Impressive were the high denomination Bank of British north America, in both specimen and issued versions.
Galleries 3 and 4 show artifacts to illustrate the first currencies in Canada, such as French and English coins, wampum beads and ornimental silver traded for furs. A shortage of these currencies lead the colonial government to adopt signed playing cards, and then on to bank tokens.
Gallery 5 displays currency starting after 1867, including the first Dominion notes, the first three series of Bank of Canada the silver dollar, and some early commemorative silver dollars. Highlights include the $50,000 bank legal notes, of which the museum has eleven copies, all specimen.
Gallery 6 shows the notes of today, including a geometric lathe used in the patterns of the multicolour issue. Also on display is a mylar plastic version of the 1986 Bird series $5 note.
Gallery 7 houses a kids discovery area and future exhibits.
Gallery 8 is everybody’s favourite section the Collector’s Corner, which offers an exhaustive representation of Canadian bank coins, and colonial and merchant tokens with nearly every date and every variety on hand. Thin, vertically standing slide-out metal cases hold banknotes from very early script to chartered banknotes to modern. Stand out examples are the low number notes of the 1935 issue both in English and French versions. These notes can be seen in person at the museum, and I recall having to step back for a breath after seeing some of these unbelievable beauties. The National currency is somewhat of a “holy grail” for paper collectors and researchers, pity none of it is for sale! Every collector should plan to see this museum at least once in your lifetime, it is literally mind boggling.
Previously published in the ENS “The Planchet” Vol-55 Issue-08
Bank of Canada Museum: Complete Bank Note Series
This is the Bank of Canada’s portfolio. We’re very proud of it. Every denomination from every series on up to today can be found here. You can be proud as well: each of these notes represents a little bit of Canada, a bit of Canadian history and a bit of who we are. Please enjoy.