Paper Or Plastic?

 

That used to be the question when grocery stores asked how you wanted your purchases packed. Now, here in Canada, it could be the question of how you want your change.

In my Funny Money post of about a year ago, I mentioned that Canada was switching over from paper money, to bills made of polymer plastic.  Working from the Hundred, they’ve finally changed all the bills over, down to the Five, which is the smallest Canadian bill printed, since we replaced the One and Two-Dollar bills with coins several year ago.

Often kidded by Americans about our “Monopoly Money”, I thought they, and perhaps other non-Canadians, might like to see the changes.  These are the most recent, non-plastic 20s, 10s and 5s, first the fronts, and the backs.

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These are the new polymer versions, again, first fronts, then backs, showing the uneven-shaped clear strip, the security strip, and (hopefully) the holograms.  The first thing I found is that they “talk” to your computer/scanner, and refuse to resolve, to prevent color-copier counterfeiting – after the third try, and checking the computer, and then the scanner.  I finally had to use the digital camera, upload to the computer and hope that they publish.

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At our income levels, hundred-dollar bills don’t enter the house very often, but thanks to a son who lives at home and doesn’t have to rely on government pensions, and the wife’s stash from selling candles, we have the three most recent iterations of the fifty-dollar bill, the ten-year-old, pure-paper version, the modified version with the security strip, and the new, all-polymer edition, bottom to top.

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Despite some snide, condescending, redneck comments about our cash, Canada doesn’t even come close to having the most flamboyant bills.  I have some very pretty, and colorful, foreign examples with my coin collection.  Perhaps later I could publish pictures of bills from places where it’s a good thing you’re already wearing sunglasses.

Funny Money

Canada has plastic money!  Well, we’re getting plastic bills.  We have joined other countries like Australia in making our bills from polymer.  Things will be different but, with other countries leading the way, problems should be minimal.

The first bill changed over, in 2011, was the $100 note.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually see too many hundreds.  Last spring, the Mint released the new $50 bill.  I’m a little more likely to see a fifty, but I haven’t got a new one yet.  Since these two denominations give the most bang for the buck (see what I did there?) they were the ones most often counterfeited.  While it was technically illegal to do so, there were many businesses which refused to accept the higher denominations.

Finally the Mint has got down to the man on the street, and released the new twenty.  I took $200 from an ATM last Saturday, to go to the farmers market, and got ten of the new bills.  Canada leads the rest of the world in usage of debit cards.  Butchers and bakers inside the market building have card readers, but most produce vendors outside still insist on cash, especially the Mennonites.

The ten and the five will be changed over this next year.  Canada did away with one-dollar, and two-dollar bills some years ago, replacing them with pocket- and hip-destroying coins.  I will wait to see, both from personal experience and general public reaction, just how good an idea this was.  The new bills are 25% more expensive to produce, but are expected to last two and a half times as long.  The Mint also says they are ten times as difficult to counterfeit.

First of all, unlike paper bills, they don’t fold well.  New paper bills are hard and slippery, making them difficult to handle and count.  This slowly changes as the paper fibres are roughened up.  Sadly, this is what makes the bills deteriorate.  The new plastic bills are hard and slippery, but I don’t expect them to ever soften up.  Sales staff are already familiar with their potential problems.  My egg vendor lady admonished me to be sure I handed over just one.  I always stand in front of the surveillance camera at an ATM, and count my bills, before I leave.  I will just continue to do so, to ensure that I get what I paid for.

The new bills have an irregular strip of clear plastic, three-quarters of the way to the right of the bill.  Within this strip are holograms of the Queen’s face, the tower of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, and the value of the bills several times, some reversed, so that it can also be read from the back.  The value of the bills is also in micro-printing on the bills, and there are raised dots for the blind to read in Braille.

The symbol for twenty is six dots, like on dice.  This is repeated three times on the bill.  The conspiracy theory nuts are already out in full force, claiming that the six – six – six arrangement of Braille dots, proves that this is the Devil’s money.  Some of the more gullible and hyper-Christians are refusing to accept it.  All the more for the rest of us.  Let them carry tens.

While I agree with some of the Mint’s decisions, others are more questionable.  They saved money by changing the one and two dollar bills to coins, but ruin our pants and purses.  It’s possible to think you’re low on cash, when you still have twenty or thirty dollars worth of pocket change.

With at least six months notification, almost no establishment modified their bill-readers to accept the new money.  Trains, city transit and hospital parking machines all refuse to accept the new bills until they’ve been reprogrammed.  Way to go, guys.  Thanks for getting out ahead of this problem.

The Mint has stopped stamping out the Canadian penny, but they will remain in circulation for years.  A musical artist in New Brunswick wrote a song to mourn its passing, and put the image of several pennies on his album cover.  The Mint sent him a nasty note telling him that the rights to all images of Canadian money belong to them.  He’d have had to pay usage fees if he sold more than 1200 copies.  The Mint eventually backed down, when the David and Goliath story hit the newspapers.

The Toronto Sun printed a story about council cronyism, where friends were getting two-dollar-a-year leases.  On the cover of a newspaper with a million distribution, they placed the picture of two toonies, the Canadian two-dollar coins.  I wonder whether the Mint had the nerve to send them a letter.

Now there are rumors of the demise of the Canadian nickel, and maybe even the dime.  If they do that, they also want to eliminate the quarter and make twenty-cent pieces.  There’s even talk of a five dollar coin.  I begin to understand why England, having already switched over to decimal coinage, is refusing to accept the Euro.

A penny for my thoughts on Canadian money, or I could just go with my usual fee.