Naked women, sex toys, skulls: What Canadians saw in polymer bills

The new $5 and $10 bills are out today


Look at a new Canadian banknote and thou shalt see wonders.

At least that’s what one would think reading the Bank of Canada’s reports on how focus groups reacted to each of its new polymer banknotes. The studies were meant to “disaster test” the bills, as one BoC official put it, and avoid PR slips—but controversy arose anyway, as the media got their hands on the Bank’s internal documents discussing feedback on early drafts of the bills.  The last two plastic banknotes, the $5 and the $10, are out today, so here’s a fond look back at the awkward debut of Canada’s Monopoly money:

The $100 bill: sex toys. Some focus group members spotted nothing less than a sex toy in the first polymer bill to be unveiled. The banknote, though, is most famous for the controversy that ensued when it emerged that the BoC has redrawn the bill after receiving complaints that the female scientist depicted on it looked too Asian. The Bank hastened to make the woman peering through the microscope look more Caucasian (the “neutral” race, as all Caucasian Canadian know).

The Bank of Canada/Flickr.

The $50 bill: skulls and crossbones. The research icebreaker on the $50 banknote seemed innocuous enough, but what was peeking through those port holes? Some thought there were spooky white figures in the windows, which one responder thought looked like skulls and crossbones.

The Bank of Canada/Flickr.

The $20 bill: pornographic. Could those really be tiny naked breasts on the new $20 polymer note? They were—belonging to the stone torso of the of the Greek-style statues representing the virtues of truth, faith, justice, charity, knowledge and peace on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, in France, which commemorates WWI veterans. Not many Canadians could recognize the Vimy Memorial, it turned out—but everyone knows the female anatomy. Also, some thought the building depicted might be the Twin Towers.

The Bank of Canada/Flickr.

The $10 bill: too old-fashioned. What could be more problematic than a train on a banknote? Though everyone understood the historical significance of the railway, which first linked Canada from coast to coast, many thought the theme was too quaint. Some eastern Canadians were also peeved at the choice of subject because they felt it underscored that “their railway links have been decommissioned,” according to the BoC. Others had took issue with the train as connected with Canada’s harsh treatment of Chinese labourers who helped build the railway.

The Bank of Canada/Flickr.

The $5 bill: cartoonish. “There is a perception that the note looks ‘cartoonish’ or too-child like,” reads a 2009 report on the smallest polymer bill. The banknote’s space-age theme, featuring Canadian-made robot Dextre aboard the International Space Station, also puzzled most first-time observers. No one could figure out who “Dextre” was—though people were reportedly quick to warm up to the android once it was clarified it represented a Canadian contribution to space technology—and some couldn’t make out the space station at all.

The Bank of Canada/Flickr.

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Naked women, sex toys, skulls: What Canadians saw in polymer bills

  1. For all of these complaints, I seem to have the same response: “The hell?”

    • I know. I didn’t see anything until it was pointed out. It seems to be getting more and more difficult to do things without offending people anymore

  2. I really don’t like the new bills. It’s no one’s fault, I just hate the plastic feel to it. I loved the old bills, but can appreciate why we had to switch.

    • The new ones also tend to stick together, increasing the likelihood of handing too much money to someone (thus leading to self-impoverishment). The images are the least of my worries…

  3. Retailers love the new currency.. The bills stick together without the owner realizing it. Had it not been for a very honest clerk in a store, who handed me back a $50 which had attached to another I would have been the loser. The clerk told me “it happens all the time. Forget counterfeiting protection. It is all about The Federal Mint not doing a test for the above, that ticks me off. Don’t bother contacting anyone. I sent a few e mails to Ottawa informing them of this disgrace. The responses were a big fat ZERO
    Pm@pm.gc.ca May.E@parl.gc.ca Flaherty.J@parl.gc.ca and more Send them a reminder people, before you are at a loss caused by stupidity

  4. The Canadarm is great. Am I supposed to know who Dextre is though? And do we really need a french astronaut next to the Canadarm?

  5. Don’t just look at them, spend them wisely on real toys at pinkcherryoffers

  6. DNA of a sex toy? huh lol what about the leaf? They said it wasn’t a Canadian maple leaf. I cant say I like the polymer notes, but that $5 looks interesting. I haven’t seen the 5’s and 10’s yet other than here. Canada’s race for space? Maybe that will put us on the map. ;-)

    Finding things in notes and pictures isn’t a new thing. Remember those old twenties that had the devils head.

    btw, what do those characters above the boat on the $50 mean?

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