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

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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