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Canadian North

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New $50 notes hit the streets
Plastic material tough to counterfeit

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A repeat of the 2005 city-wide surge of phoney $50 bills is unlikely with the new polymer $50 bank notes, which are now in circulation.

NNSL photo/graphic

Jeff Fowler, regional vice-president of the Royal Bank of Canada, shows off the new polymer $50 bills, which went into circulation on March 26. - Thandiwe Vela/NNSL photo

Like the $100 note already on the streets, the new series of money has enhanced security features, most notably, the polymer, or plastic substrate, which is only available to central banks, not commercially.

The Bank of Canada is calling the new currency the most secure bank notes ever issued in Canada, with other security features including a large transparent window area, and a metallic portrait of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King on the front.

The back of the new $50, which is Northern-themed, is what caught the eye of Jeff Fowler, regional vice-president of the Royal Bank of Canada in Yellowknife.

"One of the things that I really like about it, and it's really appropriate, is that the theme of the new fifties is the North," Fowler said. "I think it's very appropriate and timely."

The back of the $50 notes depicts the Arctic research icebreaker Canadian Coast Guard Ship Amundsen, and the word Arctic in Inuktitut. In addition, on a map of Canada on the bill, the North is highlighted against the rest of the country.

"I am very impressed by it," Fowler said, adding, the security features are "definitely more advanced, as criminals get smarter."

Yk retailers who have seen the new notes have also been impressed by the series, including Chris Kondracki, general manager of Canadian Tire.

"Any improvements to currency is beneficial to us retailers in helping to prevent bad notes going through," Kondracki said.

While the store has not had many problems with counterfeit money of late, in 2005, police reported a "surge" in the number of fake $50 bank notes in Yellowknife.

In just one week that summer, 15 suspicious bills were reported by banks. Of those, 14 were proven to be counterfeit, according to RCMP at the time.

Counterfeiting across the country has seen a downward trend since then, with the Bank of Canada reporting a 90 per cent reduction in counterfeiting since 2004, leading up to the last major change to Canadian currency, when the holographic strip was introduced.

The new notes are pricier, at a production rate of 19 cents a note, compared to the previous 9.5 cents a note, but last two and a half times longer, according to the bank.

The recyclable notes are estimated to last in the 15-to 20-year range, as opposed to the seven-year life of the cotton substrate notes.

The new $20 note will be issued later this year, with the $5 and $10 notes to be issued by the end of 2013, eventually phasing out

the country's cotton-based money.

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