Thursday, 19 February 2015




During Reading Week I try and get ahead on homework, spend time with family and friends, enjoy a few books from my neglected pile of fiction, and face the dreaded to-do list that has been collecting dust since the winter holidays. In an effort to check off some tasks from my list, I began to tidy my desk and bookshelf yesterday. While sorting through papers in a desk drawer I came across an old crumpled Canadian two-dollar bill. I took this find to be fortuitous for the subject of my blog today. With the orangey-red bill propped beside my computer I invite you to join me for a quick stroll back to 1996.

In 1986 the Bank of Canada released the ‘Birds of Canada’ banknote series, a series that no doubt you well remember.
6 Canadian Bills-$2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100
'Birds of Canada' Series
The series included:
$2 orangey-red bill, featuring Queen Elizabeth II (front) and the robin (back)
$5 blue bill, featuring Wilfrid Laurier (front) and the kingfisher (back)
$10 purple bill, featuring John A. Macdonald (front) and the osprey (back)
$20 green bill, featuring Queen Elizabeth II (front) and the loon (back)
$50 red bill, featuring William Lyon Mackenzie King (front) and the snowy owl (back)
$100 brown bill, featuring Robert Borden (front) and the Canadian goose (back)
5 Canadian bills- $5, $10, $20, $50, $100
'Canadian Journey' Series 
The ‘Birds of Canada’ series was followed by the ‘Canadian Journey’ series which was released in between the years of 2004 and 2006. In 2011 our bills were changed to the ‘Frontier’ series, made of polymer. It is the 'Canadian Journey' and 'Frontier' bills series that we are most familiar with today. 
5 Canadian bills- $5, $10, $20, $50, $100
'Frontier' Series
In 1996 our $2 bills were replaced by the $2 coin, popularly known as the toonie. The bills however are still accepted as legal tender and can often be found in the registers of tourist gift shops, as vacationers tend to save up their foreign monies.

The toonie itself has gone through multiple issues:
1990-2003- Queen Elizabeth II (front) and polar bear (back)
1999- Special edition, Founding of Nunavut
          Queen Elizabeth II (front) and Inuit drummer(back)
2000- Special edition, Millennium
           Queen Elizabeth II (front) and 2 polar bears mother and child(back)
2003- Updated portrait of queen
          Queen Elizabeth II (front) and polar bear (back)
2006- Special edition, 10th Anniversary of $2 coin
          Queen Elizabeth II (front) and new polar bear (back)
2008- Special edition, Anniversary of founding of Quebec City
           Queen Elizabeth II (front) fleur-de-lis (back)
front and back of 1996 toonie
1996 Toonie 
Numerous commemorative editions of the toonie have circulated since 1996 as well. I will not exhaustively list them here, but you can find them listed on the Canadian mint website
front and back of 2003 toonie
2003 Toonie
Our two-dollar currency has certainly changed quite a bit in the last 19 years. Unfortunately our 1986 $2 bills are not yet worth the hundreds of dollars that we hope they’ll eventually be valued. There was a rare case in 2014 where a $2 bill sold for $10,000 at auction. In that case the bill was extremely rare as it was improperly signed.

But continue to hang on to those $2 bills and pennies, one day we may see copies on display at the Bank Museum of Canada, or at the very least they will be a piece of nostalgia.



  1. I know I have a $2 bill somewhere back at home, too! It was definitely squirrelled away by my parents when the toonie was introduced, probably while they cackled over how it "will be a collectors item one day! Worth hundreds!"
    Fun article, Mallory! It was definitely a nostalgia-trip to see how the design of the bills has changed over the years.

  2. Thanks Anya. Hang on to those bills, they'll be fun to pull out in 20 years or so! I had another money related flashback a few years ago when I was working at a historic site, I was given a Canadian $1 bill in payment by a tourist. Older bills are definitely still in circulation! It was quite interesting to see.