Canada has issued a special commemorative $10 note to celebrate its 150th anniversary. (See story here.)
Its purple color is striking. It’s polymer composition is worth having a discussion about. It is only the fourth commemorative note ever issued by the Bank of Canada.
There is something to be learned from this note, but it is not anything that I have written thus far. Americans would turn purple to get a purple U.S. note.
A suggestion of polymer would upset the political dynamic that keeps American paper money made of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen.
Commemoratives run counter to a consensus that notes be unchanging except when the counterfeiting threat needs to be fought.
So what did I notice about the note that is worth considering for American paper money? It was the four portraits on it. Why does American paper money have to have just one portrait on each denomination? There would have been no fight to remove President Andrew Jackson from the U.S. $20 Federal Reserve Note had he been accompanied by Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Alexander Hamilton would not have been targeted on the $10 and then saved by the Broadway play had he been accompanied by Thomas Jefferson, Frances Perkins and John F. Kennedy.
There have been many great Americans. Put more of them on our notes. Inventors Robert Fulton and Samuel F.B. Morse were put on 19th century American paper money when living people would have known and remembered them. Why not put them on notes again joined by Jonas Salk and Steve Jobs?
There are six denominations, seven if we include the $2, that are current. Four portraits per note would yield 28 slots.
Surely the great variety of American individuals, their stories and achievements can be better represented. The current seven can stay with 21 added.
In a way we have started down this road due to the battle over Jackson and Hamilton, but Jackson was demoted to the back of the $20 under current plans and Harriet Tubman will go on the front due to orders by former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
Surely this is the worst way to move forward. If Jackson should be removed from the front of the $20, why should he stay on the reverse? If he deserves to remain on the $20, he should stay on the face side. But he doesn’t have to be alone.
Canada’s commemorative note shows what is possible. Americans were jarred by large head portraits when they appeared on U.S. notes starting in 1996. What would they think of smaller heads in groups of four?
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today
More Collecting Resources
• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2018 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.
• With nearly 24,000 listings and over 14,000 illustrations, the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Modern Issues is your go-to guide for modern bank notes.