|Toronto Sun reporter Ian Robertson poses with a sample of a the future $20 bill beside a current $20 bill in Toronto on Friday, October 26, 2012. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency)
TORONTO -- Despite the pending release of polymer $20 bills, Canadians have up to two years to empty their pockets and bank accounts of paper versions.
Printed on a plastic-based, longer-lasting material developed in Australia in the 1980s, the new bills will be issued starting Nov. 7.
With about $800 million worth of 20s circulating, Bank of Canada spokesman Julie Girard said the public, vending and cash machine firms need time to get comfortable with the latest version.
"We're not going to have all of these changed over to polymer immediately," she said. Even with two private security printers producing stock well in advance, "it's going to take a little while ... one to two years."
Most of Canada's 500,000 bank machines dispense $20 bills and "the majority of those machines will be ready, but not all," Girard said.
Unveiled in May, promoting the new notes as replacements for current paper versions is essential because about half the $1.6 billion in circulating currency are 20s.
The new notes have several anti-counterfeiting innovations that include see-through "windows" which are difficult for crooks to duplicate, a holographic metallic strip beside each central portrait and a watermark reproducing the featured person's portrait.
"These notes are among the most secure in the world," Girard said, adding 85% of Canadians surveyed "said switching from paper to polymer was a good move."
Former prime minister Sir Robert Borden's revamped portrait is on the $100 polymer notes introduced last year. William Lyon Mackenzie King's revised portrait is on the red $50 note introduced this March.
An updated depiction of Queen Elizabeth II is at the centre of the new 20s. The Canadian National Vimy Memorial honouring First World War soldiers who captured Vimy Ridge in France is on the back.
Designs for new $5 and $10 bills are slated for release late next year.