New polymer $20 bill goes into circulation Wednesday

A new $20 polymer bill will be put into circulation on Wednesday.

A new $20 polymer bill will be put into circulation on Wednesday.

Ian Robertson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:13 PM ET

TORONTO - Canadians increasingly used to making more and more “plastic” purchases using debit and credit cards can add another piece of new technology Wednesday — the first Bank of Canada polymer $20 bills.

That’s when some banks will start distributing the plastic-based $20 bills, spokesman Julie Girard said.

Not all financial institutions will have them right away, Girard said from Ottawa. “Because of the sheer volume of notes, we want to make sure there’s a good transition.

“The new $20 banknotes will be released on a gradual basis,” over the next two years, she said. In addition to giving owners of 500,000 ATM and other money-changing machines time to adjust to the smoother, longer-lasting polymer notes, Girard said “we also want people to be comfortable with them.”

With consultation and test notes provided since May, 2009, she said most financial agencies have converted. But with more than 800 million in circulation, 20s are the country’s largest-volume banknote.

In 2004, QMI Agency reported about 600 million were circulating.

In addition to the innovative longer-lasting, plastic notes, the new green 20s are the first Canadian currency with a monarch in the centre since the 1937 series featured her father King George VI on the $1-to-$50 notes.

Since images in the middle of folded paper notes crease and crumble over time — considered defacing a royal’s portrait — designers of the initial Queen Elizabeth series of 1954 placed her on the right on all denominations from $1 to $1,000. Her first appearance on a Canadian banknote was as a young princess, on the left side of 1935 rosy-pink $20 bills.

Although replaced periodically, older Bank of Canada notes “maintain their legal tender status,” Girard said.

Two other polymer notes, the $50 and $100 bills, were introduced since last year and new $5 and $10 notes will be issued by end of 2013.

Ceremonies introducing the new $20 bills will be held Wednesday in Ottawa and Toronto. The backs feature the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in a 100-hectare battlefield park in France.

The towering 20-figure stone and concrete memorial was dedicated in 1936 to Canadian soldiers who captured the strategic Vimy Ridge 19 years earlier, during the World War after British and French troops failed to dislodge heavily-armed German forces.


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