Originally published on April 8, 2014
In 1937 when King George VI became King of England, and the British Empire, it was decided that a new issue of Canadian paper money be created. It was only 2 years before, in 1935 that a whole series of notes were created by the Bank of Canada, and now these were to be retired (resulting in many scarce notes).
The 1937 issue is special, and groundbreaking in many ways. Firstly, it was the first bilingual notes. The previous series had separate English and French notes...which proved expensive to produce, and obviously made little sense. Secondly, beforehand the lower denomination notes all had different members of the monarchy on them, and this was the first time that the king appeared on more than one note of a series. Usually other family members would be on different bills. Also, a new numbering system was devised where a 2 letter prefix, written as a fraction was put before the serial number. The lower letter was for the denomination, the upper for the series. This was also the first time all notes had different numbers, before notes printed on the same sheet had the same number, and a check letter showing the position on the sheet.
$1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 (issued with George VI portrait), $100 (Sir John A. Macdonald), and $1,000 (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) notes are part of this series. Most notes were released on July 21, 1937, but the $1,000 was not needed until 1952, and therefore few actually circulated since a new issue was again created in 1954 with Queen Elizabeth II.
The backs of the bills are are stunning allegorical vignettes copied from the 1935 series. (see picture)
Despite the series continuing until 1954, all notes issued have the 1937 date on them, and it is safe to say most surviving examples are actually ones that were printed in the early 1950’s. Fortunately collectors have an easy way to tell the earliest notes from the latter ones. Since all notes are signed on the bottom by the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada, and these positions changed a few times during this period we can using this as a guide to when they were printed.
The first part of the series issued July 1937 to November 1938 are signed on the left by JAC Osborne...in general these are quite scarce and highly sought after by collectors, as few were saved, and very few are known in new condition. Next, again signed on the left; Donald Gordon, November 1938 to January 1950..most of the circulating life of this series of signed by Gordon so these are in general quite easy to find. Lastly notes signed on the left by James E. Coyne were issued from January 1950 until this series was replaced with the Elizabeth II notes in 1954. It is common for collectors to only save notes when they know a series is ending, and this is why notes signed JE Coyne from the 1937 series are plentiful.
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