Canadian Paper Money Society
Official Journal
Services & Facilities
Calendar of Events
CPMS Executive
Contact the CPMS

The following article is by the first Honorary President of the Society who was one of the best known collector of paper money in Canada. It was published in the July, 1974 issue of the Canadian Paper Money Journal and has been edited in a minor way in order to bring a few items up to date. It is included here because it covers many of the interesting facets of collecting paper money. It is, moreover, a good example of the wealth of information contained in the Journal.

by J. Douglas Ferguson

Perhaps the most fascinating field of Canadian Numismatics is paper money. The issues to be collected and studied extend from the card money of 1685 up to the present period, and include issues by a number of Colonies (Provinces) prior to Confederation, local governments, private, and chartered banks, business institutions, the Dominion of Canada and the Bank of Canada. Many collectors also include merchant notes or 'bons', education notes issued by Business Colleges, notes issued for political purposes and advertising "bills".

It is such a broad field that unless one has large financial resources that he or she is willing to expend as opportunities arise to acquire material, it might be desirable to largely concentrate on one or two branches while securing the odd example in other fields to make the collection representative.


These are all rare. Most examples in existence are in Museums. While it should be the ambition of every serious collector to at some time secure an example, few will be able to do so and will only be able to enjoy these historic pieces by viewing them in museums, and reading of their history and use.


Prince Edward Island (the earliest issues being under the name Island of Saint John,) Nova Scotia, British Columbia, the Province of Canada, the Government of Newfoundland and the Province of Alberta issued paper money. The rare Army Bills issued in Quebec City between 1813-18 may also be included in this group.

Other than the 1936 prosperity certificates of Alberta and some of the issues of Newfoundland, the others are rarely available and normally command high prices. Many of these would only be found in good to fine condition.


This is a fascinating but small group. The city of Saint. John, New Brunswick issued notes as early as 1821, while a number of Ontario Councils issued them commencing with 1837 (Toronto) and into the 40's, 50's and 60's.

The Post Office in Montreal issued a note and the Custom House in Quebec City in 1778. The majority of these are rare and the average collector would be fortunate to acquire more than one or two examples. There is a later series in this category, issued during the great depression, some of these can be more readily obtained.


This is a very large and satisfying field. It, in my opinion, should not be divided by notes that remain redeemable, and those which are not. Some of the rarer notes are of the latter category. Some of this group, although old and historic can be purchased at reasonable prices in uncirculated or very fine condition, because of their large issue and the fact they were not redeemed. Others lacking one or both signatures were made available years later from unissued stock in the hands of the Bank at the time of its demise as a result of failure or other circumstances.

This group would, for instance, include the one denomination (une piastre) note of La Banque de Boucherville where the provisional directors had ordered and secured the engraved printing plate for their one dollar note, before their application for a charter was denied. Notes were printed but not put into circulation. They are scarce but not rare.

Some collectors will limit themselves to obtaining single examples from as many of the Banks as possible. Others will select a Bank in which they work, or in which they have some particular interest and will endeavor to secure as complete a collection as possible of the issues of that Bank. If the particular bank has absorbed other Banks, it is normal to include such additional banks in such a collection.


This is the ideal field for anyone interested in research. The notes were largely issued by merchants and businesses in many communities in Quebec and Ontario (Upper and Lower Canada). They were required because of the hoarding of much of the limited coinage in circulation, during this critical period. Many of those issuing such notes or scrip were sympathetic to the aims of the Rebels (Patriots). We now recognize the patriotism of the majority of those who participated on the side of the Rebels, and the fact that the securing of responsible government was hastened in Canada as a result of the Revolution.

Notes of this period are numerous. Occasionally a new variety is still discovered. Very rare or even unique notes can be secured from time to time at prices well below those which notes of similar rarity in other series bring.


Business Colleges from the 1880's to the 1920's had a responsibility to give basic training to the many thousands who wished to enter the employment of Banks. To make their courses completely practical many issued notes resembling Bank Notes as well as tokens in the names of their institutions. These the students used as money, in making the business transactions during their training. They are fascinating but of course at no time had any monetary value.

Just as the college notes can be an adjunct to a collection, so may advertising notes of firms, as issued in the last century and the early decade of this century.


Proof and specimen notes become available in auction or mail bid sales from time to time. These are scarce, even rare as usually only a very small quantity of such notes was released by the banknote printing company. Examples were held in the archives of the issuing institution or authority, in the archives of the bank note printing company, and occasionally by the engraver(s). Thus few, if any, found their way into the hands of the public although recently a major quantity of such material relating to the Canadian chartered banks was sold by a bank note company.


This is entirely up to the individual. Many rare notes and particularly historic notes are seldom available in better than fine condition, and if one wished to acquire these notes, may have to be satisfied with examples of even lesser condition. In fact, it can be argued that unless one wishes to form a collection of art, one should be satisfied with any relatively clean note. Certainly anyone collecting the older and rarer issues must be prepared to accept notes in lesser condition.


These have always been popular as, in some series, the first or low-serial numbered notes were not released to the public. In Government and Bank of Canada issues the lowest numbers were usually retained as souvenirs by cabinet members, senior civil servants and officials of the Bank, and other important individuals, to whom they were at the time made available at face value.

In conclusion, it can be said that collecting Canadian paper money is challenging, rewarding and provides a great opportunity for original research.

Bank of Western Canada Vignette

[ Home | Official Journal | Services & Facilities | Membership | Education | Calendar | Executive | My CPMS | Links | Contact Us ]

P.O. Box 562, Pickering, Ontario, Canada L1V 2R7