Is that new polymer bill the real deal?

’As long as we print money, there will be attempts to counterfeit’
Shiny, smooth and fake
Photograph by Jessica Darmanin

Ever since they were released by the Bank of Canada in 2011, Canada’s new polymer $100 bills have courted controversy. There were claims the bills were prone to melting when placed in the sun or near household heaters. It was revealed the bank had to redesign the bills after focus groups objected to a picture of an Asian scientist on the back, because it “racialized” the bill. Meanwhile, some have claimed the maple leaves on the bill depict a Norwegian variety that is not native to Canada.

Through it all, the Bank of Canada stood by the polymer notes because they were confident the material and design would curb counterfeiting. This month, however, counterfeit $100 polymer bills were found circulating in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, and the police are now warning Canadians not to be overconfident in the authenticity of the banknotes. Interestingly, it could be the bills’ high-end features that, for now at least, make them vulnerable. The RCMP believe that Canadians are not familiar enough with polymer notes’ safety features to verify their authenticity, compared to the older cotton-and-paper notes.

The seven bills seized in B.C. all had the same serial number and were missing the raised printing used with genuine polymer notes that’s meant to help people identify real bills. Bank of Canada spokesperson Julie Girard maintains the new notes are among the most secure in the world. Of the more than 500 million notes circulated since 2011, only 59 counterfeits have been seized. This number is substantially lower than a decade ago, when 470 in every million bills were fake. “As long as we print money, there will be attempts to counterfeit,” she says.