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On Jack Lew’s loopy signature

When the Bank of Canada interviews for the next governor, it may want to add one final step: the signature test.

Because if the John Henry of the next Mark Carney looks anything like the loopty-loop scribbles of a two-year-old, there could be trouble. Or, comedy, at least.

Just as there is in the U.S. right now with the nomination by President Barack Obama of a new Treasurer Secretary, Jacob “Jack” Lew. About Lew’s handwriting, we can’t be sure. But his signature looks like a really great roller coaster, or a telephone cord:

That’s got the U.S. media giggling, and Obama is playing along.

“When this was highlighted yesterday in the press, I considered rescinding my offer to appoint him,” Obama joked.

To the best knowledge of the folks at the Bank of Canada’s Currency Museum, no Canadian has every been rejected for the prestigious post of governor thanks to their signature.

“In the past, from material that’s been received by the collection, there doesn’t appear to have been any real revision or rejection of an officer’s signature,” says curator David Bergeron.

And putting those signatures onto Canadian bills is “pretty straightforward, actually.”

Both the governor and deputy governor sit down and sign a few pieces of paper. They pick the best signature, and a team of designers makes the scribbles fit the space available on the bill. Then the governor or deputy governor signs off on their signature, and the Minister of Finance has the final say.

A few fun (not quite as funny, but it’s Canada) facts about currency signatures:

  • Graham Towers was Governor of the Bank of Canada from Sept. 10, 1934 to Sept. 10, 1954. His signature has appeared the for the greatest number of years on Bank of Canada notes.
  • The signature of Gerald Bouey remained on Canadian bills long after he retired as governor of the Bank of Canada in 1987, “up to two years” according the currency museum. While it is difficult to determine the exact date of the signature change from Bouey to Crow as Governor of the Bank of Canada, it happened sometime between Bouey’s retirement on Jan. 31, 1987 and the issue of the Birds of Canada $10, which never bore Bouey’s signature, on June 27, 1989.
  • Signatures were added to Bank of Canada notes first by letterpress and later by intaglio, a type of printmaking. The current method for applying signatures to notes is through lithography.

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