Collecting Canadian $1,000 Bills….not for everyone!


Sometimes it fun to think of collecting items that are a bit out of reach for most of us. The $1,000 bill is a perfect example. Most people have never handled a $1,000 bill due to its high value. Indeed, the $1,000 bill has ended…for now. The last series of bills issued in 1988 is currently being retired, and no plans are on the horizon for a new issue.

Even today $1,000 is a lot of money, but consider that before 1933 $1,000 could buy you over 48 ounces of gold….value today about $62,000 !!! So these were very valuable bills, and often used to trade money between banks, or for large transactions…not for going to the local convenience store.

The first $1,000 bill was issued in Canada in 1871. Each town (Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, St. John, Halifax, Victoria, Winnipeg, & Charlottetown) had a separate note with the name on the back. Very few were printed, and none are known to have survived. We only have a few proofs as record of this issue.

Next, in 1911 Canada issued a wonderful looking bill with King George V in the centre. 34,000 examples were printed…almost all redeemed and destroyed. Only 2 are known to exist (only one outside a museum). Estimated value today…around $250,000.

In 1925 Canada again issued a lovely $1,000 bill with the portrait of Queen Mary in the centre. The portrait is very similar to the $5 1924 note (also rare). There are about 5 known examples….2 of these in museums. Figure about $100,000 if you are lucky enough to get offered one.

The extensive 1935 issue, the first by the newly formed bank of Canada is the next note issued. Here there are 2 varieties. One in English (66,500 printed), and a much rarer one in French (only 7,600 printed). It features Sir Wilfrid Laurier on the front, and an allegory of Security on the back with an artistic rendition of a female shielding her child. This note is rare, but obtainable. The English one in VF condition (some folds but still nice) will cost around $6,000, and the French in the same grade would be roughly double this price.

If you were reading last week, you will remember that the 1937 series also has a $1,000 note. It features a portrait of Sir Wilfid Laurier very similar to the 1935 series. The quantity printed however is was much lower, only 15,000. It is very scarce….but for some reason many of the notes that do come up for sale are in new condition…somebody must have saved a pile…expect to pay $6,000 for a nice used one, and over $12,000 for something brand new.

Our current Queen Elizabeth II is featured on the 1954 issue. This was a mass produced issue of $1,000 notes, and is the easiest to obtain. The notes were produced from 1954 until 1990…and over 2,000,000 were issued (over $2 billion dollars face value!). Many collectors want one of each signature variety. The very first signatures Coyne-Towers, also feature the popular Devils Face design in the queens hair. This note is scarce and even in used condition will sell for a multiple of the face value. The other signatures for the most part will be able to be had for roughly face value, plus some small extra amount for the dealer selling them.

Lastly, in 1988 as part of what we call the bird series of notes (all the notes from the late 1980`s had birds on the back) our last item to collect. Although they do carry the date 1988, in fact they were only issued starting in 1992, and were retired in 2000. During this short period over 6,000,000 notes were made available. My guess is that many of these have been returned to the bank of Canada by now, and destroyed. The most desirable variety of the 1988 series are the bills with the prefix. EKX, which are replacement notes, and do sell for a premium when in nice condition. The other notes, for the most part are pretty much still just $1,000.

So, there you go, a small focused collection of $1,000 bills would indeed be impressive to behold, and likely a lifetime (or more) of work to put together. If we added up all of the notes there would be only 7 basic types ($7,000 face value)…if you were the kind of person who needed one of every variety we could total 22 notes…and likely a collection that would cost more than half a million to put together.

Michael Joffre is owner of Carsley Whetstone & Company Inc. a firm that buys and sells rare coins and related collectables. He is always interested in buying older coin collections. CWC also carries a full line of books and collecting supplies, available in stock in their retail store. Michael can be reached at 514-289-9761, or at For more information please visit

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