Prior to World War II, most of the higher denomination bills issued in Canada we in fact done by private banks, and not the government. If you used a $20 bill a hundred years ago, chances are it was made by the Bank of Montreal, the Royal Bank, the Bank of Commerce, the Toronto Bank, etc.
These notes are quite interesting to collect. Firstly, they have stunning artwork on both the fronts and backs. These were intricate designs printed to make counterfeiting difficult. Often, on the early notes they are also hand signed, so that each note is somewhat unique. Like current notes the “Chartered Notes” (this is what collectors call them) are also serial numbered, and it can be fun to try to find interesting numbers (like very low #’s, high #, notes with solid #’s, etc), although these are quite rare.
Banks, like other businesses, went into business…and sometimes went out of business, so many of the notes became worthless, or were redeemed by an acquiring bank. There are over 100 different issuing banks, and many produced notes over a long period. This makes for a lot of different types, and for a fun and varied collection.
Chartered bank notes are for the most part relatively scarce. After WW II the Bank of Canada stopped allowing banks to issue notes (actually the last issue was in 1943), and a redemption program was put in place. As a result almost all of the notes have been redeemed and destroyed. We actually have records, available to collectors, of the dollars outstanding in notes of each bank. Some banks like Royal have over a million dollars outstanding, but others like the Summerside Bank have only $43.
Generally, most notes prior to 1910 are very hard to find. Most commonly encountered by collectors are from the 1920’s and 1930’s. Many of these were save in sufficient quantity that any collector with patience will be able to find them. ALL of these notes sell for more than face value, with some worth thousands of dollars. The usual rules of collecting apply…rarity, and condition will determine value. Finding any early items in new condition is very very difficult.
The standard reference on the subject is the Charlton Standard Catalog of Canadian Banknotes. It is not published every year, and can be a difficult books to find, as it is printed in limited quantities. This book provides a virtually complete listing, pricing, and good quality backround information.
The market for these notes has been very strong over the last 10 years, and we usually sell whatever we have in stock rather quickly, despite being able to pick up many large collections.
If you would like more information regarding Chartered Bank Notes, or have any questions relating to this topic or others relating to coin collecting please feel free to contact me.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information please visit www.carsleys.com