The Bank of Canada, in its wisdom, has reissued the Canadian $10 bill. Her Majesty The Queen has been dethroned in favor of Sir John A. Macdonald and on the flip side the view of the Rocky Mountains has been replaced by a petrochemical plant in Sarnia, Ontario. The change is predictable enough, but the question one wants to ask is why does our currency have to be so boring? Moroccan dirhams are more exciting, for heaven’s sake! With this in mind Maclean’s asked four major Canadian artists to redesign the already redesigned Canadian $10 bill. This is where their imagination took them:
HAROLD TOWN’S $10 BILL
Scratch, dough, pelf, bread, moola, lettuce, bucks, green, or the 1 8th-century euphemism “seldom,” call it what you may it is still money, and the appearance of the new Canadian version, especially the recently issued larger denominations, is a national disgrace. Tawdry in concept, inept in design, sick in color, and totally unbelievable in choice of views of this country, the Bank of Canada has produced a thalidomide combination of play money and cereal-box-coupon art. Money is serious. Hardly anything in Canada is seen or used more often under such diverse conditions. Paper money should instantly communicate its message, and there is only one practical message: denomination. The numerals on our bills are difficult to read. Each numeral should be the full height of the bill on opposite ends of both sides. Our currency is printed in different colors to aid in identification of denomination, a sensible idea which in practice is useless because the watery colors of nearly identical tone blend together under certain fluorescent lights. If we must have portraits and landscapes, then let’s have Cartier, Tom Thomson, Banting or Morley Callaghan, and something other than the bleak Siberian prison scenes currently favored. The hideous combination of optical whirl and heraldic design on the new currency is disastrous. Canadian scrip should be either traditional or contemporary; it cannot be both. The complicated engraving on currency was initially created to confound counterfeiters. This tired ploy is medieval in concept since the hardest single element to fake in the counterfeit product is the paper. Any hack can make a passable engraving with the equipment available today. What we need is a unique formula for paper, containing secret combinations of trace elements that can be detected instantly on a simple machine the size of a postal meter. Folding money should be printed on material indigenous to this century, some rare combination of plastics and wonder substances that will resist wear and discoloration.
GORDON RATNER'S $10 BILL
When I was a kid, every bill was a “clam.” I’m not sure how this came about, but there are faint memories of gangster film jargon. Humphrey Bogart spitting out something about “Give da kid 20 clams and get some burgers . . .” Maybe, in those days, money was used more frugally, kept in the purse and pocket a lot longer and got “clammy.” Who knows? Anyway, I came upon a lovely antique label from Clam Harbor, Nova Scotia, and couldn’t resist converting it. If we are to realize ourselves as a country with respect for, but independent of, others, surely our money should be very different (as well as other national symbols). No queen and absolutely no politicians. Put the artists on the bills. That’s as close as they will ever get to big money anyway. Poets on the 20. Bush pilots on the five. The greatest Eskimo carvers on the 50, and so on. And rather than the signatures of governors and deputies, use the signatures of the artists. The Artists’ Jazz Band in this case. From left to right, pure sterling: Gerald McAdam, playing vibes, Gordon Rayner, on drums, Nubuo Kubota, on soprano saxophone, Graham Coughtry, on trombone, Jim Jones, electric bass, Terry Forrester, acoustic bass, Ken Baldwin, tenor saxophone, Michael Sarrazin, the other drummer, and Robert Markle at the keyboard. I’m sure they would be harder to forge. Aren’t you?
KEN DANBY’S $10 BILL
Change the new Canadian $10 bill by all means but make the change more practical than radical. Rule out changing the shape — the international consequences would be too complicated and you’d end up having to change the shape of cash registers too. The colors of the new $10 bill are pleasant enough but the design is simply dreadful. Clean it up, open it up, and integrate both sides. Drop the coat of arms, because it doesn’t add to the appearance of the bill and it honors Britain and France more than it honors us. Drop the funny wiggly lines, which look as if they were put there by a child’s spirograph. Keep Sir John A. Macdonald on side one (he’s valid enough) but loosen him up, make him more informal, more human in keeping with the clean, contemporary design ideas. Get rid of all excess information on the bill. The bill should say that it is Canadian and show its denomination bilingually. Little more. Side two shows my painting Silver Bird, not simply because it is an Air Canada jet but because it is a work of art. Each denomination should show a different work of art by a different Canadian artist. There is no reason why Canadian artists shouldn’t have their work on money. It is both a way of giving their work international exposure and making art the national symbol instead of a petrochemical plant. Also, art is hard to counterfeit. In the design I’ve included a method of coordinating both sides. If you were to hold the Ken Danby bill to the light, the single denomination circle (beside Sir John A’s portrait) would be in exact registration with the corresponding two circles on the reverse side. About one eighth of an inch separates the middle circle from the other two. Add to this a watermark in the paper to correspond to the design and you’ve got yourself money that is almost impossible to counterfeit. All in all you end up with a practical solution to a national problem.
WILLIAM KURELEK’S $10 BILL
Actually for my $10 bill to have full and proper meaning 1 would have to redesign all the other denominations, too. This is simply because I have conceived the design in terms of a series; in this case a pioneer series. Each of the main Canadian ethnic groups would be ranked according to numbers and date of arrival in Canada and would be represented on a different denomination. Thus the French would be on the one-dollar bill, British on the two, Germans on the five, Ukrainians on the $10 bill. The design would incorporate the art and cultural symbols of each group. For example, the British would have a motif embroidered of roses, thistles and shamrocks, the Ukrainians of cross-stitch hand embroidery.
On the front of each denomination would be represented symbolically the tools of each group’s main pioneer occupation. In the case of the French it would be fur trading, farming, missionary work and ruling. The Ukrainians’ pioneer labor on farm, bush, railroad and in construction gangs would be «symbolically represented by a pitchfork, Swedesaw, sledgehammer and spade. The goods produced by this work are depicted as going into the mint of the country to come forth as currency. On the reverse side would be a scene showing the origin of each group and how it accepts British citizenship (represented best, I think, by a portrait of the Queen). In the case of the Ukrainians they were at first recognized as “the men in sheepskin coats.” Therefore I’ve chosen a picture from the National Archives photographic record showing such a party of Ukrainians, just as they arrive in their adopted country where they will settle to work the West’s virgin lands. Up till now Canadian money design has featured symbolic figures and scenery. I’m trying to say it should be people, real people and their hard work which brings a nation’s prosperity.
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