Bank of Canada

Regular page >>

Bank Notes

Design and Production

It takes several years to design a series of bank notes. Once the designs have been approved, the Bank contracts the printing of the notes to two security printing companies, Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited and BA International Inc. The bank notes are printed 45 to a sheet, cut, and delivered to the Bank.


The Bank of Canada must supply financial institutions with enough bank notes to satisfy public demand. Financial institutions obtain notes through the country's bank note distribution system and return to the Bank any notes that are considered unfit for further circulation. These bank notes are verified on high-speed, note-processing equipment and then shredded for disposal.


1935 and 1937 issue: 152.4 by 73.025 millimetres (6.0 by 2.875 inches)
All other issues: 152.4 by 69.85 millimetres (6.0 by 2.75 inches)

Paper Composition

Today's bank notes are printed on 100 per cent cotton paper. The paper-making industry has long acknowledged the superior quality of cotton-based paper over woodpulp paper. It is both more durable and more resistant to fading. For these reasons, cotton paper has been used for bank note production for several centuries.

The Bank of Canada's first series of bank notes (1935) was printed on paper made from 75 per cent high-grade flax and 25 per cent cotton. During the Second World War, the composition changed to 25 per cent flax and 75 per cent cotton to conserve linen for the production of uniforms.

The change to 100 per cent cotton came in 1983, to conform with Quebec environmental laws pertaining to the use of flax.

Approximate Life of a Bank Note

$5: 1 to 2 years
$10: 1 to 2 years
$20: 2 to 4 years
$50: 4 to 6 years
$100: 7 to 9 years