Canadian Money – How to Understand & Identify our Monopoly Bills

I’ve been stealthily hiding money from myself for a few weeks (which by the way is a passion of mine) and I have finally managed to scrounge up a fair collection of Canadian Bills to showcase here on my mega awesome Canadian Travel Blog. As a plaid wearing Canuck, I’m totally used to hearing all the jokes about Canadian Monopoly Money and how weird it looks beside “Benjamins”, “Roosevelts” & “Washingtons”. It’s true, in comparison, they’re downright strange, and tend to enhance the nature-loving stereotypes of Canadians, but gosh almighty they’re neat.

$50 Dollar Bill



Let’s start big (well, as big as I could hide from myself). The 50 Dollar Bill, aka “Big Red”, due to its prominence of red hues.You can sometimes find these guys spitting out of ATMs; however, you’re more likely to find its lesser-brother, the Twenty being dispensed from those Bank Robots.

The most recent Canadian 50 dollar bill features a portrait of William Lyon Mackenzie King, the Canadian Coat of Arms, along with picture of the Parliaments famous “Peace Tower”. As you can see, a Canadian Note wouldn’t be Canadian without a couple Maple Leafs thrown in there.

$20 Twenty Dollar Bill



Next up, The Twenty Dollar Bill. Hands down the most common Canadian Bill. This one (or should I say Twenty) should be easy to acclimatize with as it’s Green. The portrait on this particular note is of Queen Elizabeth the Second, and features some famous Canadian Art by Bill Reid along with a quote from Gabrielle Roy. The most recent 2004 edition of the Canadian $20 was also given the “prestigious” award of “Bank Note of the Year” by the International Bank Note Society. Go 20!

$10 Dollar Bill



The 10 dollar bill is one of my personal favourites, just due to the cool colour of purple. This sweet piece sports an awesome portrait of the late Sir John A. Macdonald, and a picture of Canadas famous Library of Parliament. The theme behind this bill is remembrance, and features images of war, along with a portion of John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”. That poem deserves a post on I Backpack Canada, so thank you Tenner for inspiring me.

$5 Dollar Bill



The Canadian Five-Dollar Bill is the smallest bill you’ll find in Canada. This one’s another fan-favourite as it is blue, and features the Eerie portrait of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, along with the West Block of the Parliament Buildings. If you flip the Bill you’ll see some very Canadian themes, including Tobogganing, Skating, and some Ice Hockey! If you look close you’ll also notice a quote from Roch Carriers story “The Hockey Sweater”.

If you’re lucky, you might come across a Spock Five. I wrote about this little phenomenon a while back. Basically people from all over Canada will modify the face of Sir Wilfrid Laurier into the image of Spock. (The famous Star Trek Character played by Leonard Nimoy) Hilarity at its best.

$2 Dollar Coin a.k.a “The Toonie”

Canadian Toonie

To understand the strange nomenclature behind the Toonie, one has to look at the $1 Dollar Coin, which is called the Loonie, due to the fact that it features one of Canada’s iconic birds, the Loon. When they released the $2 dollar coin, it wasn’t long before everyone was calling it a Toonie.

The Toonie features the popular Bi-Metallic look that other countries have adopted as well. One side of the coin features Queen Elizabeth II while the other features an image of a Polar Bear, which Canada named “Churchill”. A nifty little reference to Winston and due to the many sightings of Polar Bears in the Churchill Manitoba area.

$1 Dollar Coin a.k.a “The Loonie”

Canada's Loonie

The Loonie, kind of a goofy name for a Dollar, but it works. As I mentioned earlier, it inspired the name of Canada’s Two-Dollar-Coin. Something kind of cool that a lot of people may not know about, is that if it weren’t for the Courier Service losing the original Master Dies, the Loonie would not exist. The One-Dollar-Coin was meant to have a Voyageur type theme, with Canada’s famous “Coureur Des Bois”. Thankfully that minor mishap saved us from potentially calling our Dollar Coin something even more strange.

The Pocket Change

For die hard coin collectors, this is where the magic can happen. For me, its where I get bored and laugh at myself, wondering “What am I doing writing about a 5c piece…my time has to be worth more than that…” Well, apparently not. I typically am the first to tell the cashier to keep the change, mainly because I don’t have a change compartment in my wallet, but also because I just find it to be more of a pain than its worth. So forgive me if the detail on the following Canadian coins suffers a bit.

The Canadian Quarter – 25 cent piece


Biggest in size next to the loonie & toonie. This coin that sees most of its action in drinking games features a Caribou & The Queen. Fun fact – 4 of these puppies makes a dollar. Neat eh?

The Canadian Dime – 10 Cent Piece


A thin, wimpy looking coin which looks like it could get blown away in the wind. Which maybe was the inspiration behind including the famous Nova Scotian sail boat, the Bluenose Schooner on the front. As with all Canadian coins, Mrs. Queeny is hanging out on the other side.  As far as size goes, this is the smallest coin we have.

The Canadian Nickel – 5 cent piece


Perhaps I’m a little childish in my thinking. But this particular Canadian coin makes want to give high fives and make jokes about the Queens Beaver. However, since I’m a respectable “writer”, I’ll refrain myself. This coin features The Canadian Beaver on one side, and the Queen on the other. The Beaver was tossed on there as it was such a huge part of Canadian history, what with the fur trading and all. In terms of size, the Nickel is “Medium” in size.

The Canadian Penny – 1 cent piece


The penny features a couple Maple Leaves along with the Queen. It’s slightly less than Medium in size. Some argue that this coin should be taken out of commission, similar to the way Australia operates. I have to say I agree, the Penny completely sucks! Its worth almost nothing and always seems to trick me into thinking I have enough for a coffee. I can’t count how many times I’ve pulled out all the change from my pocket to say to the Tim Hortons girl “Guess I gotta use debit on this Double Double…sorry!” I’d personally rather see the expense of making pennies go into something a little more beneficial to all Canadians. Not just the penny-savers.

Whatever your thoughts are on this guy, its legal tender whether we like it or not. Which means you should expect to experience the classic elderly lady or gentleman paying for their fuel, coffee, or groceries with all pennies. Always worth a smile.

Monopoly Money Ain’t So Bad

Seeing Canadian tender laid out like this is sort of strange. It’s rare that Canadians give much more than a glance at what they’re handing over or receiving. There are some unique stories & pieces of art behind the design of our money. Sure, it might be a little monopoly-esque compared to our American brethren, but talk about being easier to identify.

I’ve always been a fan of how countries all over the world portray significant events in their history through the medium of money. They can be a great starter for learning more about any country, and Canada holds true to this pattern. The Royal Canadian Mint, located in Winnipeg, Manitoba should be commended more often for their coin & cash creativity. Keep up the great work guys, and if you need anyone to sample your goods ahead of time, don’t hesitate to call.

What’s the weirdest piece of money you’ve seen? Have you got a favourite Canadian piece?

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