Print dies and an engraver’s View of Canada
In 2012, BA International Inc., formerly known as the British American Bank Note Company (BABN), closed its doors on Gladstone Avenue in Ottawa, ending a tradition of security printing in Canada dating back to 1866. Founded in Montréal by George Burland and W.C. Smillie, BABN was one of Canada’s principal security printers, producing secure documents for government and commercial clients alike. Products included passports, bank notes, share certificates, bonds, stamps and lottery tickets to name but a few.
In May 2013, staff of the Bank of Canada Museum visited BABN and were able to select for the National Currency Collection more than 650 steel dies (small, engraved metal or “intaglio” plates) and other production tools formerly used by the company to prepare the intaglio printing plates. The group included machine etched borders or lathework and numerals or counters. But the bulk of the selection consisted of hand engraved images of landscapes and people. Most are quite small, measuring roughly four by three inches. These were the heart of the security printer’s trade.
Traditionally, the intaglio printing process put the “security” in security printing. Commercial printing techniques could not match exactly the tactile feel of raised ink transferred under pressure from steel plates incised with intricate and artistic designs.
We thank BA International and their parent company Giesecke & Devrient for their generous donation to the National Currency Collection. It is deeply appreciated. These tools are not only an important link to BABN and the many government and commercial contracts it handled in times of peace and adversity, but also a testament to the beauty of the engraver’s art. What’s more, they are a record of times past through which we catch glimpses of the march of time in Canada.
In 1812, British North America had no banks and little currency. With the prospect of war drying up supplies of coins, the government of Lower Canada decided to issue legal tender notes called “army bills” to pay for troops and supplies.
What was proposed was a complete about-face from the philosophy behind recent security printing. If photocopiers could easily deal with the colours and designs of the current series, then the next series should be bold and simple.
From windmills and solar panels to electric cars, signs of the green economy are all around us. Check out our resources for how to teach about the green economy.
Introduce important financial skills to your children, and help them plan for their futures with free resources from the Bank of Canada Museum and others.
COVID-19 has had an unprecedented effect on the economy: closing businesses, driving down demand and interrupting supplies. With news stories and popular culture addressing inflation and supply chain issues, now is the perfect time to explain this key economic concept to your high school students.
Few of us have ever met her, and it’s likely none of us are even remotely related to her. Yet, Canadians have carried her picture in their wallets for generations now. She’s Queen Elizabeth II and has been our monarch for over 70 years.
The Bank of Canada Museum is responsible for the National Currency Collection, and part of its mandate is to foster and develop that collection. Despite the challenges of collecting during a pandemic, curators at the Bank of Canada Museum have acquired some unique artifacts—including some that document the pandemic itself.
What is money—when you really stop to think about it? To understand how money works, and what it ultimately represents, we need to strip it down to its very basic function.
The 1911 silver dollar has a history to match its prestige, and it now has a permanent home in the National Currency Collection of the Bank of Canada Museum.
The $20 bill of 1969 was the prototype of the Scenes of Canada note series. Yet, as more notes were designed, the theme—and the $20 note itself—would change.