Get an appraisal before selling out-of-print bills, currency collectors say

Canadian bills that haven't been printed in decades will lose their value in cash transactions, and currency collectors are recommending Canadians check their worth before cashing them in.

$1, $2, $25, $500 and $1,000 bills to lose tender status in 2021

Clinton Beck, president of Beck Numismatics Rare Coin & Currency Dealer, poses with his collection of out-of-print bills. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Soon, some out-of-print bills will not be accepted in day-to-day transactions, and Edmonton currency collectors are recommending Canadians do their research before exchanging them.

The $1, $2, $25, $500 and $1,000 bills will no longer have legal tender status as of Jan. 1, 2021, meaning they will longer be accepted in cash transactions. The move was approved by Parliament in 2018.

The majority of the bills haven't been produced in decades.

The bills will not lose their value after Jan. 1, a Bank of Canada news release said, and people will still be able to redeem them at face value through financial institutions, or by sending them directly to the Bank of Canada.

Clinton Beck, president of Beck Numismatics Rare Coin Dealer, recommends that people do some research, or get an appraisal before exchanging their outdated bills through banks, because some versions are worth more than their face value.

"Basically the ones you want to be most aware of are the smaller denominations, the ones and twos," Beck said.

There are a couple things to look for when assessing the value of out-of-print bills, he said. The quality of the bill matters, and typically the ones that are more valuable are more than 60 years old.

A star located at the beginning of the serial number can be a sign of value. As well as bill printed around 1954, which is known for its devil's face.

A $5 bill from Clinton Beck's collection has a snowflake shape before the serial number, a sign of value on some out-of-print bills. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

"The telltale sign is in the queen's hair," Beck said. "And in 1954, the first series of currency they made had a devil, and if you look at her hair, you can see a nose and mouth and the eyes and a little horn."

A lot of the bills haven't been issued in decades. The most recent was the $1,000 bill, which was discontinued in 2000.

"Canada is one of the few holdouts where you were able to use bills that basically have become obsolete and replaced by new ones," said Jean de Browyne, a treasurer with the Edmonton Numismatic Society.

The loss of legal tender status and bills being exchanged for face value may thin out of the remaining collected bills and lead to a possible uptick in worth.

The $1000 bill will lose it legal tender status on Jan. 1, 2021. (Bank of Canada)

"This culling may be something that reduces the number that are out there, but it will actually weed out most likely the tattered ones, the torn ones, the dirty ones that no one really is interested in collecting at any rate," said de Browyne.

"So it may take quite some time for those to gain value, because all the other ones that are rare people have already been focusing on and trying to get in their collections. "

De Browyne also recommends looking through a Canadian paper money guide or getting an appraisal at a coin shop before cashing in bills that are longer legal tender.

He said that the Edmonton Numismatic Society usually hosts events where they offer free evaluation sessions, but those have been on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions.


Travis McEwan


Travis McEwan is a video journalist who has not won any awards. Originally from Churchill, Man., he's spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca