Melted new bills in Kelowna/Penticton

Disclosing details of behind-the-scenes discussions about tales of melting banknotes could endanger national security or international relations, says Canada's central bank.

In response to a formal request from The Canadian Press, the Bank Of Canada released 134 pages of internal records, almost completely blanked out, concerning allegations its new polymer bills melted in the scorching summer sun.

The bank began issuing $100 polymer banknotes in late 2011, saying they were harder to counterfeit than paper notes and would last much longer. It has since released $50 and $20 notes, with $10 and $5 ones due this year.

Unconfirmed reports of cooked currency emerged in July when a Kelowna, bank teller said she had heard of cases in which several bills had melted together inside a car. Soon after, a photo of scorched $100 bills surfaced in Ontario, purportedly after they were stored in a metal can next to a baseboard heater.

Kelly Davies says, "I live in Penticton and I had one $50 polymer melt just sitting in my wallet this summer right around the time of the hottest days. I had about 10 of them in my wallet and went to make a purchase at WalMart and handed the clerk about 6 of them.  When she was counting them, she said "oh this one looks weird" and I had a look at it and it had shriveled to about 80% of its size and was crinkled and even had a small tear I think; sorta looked like shrink-wrap.  She accepted it though and we were surprised, but not overly so because we had heard they sometimes melt."

Deb Schramm syas, "I had problems with a new $50 bill this Summer. It didn’t melt it, but ripped down the
edge of the transparent part. I turned it in to my bank for a new one. Not impressed.  I like the old paper ones instead of the new plastic feel."

The Bank has swiftly denied that its new bills could be affected by heat in these ways.

The records released under the Access to Information Act show the reports stirred up not only a flurry of media interest but a series of emails over more than a week among bank officials, including Gerry Gaetz, the chief of currency, and Erik Balodis, a scientific adviser.

The bank declined to make Gaetz available for an interview.

In an emailed response to questions, bank spokesman Jeremy Harrison said the institution has seen nothing since the reports first emerged to change its initial assessment.

"The Bank stands by its statements made this summer that polymer bank notes cannot be affected by the types and levels of heat as has been suggested in last summer's news reports, and has seen no evidence to the contrary," Harrison said.

He noted the bank had performed "extensive and rigorous tests" prior to issuing the notes, including exposing them to extremes of 140 C and -75 C.

Harrison refused to say whether the bank consulted another government in response to reports of melting currency, as suggested by the exemptions applied to the records.

"What I can tell you is that bank notes printed on polymer material have been used successfully in many other countries for years, places like Australia, Mexico, Nigeria and Singapore, all of which have climates far hotter than in Canada."

If you've had any problems with the new bank notes contact us at [email protected]

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