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Queen Elizabeth II on Canadian Coins and Banknotes

By thecanadiannumismatist    |   Sunday, 11 September 2022

Queen Elizabeth II, longest-serving monarch, has died on September 8, 2022, at Balmoral aged 96, after reigning for 70 years. Here's a list of major changes in coins and banknotes related to the Queen Elizabeth II portrait.


Printed by CBN, the $20 note features a portrait of 8-year-old Princess Elizabeth (granddaughter of King George V and later Queen Elizabeth II). The engraving for the note, completed by Edwin Gunn of ABN, was based on a Marcus Adams photograph of the princess. He used a toy cabinet camera to capture this type of candid shot of children at his London studio.

20 dollars 1935 - Canada Banknote

The 1935 series consisted of ten denominations, all but one of which began to circulate on March 11, 1935, the day the Bank of Canada opened for business. The exception was the $25 note, which was issued two months later to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V. The 1935 series was the last to include $25 and $500 bank notes.


5 cents 1953

In 1953, Elizabeth II, the new head of state, made her first appearance on Canadian coins after she succeeded to the throne on February 6, 1952.

In accordance with past practices, coins could continue to be struck throughout 1952 in the name of the late King. New obverse dies would not be required until 1953.

- James A. Haxby

From a total of 17 plaster models, the Royal Mint Advisory Committee under the Presidency of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh chose the submission by Mrs. Mary Gillick. Since this design was too high, the 2 lines which were to forming a fold in the queen's dress did not stand out well. In 1953, the Royal Canadian Mint and its chief engraver Thomas Shingles decided to rectify this mistake. In addition, the listel was widened on both sides of the coin.


With the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne in 1952, the Bank began planning the third series of Bank of Canada notes. Initially printed by CBN and later by BABN as well, the face of notes features an engraving of Queen Elizabeth II based on a picture by Yousuf Karsh that was used in the large window on the 2015 commemorative note.

1 dollar 1954 - Canada Banknote

This series caused controversy because highlighted areas of the Queen's hair gave the illusion of a grinning demon behind the ear. The term "Devil's Head" is commonly used to describe these bank notes. The Bank of Canada had both bank note companies modify the face plates by darkening the highlights in the hair. These modifications were made in 1956 for all denominations.


25 cents 1965

In Great Britain, the portrait of the Queen appearing on coins was changed in 1985, when the design of Raphael David Maklouf, FRSA, was adopted. In Canada, however, the Arnold Machin portrait, introduced in 1965, continued in use until 1989. Machin's model was designed in 1963, when the Queen was 37 years old.


The Queen's portrait was originally slated to appear on all notes in the new series, but Edgar Benson, the Minister of Finance, asked that the new bank notes include portraits of former Canadian prime ministers to reflect Canada's burgeoning national identity.

2 dollars 1969-1979 - Canada Banknote

The engraving of the Queen for the Scenes of Canada series was produced by George Gundersen of the British American Bank Note Company from a photograph by Anthony Buckley. While in the original photograph the Queen's attire is less formal, she wears diamonds gifted to her in 1947 by the people of South Africa. The engraver kept the diamonds but redrew the dress to formalize the portrait for a bank note.


Issued in September 1986 and printed by both CBN and BABN, the $2 note was the second in the new series and features a portrait of the Queen engraved by Henry S. Doubtfire of De La Rue, based on a photograph by Anthony Buckley.

2 dollars 1986-1991 - Billet de banque du Canada

This image of the Queen appeared on the $2 note, $20 note and the last $1 000 note.


1 cent 1990

The third portrait of Queen Elizabeth II to appear on Canadian coins was introduced in 1990 and represents a significant milestone in the history of Canadian coinage, as it is the first portrait of the reigning monarch to be designed by a Canadian. By Dora de Pédery-Hunt, the portrait depicts Elizabeth facing right, wearing teardrop earrings and a diamond necklace. The diamonds of the actual necklace, which was originally made for Queen Victoria, weigh 161 carats. The Queen also wears a diamond crown made for George IV. It is decorated with roses, shamrock and thistle, the floral emblems of the United Kingdom.


2 dollar 2003

Following the Jubilee of the coronotion of the Queen, a new portrait was made in 2003 by Susanna Blunt and Susan Taylor and both old and new effigy exist for that year and most denominations.


Consideration was given to replacing the portraits of the Queen and the prime ministers with those of famous Canadian inventors and artists, but Prime Minister Jean Chrétien opted to retain them.

20 dollars 2004-2006

Engraving of the Queen by Jorge Peral from a photo by Charles Green, together with intermediate line drawing. The $20 note was named Bank Note of the Year for 2005 by the International Bank Note Society. The title is awarded to a note issued in the preceding year and judged on its artistic merit, design, and security features.

The announcement of the award stated that the portrait used on the... note is probably the finest portrait of the mature monarch to appear on any bank note. It also noted that the note was chosen from the ten entries for its well-balanced design, strong images, and advanced security features.


The engraving for the printed portrait on the $20 note in the Frontiers series issued in 2012 was created by Jorge Peral, Vice-President of Design and Master Engraver at the Canadian Bank Note Company. It is based on a photograph taken by Ian Jones that was specially commissioned by the Bank and replicated for the holographic image.

20 dollars 2011 to 2020 - Canada Banknote


The commemorative note features a full-colour metallic portrait of the Queen in the large window. This is the first and only time she is shown wearing any type of crown on a Canadian bank note. The portrait is based on a 1951 picture by renowned Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh. It was taken within six months of the Queen's accession to the throne, which makes it a compelling choice for commemorating her historic reign. The same photo, with her tiara removed, was previously used for the 1954 Canadian Landscape series as well as for a commemorative note in 1967 marking Canada's centennial.

20 dollars 2015 - Canada Banknote

Elizabeth II on other numismatic items

Related numismatic tools, articles and links

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