1. Devil in the detail
Perhaps one of the most bizarre incidents in banknote history occurred in the 1950s, after the Bank of Canada issued dollar bills featuring a portrait of the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II. In the months following the release of the notes, a number of people complained to the bank, saying they could see the image of a devil’s face nestling in the Queen’s hair.
In March 1956, the Toronto Daily Star called on the bank to “Remove Devil in Queen’s Curls By Changing Currency Engraving”. The Bank took note: the following year, the Ottawa Citizen reported: “New $1 bills now being issued carry the same photograph. But the Queen’s hair has been retouched to remove the ‘devil.’ ”
2. The Reserve Bank and the Royal
One of the first tasks bestowed on Australia’s new central bank in 1960 was to create a decimal currency and a distinctive set of Australian banknotes. But what to call the new cash?
A competition to generate ideas from the public led to a clutch of evocative suggestions, including “the Oz”, “the roo”, “the kanga”, “the boomer”, and even “the dinkum”. After careful consideration, the government chose to go with an altogether more solemn name – “the royal”.
According to treasurer Harold Holt, the name was selected as it emphasised the country’s “link with the Crown” while also being “a dignified word with a pleasing sound”. Uproar ensued. Within three months, the government changed its mind, announcing that the currency unit would be named simply “the dollar”.
3. Misspelling the president
In 2005, the central bank of the Philippines issued a new batch of 100 peso notes in time for Christmas. Unfortunately, the notes contained a mistake: the surname of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, had been misspelled as “Arrovo”.
The bank, which had outsourced the printing of the notes to a European company, swiftly apologised to the president and announced an investigation into the mishap. It also declared the notes legal tender and encouraged the public to treat them as a collectors’ items.
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