The National Currency Collection is a remarkable repository of coins, bank notes, and related materials from around the world. Assembled initially through government acquisition of important private collections, and enhanced by judicious purchases and donations, the National Currency Collection represents the finest and most complete collection of Canadian notes, coins, and tokens in the world.
Boasting more than 104,000 artifacts, it includes currency from around the world and from all historical periods. It features materials used for producing money such as dies, plates, and engraving tools; items used to help keep track of money like ledgers and accounts kept by banks and governments; weights and scales for measuring money; cash registers, savings banks, and wallets for storing money; and numismatic medals and cards for studying money. And just to underline its inclusiveness, it also offers examples of counterfeit money.
Also of note is the Collection’s Library and Archives which contain more than 8,500 books, pamphlets, catalogues, and journals dating back to medieval times.
Under the stewardship of the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada, the Collection supports the Museum’s mission to preserve Canada’s numismatic heritage. To this end, the curators of the NCC continually seek to augment the Collection holdings in order to enhance the comprehensive nature of the Collection.
To fulfill the other aspect of the Museum’s mission—to enrich the lives of Canadians through meaningful communication and experiences about money, the central bank, and the economy—curatorial staff are also engaged in ongoing research and publication activities. Research on the Collection and other money-related topics addresses the Collection development as well as the development of exhibitions and programs of the Currency Museum.
A Brief History of the Museum
The idea to assemble a national numismatic collection was first championed in the late 1950s by the Governor of the Bank of Canada of the time, James Coyne. The Bank began collecting numismatic materials, including bank notes issued by Canada’s private chartered banks, to showcase the development of Canada’s currency over the previous 150 years. The Canadian numismatic specialist, G.R.L. Potter, was hired to help develop the collection.
In 1962 Coyne’s successor, Governor Louis Rasminsky, directed Sheldon S. Carroll, the Bank’s first Curator, to expand the collection and develop a complete collection of Canadian coins, tokens, and paper money. Carroll also sought to develop representative collections of articles related to banking and monetary affairs, in addition to ancient, medieval, and modern foreign coins and paper money. The core of the Collection was assembled during this period with the cooperation of government departments, Crown corporations, security printing firms, and chartered banks.
The Bank also acquired a considerable number of artifacts from private collectors and public archives. Part of the collection of J. Douglas Ferguson, the most important Canadian collector of his time, was purchased in 1963. This acquisition included paper money issued from the French regime, as well as a significant selection of ancient, medieval, and contemporary coins.
Another significant acquisition of the National Currency Collection came in 1965 with the transfer of a sizeable collection of coins from the Public Archives of Canada. Included in this acquisition was the Hart Collection, which was purchased by the Canadian government in 1883. The Bank also purchased in 1974 a large collection from the Château de Ramezay, home of the Antiquarian and Numismatic Society of Montréal, Canada’s first numismatic society founded in 1862. This acquisition included the collection of R.W. McLachlan, Canada’s premier numismatist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In 1977 the Canadian Secretary of State recognized the Bank’s role as the custodian of Canada’s numismatic heritage and designated the collection as the National Currency Collection.
The expansion of the Head Office building of the Bank of Canada in the mid-1970s enabled the Bank to give the Collection more of a public face. The Currency Museum, which would showcase many of the artifacts of the National Currency Collection through its exhibits and educational programs, was housed in a prominent, main-floor location in the original Bank of Canada building. It officially opened its doors to the public on 5 December 1980.
Since 1980, significant purchases and important donations or bequests have helped the National Currency Collection continue to grow and change. In recent years the Museum has focused on acquiring colonial-era currencies as well as more recent products—all part of its overall goal to assemble a truly comprehensive collection of Canadian media of exchange. While most new acquisitions are purchases, a significant number of artifacts come to the Collection as gifts or donations. Those wishing to offer material to the Collection should contact 613 782-8914.