The dollar is the lowest form of paper currency in the United States of America.

Once upon a time, the dollar bill was backed by precious metals such as gold or silver, and a note of legal tender, but now the dollar isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

Dollar Bill

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According to First Lady Laura Bush's speech at a recent White House Press Correspondents' Dinner, "Dollar Bill" became Lynn Cheney's Secret Service codename after they went with Condoleezza Rice to a strip club.

Now that I have your attention, the Canadian dollar bill is no longer in circulation. It has been replaced with a dollar coin affectionately known as the loonie. ("How can you take an economic crisis seriously?" asked Robin Williams. I don't know.)

The first Canadian dollar bill was issued at the same time that other Canadian currencies were initially issued — 1935. It bore the image of King George V on the left-hand side and was green, just like American money.

The back of the first Canadian dollar bill featured an agricultural scene. Both sides were decorated with ornate designs around the edges. When Canadians looked at this bill they felt an immense pride, knowing that they finally had their own currency and would be carrying George V around in their pockets for years to come.

Which they would have, had he not died in 1936.

Due in part to the death of George V, the ascension and then abdication of his first son and the subsequent ascension of his second son, George VI, a new set of banknotes was issued in 1937. George VI was depicted on this one, and like on other bills, his portrait was in the centre. The agricultural scene remained on the back.

George VI died in 1952, and a new set of banknotes was issued in 1954 depicting his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II. The bill was still green, although a much lighter green (almost like a mint green) was used for the background. The images were darker. The Queen's portrait was moved to the right-hand side and the edging was changed to be more angular, modern and less ornate than previous issues.

The back of the 1954 issue dollar bill depicted a scene on the prairies of Saskatchewan. A bill that was almost identical to the 1954 issue was released in 1967, save for the fact that the image on the back was of the original Canadian parliament buildings.

An increase in counterfeitting activity led to yet another set of banknotes in 1969. This one featured more ornate edging designs on the basis of them being harder to duplicate. The front of the bill still featured the Queen's portrait on the right-hand side as well as the Canadian coat of arms. The back of the bill continued to feature Parliament Hill, though the vantage point was changed to put the viewer across the Ottawa River. The other key difference was that the parliament buildings here still exist. Those on the 1967 bill had been destroyed by fire years earlier.

The back and front were also two different shades of green. The front side with the Queen and the coat of arms were much darker and much closer to black. The back of the bill used a much brighter green.

Another edition of the "Scenes of Canada" series was released, with this one dollar bill featuring loggers.

By the 1980s, the cost of producing eight paper bills (the dollar bill, two dollar bill, five dollar bill, ten dollar bill, twenty dollar bill, fifty dollar bill, hundred dollar bill and rare but still existent thousand dollar bill) had grown to the point that the Bank of Canada was not interested in producing eight paper bills anymore. Coins were cheaper to make in the long-run because they lasted longer and had to be replaced less often. When the "Birds of Canada" paper bill series was issued in 1986, the one dollar bill was not part of it.

The existing one dollar bill remained in circulation until 1989, when it was withdrawn and printing formally ceased. Even as of 2007, one dollar bills are still legal tender. The Bank of Canada just doesn't produce them.

Canadians marked the passing of the one dollar bill with mixed feelings. Inflation had caused a single dollar to be closer to loose change than a significant monetary amount. The advent of the "loonie" one dollar coin started a trend that would later see the two dollar bill discontinued and replaced by the "toonie" two dollar coin. The Canadian government would later propose scrapping the five dollar bill in favour of a five dollar coin ("foonie?"), but the public wouldn't take it.

The loonie has been in circulation more than 15 years now. I can't ever really remember using one dollar bills, though I still have some. While travelling with my family in the U.S. a few summers ago, a restaurant bill came to $23 with tax and tip. I sort of forgot where I was and, upon seeing my dad hand over four paper bills, quietly exclaimed "how much did you just give that woman?"

The smallest paper currency in Canada is currently worth $5, you see. Oops.


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