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Canadian currency reaching new galaxies?

by Annika Backe

October 29, 2015 – A funny campaign or already a defamation of the state? This question is currently discussed in Canada. More and more people are cultivating a strange hobby there: With a few strokes of a pen, they ‘embellish’ circulating 5 dollar notes and turn the portrait of Canada‘s 7th Prime Minister Wilfried Laurier (1896-1911) into an image of a certain Mr Spock. Ink the pointy ears, the sharp eyebrows and the bowl haircut on the note and you will have changed the public figure into the famous character from TV series Star Trek in a couple of seconds.
'Spocked' Canadian 5 dollar bill. Photograph: Kelapstick / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.de

'Spocked' Canadian 5 dollar bill. Photograph: Kelapstick / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.de

Responsible for this trend is Canadian artist Ted Bagley who, at first, had pursued completely different interests: slightly modified, such a note would be a splendid way to get into contact with waitresses. A gag to the rest of the world, this old bar trick has become something of a tradition in Canada. For many years now, an increasing number of Canadian people is expressing its creativity this way, and, in 2008, a Facebook group has been built under the name (and call) ‘Spock up your fives’. 

Wilfried Laurier, Canada's Prime Minister 1896-1911.

Wilfried Laurier, Canada's Prime Minister 1896-1911.

The attitude of the Bank of Canada, on the other hand, is not that laid-back. As early as 2002, the official bank spokeswoman Josianne Menard said: “The Bank of Canada feels that writing and markings on banknotes are inappropriate as they are a symbol of our country and a source of national pride.” Once understood as a defamation of national symbols, there was no stopping the members of social media. More and more of these altered 5 dollar bills were posted on Twitter and Facebook. Even when ‘spocked’, the notes continue to be legal tender, by the way – as long as the serial number is still recognizable.

In an attempt to spoil the Star Trek fans’ enjoyment, in 2013, the Bank of Canada issued a new note which features a portrait of Laurier with less resemblance to the facial features of the Vulcan Starfleet Officer. The attempt, however, failed – as a matter of fact, even more fivers were spocked, particularly when the actor of the Star Trek character, Leonard Nimoy, died in February 2015. What had been a trend became a tribute to Nimoy and, ultimately, a cult. And an ever-growing number of bills – which are all unique, needless to add – are turning up on the internet auction platform eBay at the moment, prices starting at 10 dollars. What would be the reply of immortal Mr Spock to all this? “Fascinating.”

Please find more images of ‘spocked’ Canadian 5 dollar notes here.

Here you can see that other bills are also suited to be altered.

Pius IX. 5 lire 1870, Rome. Ex Peus Auction 412 (2014), 564.

Pius IX. 5 lire 1870, Rome. Ex Peus Auction 412 (2014), 564.

And the fact that the tradition of this kind of social criticism stretches back a few centuries is evidenced by this 5 lire piece of Pius X which depicts him as an Alm-Uncle with pipe and cap.

Star Trek will enjoy this YouTube movie with Leonard Nimoy speaking about his memories.

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