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The following article appeared in the March 2007 issue of the Canadian Paper Money Society Newsletter. It is an original work of the author, Brent W.J. Mackie. All rights reserved. © Copyright 2006-2008 Brent W.J. Mackie.

Missing Front Plate Numbers
1954 Modified Series $1 Notes

By: Brent W.J. Mackie
with research assistance from Oliver Macinski and Hudson Byblow

In his article dealing with 1954 Series asterisk notes1, J. Graham Esler mentioned that in early 1964, Canadian Bank Note Co. Ltd. (CBN) and British American Bank Note Co. Ltd. (BABN) were both given the privilege of omitting plate numbers from their engraved plates, as CBN had requested. In March 1964 however, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) interjected and the Bank of Canada reversed their earlier decision. The Bank then instructed the banknote companies to resume use of plate numbers. In the meantime however, the banknote companies informed the Bank that some $1 notes were printed without plate numbers. The Bank agreed to take delivery of these notes.

This revelation sparked a treasure hunt for me, so I enlisted the assistance of two very good and trustworthy friends. Accessing different markets across the country, we set out on a quest to find these notes. Our search was aided by the remainder of Esler’s article in terms of the timeline of asterisk note orders. This left us with the possibilities being *B/M and *A/A. For regular notes, it was anyone’s guess, however, the notes with missing plate numbers were surely produced prior to the 1967 notes. This meant somewhere in the following group of prefixes:


Since the Beattie/Rasminsky signature pair began in 1961, the desired notes were likely right in the middle of the above ranges (1964 being in the middle of 1961-1967). That logic seems plausible for the regular-issue notes, since they were ordered on a fairly constant and regular basis between 1961 and 1967, but the asterisk notes are a little different.

According to Esler’s article, BABN only started printing *B/M notes in January of 1963. This means our desired notes would be closer to the start of the run. Furthermore, the article continues to mention that while *A/A notes were ordered from CBN regularly, the final order2 of delivered notes was placed in early 1965. This order began with *A/A 0404001, meaning that any missing plate number notes would precede this order, but they would not be too much earlier. Asterisk notes would see potential missing plate numbers somewhere in between the following points:

BABN: *B/M 0000001 - *B/M 11600003 (likely closer to the beginning)
CBN: *A/A 0091201 - *A/A 0404000 (likely closer to the end)

Armed with this information, we set off for coin shows, dealers’ shops and friends’ collections nationwide. Covertly examining every note we saw, we checked the plate numbers, front and back. For each of us, the first few days were fruitful and rewarding. Within a week, we had determined rough ranges for where these missing plate numbers would be found. Nevertheless, the top secret treasure hunt continued. At one point, another close friend and collector had almost caught on to what we were doing, so we had to run a little interference and get this person off the scent, lest our cover be blown.

So far, we have yet to find any notes missing a back plate number (BPN), as Esler’s article suggests that we might. However, we did find a variety of notes missing a front plate number (FPN), from both BABN and CBN, regular-issue and asterisk notes. It quickly became obvious that “no-FPN” regular-issue notes are much harder to come by than their asterisk note counterparts, despite the theoretical range being more than an order of magnitude larger. This simply serves to illustrate the preservation ratio of asterisk notes compared to regular-issue notes.

The table below summarizes our results:

BABN Regular Notes Highest observed with FPN T/M 8560186 2 observed notes w/o FPN
Theoretical maximum range:
4,209,716 notes
Lowest observed without FPN U/M 0391953
Highest observed without FPN U/M 0908843
Lowest observed with FPN U/M 2769901
BABN Asterisk Notes Highest observed with FPN *B/M 0317703 13 observed notes w/o FPN
Theoretical maximum range:
172,900 notes
Lowest observed without FPN *B/M 0320855
Highest observed without FPN *B/M 0476595
Lowest observed with FPN *B/M 0490603
CBN Regular Notes Highest observed with FPN W/N 5762180 2 observed notes w/o FPN
Theoretical maximum range:
4,653,519 notes
Lowest observed without FPN W/N 6167127
Highest observed without FPN W/N 9584154
Lowest observed with FPN X/N 0415699
CBN Asterisk Notes All observed notes (*A/A) featured both front and back plate numbers.

The changeovers occurred exactly where predicted: right in the middle of the aforementioned list of regular-issue prefixes for both printers, and near the beginning of the *B/M notes. The *A/A notes were surprisingly less available, and all observed notes featured both front and back plate numbers.

The top image shows a *B/M note with an FPN. The FPN can be found above the “Bank of Canada – Banque du Canada” ribbon in the lower-left corner of the top panel. (See arrow). Below that are two zoomed-in scans of the FPN areas. The image on the left shows no FPN, whereas the image on the right clearly shows an FPN of 33.

1 Esler, J. Graham (2006) Some Aspects of the 1954 Asterisk Notes Part II: The Modified Notes. Canadian Paper Money Newsletter, Vol 14, pp. 104-113.
2 The actual final order was placed in May 1965 and was composed of *A/A 0468001 - *A/A 0532000. These notes never existed. The highest known *A/A note is 0466167 and comes from the second-last order, referred to as the final order of delivered notes.
3 Canadian Paper Money Newsletter, Vol 13, p. 116. The highest observed 1954 note is *B/M 1159710 and the lowest observed 1967 note is *B/M 1160680. The changeover is reasonably assumed to be at *B/M 1160000.