Maple-scented bills the latest rumour in Canada’s quirky currency history

A representative with the Bank of Canada displays the new polymer $5 and $10 bank notes alongside the $20, $50, …
If someone told you that the Bank of Canada spent millions of dollars makings its new polymer bills smell like maple syrup, would you believe them?

For many people, the answer is yes. Enough people believed a rumour that new bank notes released by Canada's money ministry were purposely infused with the scent of maple that the information commissioner of Canada was called to investigate.

The Canadian Press reports the rumours started shortly after the first new $100 bill was released in November 2011. Here are a few examples of inquiries received by the Bank of Canada:

  • "I would like to know ... once and for all if these bills are in fact scented, as I do detect a hint of maple when smelling the bill."
  • "They all have a scent which I'd say smells like maple? Please advise if this is normal?"
  • "The note ... lost its maple smell. I strongly suggest the Bank increases the strength of the ... maple smell."

[ Related: Canadians ask about maple syrup smell on new bank notes ]

So what led these people to believe such a bizarre rumour? Well, aside from what their noses told them to believe, of course.

Perhaps it is Canada's convoluted history with currency that lends credence to such claims. Our recent transition from paper to polymer bills hasn't been without its controversies and oddities.

Very recently, Canadian botanist Sean Blaney claimed the new $20, $50 and $100 bills featured the foreign Norway maple leaf instead of the sugar maple leaf that is found in abundance around Canada.

The Norway maple has become naturalized to Canada but is not native flora. The grand sugar maple is what is believed to be featured on Canada's national flag.

According to Reuters, a Bank of Canada spokesperson said the maple leaf used on the new currency is not meant to represent any specific maple strain. (That whole hubbub led to questions about what leaves were on the Canadian penny, but those suckers are being weaned from circulation.)

But that is only one of several polymer puzzlers. There were also a series of images considered and rejected from the bills, including a Chinese dragon parade, images of the ice wine industry, ethnic hockey players and a turban-wearing RCMP officer.

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There were also moments of outrage over a decision to replace an intended $100 design featuring an Asian-looking scientist with a woman of ambiguous heritage, and a decision to include an image on the $20 bill of a monument that features the statue of a naked woman.

Oh, and there are also reports of the new plastic bills melting in the heat.

So what is all this saying? Mostly, that the roll out of the new polymer bills has been less than smooth. Also, the idea that the Bank of Canada might infuse the new bills with the scent of maple isn't as outrageous as it seems.

For the record: No, Canada's new polymer currency was not scented with maple syrup. That won't stop the most ardent from believing, however. The nose knows what it wants to note.