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Canada's new plastic money yields spooky, sexy images for some

The first bills to go plastic will be the $100 notes in November, 2011. The $50 notes will follow next March 2012. The rest of the plastic money will be in circulation by the end of 2013. The polymer bank notes have security features that make them harder to fake than paper money.

Bank of Canada/Bank of Canada

Canada's new plastic money may give you a little more bang for your buck.

New documents show a focus group mistook the depiction of a strand of DNA on the $100 bill for a sex toy, and most people thought the see-through window on the polymer notes was shaped like the contours of a woman's body. Tweaked versions of the new bills will go into circulation next month.

Worried that Canadians would find all kinds of unintended images on the bills, the Bank of Canada used focus groups to spot "potential controversies," according to internal documents.

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"The overall purpose of the research was to disaster check the $50 and $100 notes among the general public and cash handlers," says a January report to the central bank.

The Canadian Press obtained the report along with other documents under the Access to Information Act.

Although nearly every group thought the see-through window looked like a woman's body, participants were often shy about pointing it out. "However, once noted, it often led to acknowledgment and laughter among many of the participants in a group," the report states.

The new $100 bills feature two portraits of prime minister Robert Borden.

On the other side of the bill, there's an image of a researcher at a microscope and a depiction of the double-helix structure of DNA.

But the DNA strand evoked something else. A Vancouver focus group thought it looked like a sex toy (i.e., sex beads)." Others thought it was the Big Dipper.

There was no mistaking the microscope, but when focus groups flipped over the bill, they noticed the edge of the instrument showed through like a weird birthmark on Mr. Borden's cheek.

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Every focus group thought they saw religious iconography on the face of the Peace Tower clock. "It was often described as 'The Star of David.' Others referred to it as a 'pagan' or 'religious symbol,' " the document says.

"This evoked a response that suggested that the depiction of religious icons on Canadian bank notes was strongly resisted."

The research also raised red flags about the new $50 bill.

Some focus groups saw spooky shapes inside the port holes of the research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen.





And some assumed the Amundsen was a foreign ship while others saw the Stars and Stripes fluttering from the anchor port. The Montreal group noted that oil companies have used the coast guard ship.





Bank of Canada spokeswoman Julie Girard said the bills got tweaked after the focus groups.

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"Before and after those focus groups, there were design changes for multiple reasons," she said.

The first bills to go plastic will be the $100 notes in November. The $50 notes will follow next March. The rest of the plastic money will be in circulation by the end of 2013.

The polymer bank notes have security features that make them harder to fake than paper money.





























With a file from Kim Mackrael in Toronto

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