Dirty, sexy money

The Canadian Press ~ OBJ
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People saw sex toys, religious symbols on plastic cash

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney holds a new $100 bill as he unveils the new polymer bank notes in $50 and $100 denominations at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on June 20, 2011. — Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

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

New documents show a focus group mistook a strand of DNA on the $100 bill for a sex toy.

Most people also thought the see-through window on the new polymer notes was shaped like the contours of a woman’s body.

Others looked into the port holes of a famed Canadian icebreaker and saw a skull and crossbones staring back at them.

These are just some of the offbeat images focus groups thought they saw on the plastic bank notes that go into circulation next month.

Internal documents show the Bank of Canada fretted that Canadians would find all kinds of unintended images on the new bills. So the bank used focus groups to spot “potential controversies.”

“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.

Almost every group thought the see-through window looked like a woman’s body, but 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 new $100s 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 was “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 bir6thmark on Borden’s cheek.

Respondents also thought the former prime minister was either cross-eyed or that each eye was looking off in a different direction, the report says.

“Others felt that the PM’s moustache is unkempt.”

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.

“The small white windows at the front of the icebreaker’s bow were believed to have faces in them,” a report says.

“One respondent who saw faces in the windows suggested that they looked like skulls and crossbones.”

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

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

Organizations: Bank of Canada, Canadian Press, The Star

Geographic location: Ottawa, Canada, Vancouver

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Recent comments

  • bern tobin
    October 26, 2011 - 07:26

    Who gives a crap about the deep seeded issues of focus groups who focus on anything and everything negative just to get media attention. Lets see the big picture and stick to the issue at hand, "Saving money for the taxpayers in the long run"

  • axle
    October 25, 2011 - 19:58

    something like the skulland crossbone on the american money