Plastic or Plastic? Canada is Saying Goodbye to Paper Money

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Mark Blinch / Reuters

A man holds the new Canadian 100 dollar bill made of polymer.

Our neighbor to the north is switching to plastic. No, not credit and debit cards. Plastic cash.

In a high-tech and rather futuristic move largely to avoid counterfeiting, Canada began circulating all-plastic $100 bills last week. They’re made out of polymer, and quite honestly, they look completely awesome.

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The bill is made from a single piece of smooth polymer, and in certain places – like on the large “100,” the words “Bank of Canada” and the shoulders of Sir Robert Borden (former Canadian primer minster) the ink is raised, adding multiple layers of security.

On the right is a large transparent “window,” which replicates the main image of the prime minister and below it includes a building. Tilt the bill and – whoa! – the building changes color.

But by far the coolest (and arguably hardest feature to replicate) is the maple leaf window. With a light source coming in from the other side, if you raise the window close to your eye you’ll see hidden numbers that correspond to the value of the bill. Whoa, again! (Apparently Canada also wants you to know that the money won’t dissolve in water, as this infomercial-like photo shows.)

The Bank of Canada, which announced the new bills this summer and began phasing them last Monday, says the notes will last twice as long as paper money and can also be recycled.

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Canada plans to introduce $50 polymer notes in March and then $5 and $10 bills in 2013.

You can check out a slick Canadian video here to see the bill’s security features as it soars through clouds.