OTTAWA - The penny may be history, but some Canadians suspect the Bank of Canada has been circulating a new scent along with its plastic bank notes.
Dozens of people who contacted the bank in the months after the polymer notes first appeared asked about a secret scratch-and-sniff patch that apparently smells like maple syrup.
"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," says a typical email from a perplexed citizen.
Said another: "They all have a scent which I'd say smells like maple? Please advise if this is normal?"
Under the Access to Information Act, The Canadian Press obtained a year's worth of correspondence to the Bank of Canada from ordinary Canadians about the new currency. Names were withheld to protect privacy.
For the record, bank official Jeremy Harrison says no scent has been added to any of the new bank notes.
The maple mystery was born soon after the first polymer note — the $100 bill — was released in November 2011, and has persisted in cyberspace on YouTube videos, blogs and Tweets.
A few people were so convinced about the fragrant funds that they actually complained to bank officials that some of their new plastic notes were odour-free.
"The note ... lost its maple smell," said one writer. "I strongly suggest the Bank increases the strength of the ... maple smell."
Another correspondent asked for an explanation after he "could not discern any maple syrup aroma. ... I would very much appreciate if you could confirm or bust this myth."
Yet another cited an alleged scratch-and-sniff area on the new $100 bank note: "I could smell the scent once but not all the time. ... I bet a couple friends and cannot find proof, is it just me"?
One person wrote in French asking for the bank's confirmation or denial of the maple scent to forestall a nasty family dispute at the dinner table.
"Everyone I asked who's smelt the bills agree they smell like maple," wrote someone convinced the odour was real.
"So, did the Bank purposely scent them maple? Or is it just a coincidence?"
The Bank of Canada's repeated denials are unlikely to quash the Myth of the Maple Moola.
A Vancouver woman who creates perfumes said her discerning nose picked up the scent of maple in the very first $100 polymer bills she encountered.
"I didn't know about this phenomenon until a friend asked me to close my eyes and tell him what I smelled," Monique Sherrett said in an email to The Canadian Press.
Sherrett, who has created a small collection of Harry Potter-inspired perfumes or potions, says the bills had been freshly removed from the friend's back pocket.
"I do think heat has something to do with activating the smell. ... Scratching will create some heat friction but my friend's warm butt is likely the activator."
The Bank of Canada initially withheld all of the public correspondence about the new polymer bank notes, citing privacy concerns, but recently released a package of material after an investigation by the information commissioner of Canada.
In dozens of emails and telephone calls, people complained about other aspects of the plastic notes, such as:
— the new bills generally exclude images of women, whereas the old bills celebrated women's-rights pioneers and others;
— the notes stick to one another, making them hard to count. The bank says that's normal for all brand-new bills and will disappear as the currency gets handled;
— the stylized maple leaf on the currency represents a Norway Maple, a foreign invasive species. The bank categorically rejects that claim;
— the bills are prone to melting when exposed to high heat, such as in a clothes dryer. The bank says its extensive, rigorous testing disproves that.