Topic: can anybody decipher this?  (Read 1162 times)
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« on: August 26, 2023, 06:16:44 pm »

This looks like Oriental writing of some kind, on the back of an Imperial Bank of Canada $20 note.
I would appreciate any help with interpretation!!

Collecting Canadian since 1955
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« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2023, 01:27:13 am »

This Chinese character is written in a calligraphic style, likely with a fountain pen or fine brush, and is thus slightly hard for a modern audience to read. The language is probably either Chinese or Japanese, based on IBC's late-19th/early 20th century window of existence (Vietnam had already migrated to French-based Roman letters, and Korea had it's own alphabet, hangul, by then). I don't know Chinese at all, so what I'll say is from a Japanese language perspective.

And please this a grain of salt; there have been waves of Japanese script reform since 1900, extending though the period after WWII. This means that many characters were simplified decades ago, and this character could be an older and more complex version of what is in use today. I can't make out the exact character.

It appears to be some type of a tree based on what looks like the "tree" radical on the left, 木. The character could be 杉 (cedar, "sugi"), 松 (pine, "matsu"), 樫 (oak, "kashi"), 栃 (chestnut, "tochi") or the like. Just as trees are very common, the use of specific trees in the names of people, places, corporations, or even banks is also very common.

For example, the electronics manufacturer Panasonic was founded by Konosuke Matsushita (松下 幸之助) (Matsushita = 'below the pine tree"), and was formerly called "Matsushita Electric Industrial Co." So the single character 松 could be used as an abbreviation for either his family name, or the company.

Unfortunately a single character does not provide much context at all. Think of how an "A" alone could mean almost anything, but "AB" could mean Alberta. If paired with another character, such as in Panasonic's founder and company name 松下, we would have more context.

So, in short, this single character is probably some type of a tree, and is probably being used as an abbreviation for someone's name, a city or location, a company, a bank, etc.

Just Bank Notes
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« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2023, 10:12:58 am »

Wow, very insightful "rxcory"!  Thanks for educating us.

Bob, the best I could offer was that this looked similar to a crude map of Newfoundland!  Just kidding of course.

Can you tell if this is a stamp or was it drawn by hand?  If it is a stamp, we might see more old charter bank notes with a similar mark.
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« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2023, 08:16:03 am »

Thank you both for your comments.
As rxcory says, the symbol is done with pen or brush - definitely not stamped.
There is a small stamp impression elsewhere on the note, an S in a box with a vertical arrow thing through it, all in red.
To help pin down the period, the note is dated 1920.

Collecting Canadian since 1955

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