Polymer Notes

Posted on 10/26/2010

This month I’m writing about one of my favorite banknote types, the polymer note.

Polymer banknotes are made out of a polymer plastic that gives the paper a very smooth feel. They also have a transparent area, which I find interesting. The use of Polymer banknotes by other countries has increased due to their durability and difficulty to counterfeit.

Polymer banknotes were first issued in Australia in 1988 and are made from the polymer polypropylene (BOPP), which greatly enhances durability. In 1967, forgeries of the Australian $10 were found in circulation. As a result, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) collaborated with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and in 1969 funds were earmarked for experimental papers. In 1973, the first patent for the development of polymer banknotes was filed.

Although traditional security features can be applied to polymer banknotes, there are some unique features that make counterfeiting even more difficult. One example is the optically variable device (OVD), the transparent “clear window” area on the note. This area is created by opacification, which is the process of adding two layers of ink to each side of the note while leaving one area without ink. Other traditional security features that can be applied to polymer notes are intaglio, offset and letterpress printing, latent imaging, micro-printing, security threads and watermarks. Due to the polymer BOPP, many security features cannot be duplicated by scanning or photocopying.

As of 2010, eight countries have converted fully to polymer notes: Australia, Bermuda, Brunei, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Romania and Vietnam. Other countries that have used polymer notes are Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, China, Guatemala, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Paraguay, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Province of China, Thailand and Zambia. Thailand and the Solomon Islands no longer issue them. Some nice commemorative issued polymer banknotes are the Australian 1988 10 Dollar (the first issued polymer banknote), the Kuwait 1993 1 Dinar and the Mexican 2010 100 Pesos. I have all three of these in my own collection.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Australia Pick# 49a R#A01 ND (1988) 10 Dollars,
PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
The OVD (in the upper-right corner on the front) includes an image of
Captain James Cook, who first mapped Botany Bay

Polymer banknotes are increasing in popularity throughout the world. In March and June of 2010, Canada and the Dominican Republic announced the introduction of polymer banknotes as part of their attempt to crack down on counterfeiting.

As collecting grows, it is important to become familiar with as many new features as possible. This is one banknote I urge all collectors to get their hands on. Whether for collecting or educational purposes, the polymer banknote is an interesting note worth viewing.

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