Polymer banknote

Polymer banknote

Polymer banknotes were developed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and The University of Melbourne and were first issued as currency in Australia in 1988. These banknotes are made from the polymer biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP) which greatly enhances durability of the banknotes. Polymer banknotes also incorporate many security features not available to paper banknotes, making counterfeiting much more difficult.

Trading as "Securency", the RBA together with Innovia Films, market BOPP as 'Guardian' for countries with their own banknote printing facilities. Note Printing Australia (a subsidiary of the RBA) prints commemorative banknotes and banknotes for circulation and has done so for 20 countries.

An alternative polymer of polyethylene fibres marketed as Tyvek by DuPont was developed for use as currency by the American Bank Note Company in the early 1980s. Tyvek did not perform well in trials, smudging of ink and fragility were reported problems. Only Costa Rica and Haiti issued Tyvek banknotes (test notes were produced for Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras and Venezuela but never placed in circulation); additionally, English printers Bradbury Wilkinson produced a version on Tyvek but marketed as Bradvek for the Isle of Man in 1983; however, they are no longer produced and have become collectors' items.

Development of polymer banknotes

Polymer banknotes were developed to increase the security of Australia's paper currency against counterfeiting. In 1967 forgeries of the Australian $10 note were found in circulation and the RBA was concerned about an increase in counterfeiting with the release of colour photocopiers that year. In 1968 the RBA started collaborations with the CSIRO and funds were made available in 1969 for the experimental production of distinctive papers.

The insertion of an optically variable device (OVD) created from diffraction gratings in plastic as a security device inserted in banknotes was proposed in 1972. The first patent arising from the development of polymer banknotes was filed in 1973. In 1974 the technique of lamination was used to combine materials; the all-plastic laminate eventually chosen was a clear, BOPP laminate, in which OVDs could be inserted without needing to punch holes. The BOPP substrate is processed through the following steps:
*Opacifying - two layers of ink (usually white) are applied to each side of the note, except for an area(s) that is deliberately left clear for creating an OVD;
*Sheeting - the substrate is cut into sheets suitable for the printing press;
*Printing - traditional offset, intaglio and letterpress printing processes are used; and
*Overcoating - notes are coated with a protective varnish.

BOPP is a non-fibrous and non-porous polymer. Compared to paper banknotes, banknotes made using BOPP are more durable, harder to tear, more resistant to folding, more resistant to soil, waterproof (and washing machine proof), easier to machine process, and are shreddable and recyclable at the end of their useful lives. On the downside, they have a slightly less robust feel in the hand due to their slipperiness, their higher "springiness" makes them resistant to folding, and if they are crease-folded by running a hard object along the crease, the crease is semi-permanent. Small tears are hard to initiate but the very low internal tear resistance of polymer notes results in fragmentation if they do occur. On heating to around 100 - 120C the notes shrink dramatically.

ecurity features

The traditional printed security features applied on paper can also be applied on polymer. These features include intaglio, offset and letterpress printing, latent images, micro-printing, and intricate background patterns. Polymer notes can be different colours on the obverse and reverse sides. Like paper currency, polymer banknotes can incorporate a watermark (an optically variable 'shadow image') in the polymer substrate. Shadow images can be created by the application of Optically Variable Ink (OVI) enhancing its fidelity and colour shift characteristics. Security threads can also be embedded in the polymer note; they may be magnetic, fluorescent, phosphorescent, microprinted, clear text, as well as windowed. Like paper, the polymer can also be embossed.

Polymer notes also enabled new security features unavailable at the time on paper, such as transparent windows, and diffraction grating. Since 2006 however the development of the paper transparent window technologies by De La Rue (Optiks) and G&D (Verify) have reduced that advantage.

The transparent window where the OVD is located is a key security feature of the polymer banknote. It is easily identifiable allowing anyone to be able to authenticate a banknote.

Because the polymer bank note contains many security features that cannot be successfully reproduced by photocopying or scanning, it is very difficult to counterfeit. The complexities of counterfeiting polymer banknotes are proposed to act as a deterrent to counterfeiters.

"See also" Security printing

Adoption of polymer banknotes

As of 2008, six countries have converted fully to polymer banknotes: Australia, New Zealand, Romania, Vietnam, Brunei and Papua New Guinea. Other countries with notes printed on Guardian polymer in circulation include: Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong (for a 2-year trial), Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Singapore, Solomon Islands (no longer issued), Sri Lanka, Thailand, Samoa and Zambia.Countries that have issued commemorative banknotes (which are not in circulation) on Guardian polymer include: China, Taiwan, Kuwait, Northern Irelandfn|1 and Singapore.

Timeline of adoptions and withdrawals

*In 1982 and 1983, the American Bank Note Company printed banknotes for Costa Rica (20 colones dated 1983 and trial notes of 100 colones) and Haiti (1, 2, 50, 100, 250 and 500 Gourdes, on DuPont's Tyvek polymers. These had fairly limited release, but did circulate in each country. Additional trial and specimen banknotes were developed for Honduras, Ecuador and El Salvador. Unfortunately, in tropical climates, ink did not bind well to the polymer and the notes began smearing quite badly.

*In 1983, the British printers Bradbury Wilkinson produced a promotional version of polymer banknotes which were marketed as Bradvek. The Isle of Man issued a 1 pound Bradvek banknote which circulated from 1983 to 1988. Another British printer, Harrison and Sons Limited also produced a promotional banknote, but did not have any buyers.

*In 1988, Australia issued a commemorative 10-dollar banknote, the first of many issues.

*In 1990, Western Samoa, later renamed Samoa issued a 2 Tala commemorative banknote honouring 50 years of service by His Highness Susaga Malietoa Tunumafili II. This banknote was placed in circulation and has the distinction of having the longest period of circulation, as of 2006 it had been circulating for 16 years, and has been reprinted with minor variations at least 7 times.

*In August 1990, Singapore issued a $50 commemorative banknote, and in 2004 issued its first circulating $10 banknote, followed by a $2 issue in 2006. The $5 banknote and the commemorative $20 banknote was issued in 2007.

*In June 1991, Papua New Guinea issued a commemorative 2 Kina banknote, its first polymer issue.

*In 1992, Australia began issuing polymer notes for general circulation.

*In February 1993, Kuwait issued the first of its commemorative banknotes, a 1 Dinar issue honouring the liberation of Kuwait during the First Gulf War.

*In 1993, Indonesia issued its first polymer banknote, the 50,000 rupiah note commemorating 25 years of development. A paper equivalent was also available at the same time.

*In 1996, Australia became the first country with a full set of circulating polymer banknotes in each denomination, from 5 to 100 dollars.

*In 1996, Thailand issued both a 50 and a 500 baht note commemorating the 50th anniversary of the reign of Bhumibol Adulyadej.

*In February 1996, Brunei issued 1, 5 and 10 ringgit banknotes. These were the first non-commemorative banknotes issued outside of Australia (and the 1982 issues).

*In 1997, Thailand issued a 50 baht note as its first polymer note for general circulation.

*In February 1998, Sri Lanka issued a 200 Rupee commemorative polymer banknote.

*In 1998, Malaysia issued a commemorative banknote in conjunction with the XVI Commonwealth Games; it issued a 5 ringgit circulating banknote in 2004.

*On 3 May 1999, New Zealand released the polymer $20 note, by the end of the year replacing all denominations from $5 to $100 with polymer banknotes.

*In 1999, Romania was the first European country to introduce a full set of circulating polymer banknotes (the banknotes were issued between 1999 and 2001).

*In 1999, Indonesia issued its first polymer banknote for general circulation, the 100,000 rupiah note.

*In June 1999, the Republic of China (Taiwan) issued a 50-dollar note to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the issuance of the New Taiwan dollar.

*In 1999, the Northern Bank, one of five banknote-issuing authorities in Northern Ireland issued a 5-pound commemorative note celebrating the year 2000; this note was placed in circulation, and was also sold at a premium to collectors with a Y2K serial number prefix.

* In April 2000, Brazil released a 10 real polymer bill to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Portuguese arrival in America. Casa da Moeda do Brasil printed 250 million banknotes, around half the 10 real bills in circulation.

* In November 2000, the People's Republic of China issued a 100 yuan note to commemorate the millennium.

* In December 2000, Bangladesh issued 10-Taka polymer notes.

* In 2000, the Chatham Islands issued the first of three sets of commemorative "banknotes" for the collecting market.

* On 1 January 2001, Australia issued a commemorative $5 polymer banknote. It commemorated the centenary of federation.

* In June 2001, the Solomon Islands issued $2 polymer banknotes, however they reverted back to paper notes in 2006.

* In the summer of 2001, Vietnam issued a 50-dong commemorative banknote.

* In February 2002, Nepal issued a 10 rupee polymer banknote, commemorating the new King Gyanendra. In 2005 it issued a version for circulation without the commemorative text.

* In September 2002, Mexico switched 20 peso banknotes from paper to polymer banknotes. Two more new polymer notes issued in 2006, for the 20 pesos (new design) and 50 pesos. [http://www.bancodemexico.com.mx/billetesymonedas/didactico/billetes_FabCaractHis/presentaciones/presentaciones_nueva_fam.html]

* In 2003, Zambia was the first African country to adopt polymer banknotes, with 500 and 1000 kwacha denominations.

* In November 2003, Papua New Guinea issued a 20 kina banknote, and began the process of issuing all denominations in polymer format. The only remaining denomination not in polymer is the 5 kina note.

* From December 2003 to August 2006, Vietnam adopted polymer banknote in 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 200,000 and 500,000 đồng for general circulation, [http://www.chemistry.org/portal/a/c/s/1/feature_ent.html?id=c373e901b8615f2a8f6a17245d830100] becoming the fourth country to fully convert to polymer notes.

* In September 2004, the 2000 Chilean peso bills began to be issued in polymer banknotes

* In 2004 it was estimated that there were over 3 billion polymer notes in service.

* In 2004, the only polymer note for general circulation in Thailand, the 50 baht note issued in 1997, was reissued in paper format. Commemorative notes continue to be issued in polymer format.

* In 2004, the only polymer note for general circulation in Indonesia, the 100,000 rupiah note issued in 1999, was re-issued on paper.

* In 2005, Papua New Guinea issued the new 100 kina note, its first denomination that was never printed in paper format.

* In July 2005, Romania became the first country to issue a full second generation of plastic notes of each of its denominations; the notes bearing the same design format as the old notes, but their size brings them in line with euro banknotes, and are denominated in a reformed currency where 1 new leu = 10,000 lei

* In 2005, Bulgaria issued the first hybrid paper/polymer banknotes, denominated 20 (new) leva, featuring two plastic "windows" and a hologram.

* In November 2006 Mexico issued a new 50 pesos polymer banknotes.

* In 2006 CSIRO, the Australian Government agency issued a non legal tender polymer note to celebrate 80th year of the formation of CSIRO. These notes were issued and distributed to staff members and at selected public events. [cite web
title=Promotional prints (Y) / CSIRO

* On February 28, 2007, Nigeria issued the 20 naira note as polymer banknotes.

* In mid 2007, Hong Kong issued the polymer 10 dollar note for a 2-year trial period.

* In June 2007, Brunei became the fifth country to fully convert to polymer notes.

* In August 2007, Guatemala issued a 1 quetzal polymer banknote.

* In 2008, Nicaragua will issue a 200 Córdobas polymer banknote, and will adopt polymer banknotes for the 20 and 10 Córdobas denominations.

* On 13 April 2008, Israel started to issue 20 NIS Banknotes, due to the high deterioration of 20 NIS paper banknotes. The Israeli polymer notes are printed by Orell Füssli Security Printing of Zürich, Switzerland.

* On 15 April 2008, Papua New Guinea issued 5 and new 10 kina banknotes for general circulation. 5 Kina being the last denomination for Papua New Guinea on polymer.


* [http://www.polymernotes.org/ Polymer Bank Notes of the World (by Stane Štraus), the world's leading reference for polymer bank notes]
* [http://www.austehc.unimelb.edu.au/guides/plbn/plbn.htm Currency Note Research and Development Project, CSIRO, Division of Chemicals and Polymers Guide to Records]
* [http://www.csiro.au/index.asp?type=faq&id=Polymer%20Banknotes&stylesheet=divisionFaq CSIRO-Polymer banknote information sheet]
* [http://www.noteprinting.com/ Note Printing Australia]
* [http://www.securency.com.au/ Securency]
* [http://www.polymernotes.de/ Polymer Bank Notes website in German by Thomas Krause]
* [http://uninews.unimelb.edu.au/articleid_3801.html Professor David Solomon - Inventor of Plastic Bank Note Wins 2006 Victoria] Prize


* Although the 5 pound Northern Bank polymer banknote was a one-off commemorative issued, unconventionally, in portrait orientation to mark the year 2000, it was in general circulation, with normal serial numbers (the commemorative version has serial numbers beginning with "Y2K", normal versions with "MM"). It is the only Northern Bank note currently in circulation which was not affected by the recall of all the bank's notes as a result of the 26.5 million pound raid on its Belfast headquarters on 20 December 2004.

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