Anti-counterfeiting technology in and on banknotes has been evolved more over the past 30 years than it has in the entire history of money.
Today’s banknotes are not just used as currency; they are also becoming high-tech anti-counterfeiting devices.
Because copying technology like scanners, colour photocopiers and digital imaging software not only increased in popularity but also dropped in price, the act of counterfeiting banknotes became easier in the late twentieth century. In the United States alone, it is estimated that nearly $10 billion in counterfeit bills were circulated between 1990 and 1995.
In the face of this surplus of bogus bills, the US government began improving their designs and embedding security devices in their banknotes. The US Department of Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the division of the US government that is responsible for the actual design and printing of money crafted new 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollar bills with bigger faces, multi-coloured paper, holograms and reflective inks that change color depending on the lighting.
Around the same time, Europe was developing its single currency – the euro. Given the history of counterfeiting, and the increase in counterfeit bills in the US, officials involved in the creation of the euro to great lengths to protect the currency. Detailed images of the new banknotes weren’t publicized until almost the last moment.
The euro featured four layers of security. The first layer, watermarks and security threads, was announced to the general public. The second layer was a set of seven or eight measures that were announced to about five million professional money handlers. The third layer was another set of features to help machines spot bogus banknotes. The fourth layer still remains a secret.
Creating banknotes with multiple layers is now a common strategy to prevent counterfeiting. Fortress Paper, a leading international supplier of security and specialty papers, recently announced the launch of their multi-layered banknote paper called Durasafe, for example.
Durasafe is a hybrid banknote substrate that consists of a polymer core sandwiched between two 100 per cent cotton paper layers. The outer layers also contain “traditional” security features such as a watermark, security fibres and security threads. In addition to all that, Durasafe banknote paper also features a transparent window through all three layers maximizing the paper’s security potential.
Fortress Paper has also developed a feature called Irisafe, an iridescent striped coating that is integrated into security papers and is characterized by brilliant and changing colours when you change the angle of view. A colour copier cannot reproduce either the brilliancy or the change of colour present in this feature. At best, a photocopied forgery will show spotty stripes instead of the trademarked Irisafe qualities.
Many other security features have been introduced to banknotes around the world. Microtext (tiny repetitive letters or numbers), intaglio printing (raised lettering), holograms, and protection ornaments (markers next to the note’s denomination) are just some examples.
Intricate re-designs of banknotes every few decades, and consistent development of new security measures also provides surety that counterfeiting, while it may still exist, is definitely by no means an easy task these days.
Banknotes of the Modern World: “Security Features”
“A Short History of Money”
“History of Counterfeiting”
Fortress Paper Ltd.
Global Paper Security: “The Launch of Durasafe Banknote Paper”
Global Paper Security: “Fortress Paper’s Irisafe”