This article is part of a continuing series that looks at security features in development for the security paper industry.
One of the most familiar – and recognizable – banknote security features is the watermark. First introduced in the 13th century in Italy, a watermark is an image or pattern on the security paper that appears as various shades of lightness/darkness when held against the light.
A watermark can take many forms, but some of the more identifiable marks are usually found elsewhere on the bill. The Canadian $20 bill, for example, features a watermark which is a smaller version of the note’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, while the new American $100 bill’s watermark is a smaller portrait of Benjamin Franklin.
Despite the fact that watermarks are one of the most common security features for banknotes, and one of the most effective anti-counterfeit devices, some countries have taken watermark technology a step further to prevent currency forgery.
In 2009, the Bank of Mexico was the first to introduce the world to a new watermark called the Pixel Watermark. Consisting of patterns of dark dots of varying sizes on light backgrounds, the Pixel Watermark sets itself apart from regular watermarks in that the colouring of the pixels in the image creates an almost 3D effect.
Though the first bill to feature the Pixel Watermark was a commemorative 200-peso note, countries in Asia and Latin America have since adopted the security feature.
And the Pixel Watermark is picking up steam elsewhere. Recently, the security device won the award for the Best New Currency Feature at the 2010 Excellence in Currency Awards held in Buenos Aires. The watermark beat out other high-tech, new-to-the-industry security features like the Depth Image, a 3D hologram with strong colour switching and contrast.
Currency News: “2010 Excellency in Currency Award Winners”
Banknote News: “Pixel Watermark Debuts on Mexico 200-Peso Commemorative”
Bank of Canada: “Security Features”
Personal Money Store: “New 100 Dollar Bill Debuts To Help Fight Counterfeit Rings”
“Depth Image Hologram”