Thursday, June 28, 2012

Banknotes : Security marks 1d

After years and years of 'paper' banknotes, a new type of banknotes are gaining influence.
The paper isn't paper anymore, but polymer.
The correct name of the texture is Biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP).
The use of this type of polymer allows other security printing features that were not possible with paper banknotes.
As this first set of articles is only dealing with the papertype, I will come to those other features later.

Polymere banknotes were used for the first time, in Australia in 1988.
The benefit is ofcourse the enhanced durability of the notes, and the difficulties of counterfeiting them.

Some of the countries that have issued polymer banknotes so far :

In Europe : Romania
first set of polymer banknotes Romania
second set of polymer banknotes Romania - after money reform
In Central America : Mexico


In Asia : Thailand


In Asia/Australia : Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore


To be continued...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Banknotes : Security marks 1c

A simple dry stamp or a less complicated watermark are not enough to prevent forgers to counterfeit banknotes.
When it comes to security marks, certain solutions were found in the type of paper that was used for producing the notes.
Later on, I'll come back on the security marks that can be found in the printing process.
More basic security is in the paper itself.

The old Assignats in my previous post were made out of very cheap, common paper.
As soon as the banknote got folded too many times, it was doomed to break in two.
The ink didn't hold too well either, and not to mention the fact that a note that got wet, was bound for (self)destruction.

Ok, we're not supposed to go swimming with our banknotes (unless you're Dagobert Duck), but in rainy areas (like most parts of Europe), water was, is and will always be an enemy of the paper banknotes.
The use of certain plastics was not known in the beginning, but cotton offered a reliable solution at that time.

making paper out of old paper pulp

cotton plant
Where normal paper is made of wood pulp or recycled paper, banknote paper is an end product of the cotton plant. The seed fluff from the cotton fibers are stirred untill they loosen.

The firsty belgian banknotes were printed on wood free paper.
To lower the costs, for normal paper, we can use old paper in stead of wood.
For banknotes, old cotton rags were used. They were pressed and grinded but that process was an art on its own. The shorter the fibers, the more fragile the paper was. But longer fibers resulted in an unclear watermark.

In order to make the paper stronger again, hemp and linen was added.


The security feature that I wanted to show today, has in fact nothing much to do with printing yet, (as this will follow in the future), but with the process of the paper making.

When the paper is made, additional fibers can be added.
This is impossible to copy, as it is part of the paper itself.
To make a reliable copy, you should have to used paper with fibers itself.

German Empire banknotes are fine examples of the use of coloured fibers in their banknotes.

german empire notes detail : red or blue fibers

german empire notes detail : red and blue fibers

detail banknote of Sudan

detail former swiss banknotes

detail russian banknote 2007

detail banknote of Türkmenistan

It's a technique that is still used, not only for banknotes, but also for stamps.

detail of a swiss stamp,  with fibers

to be continued...


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Banknotes : Security marks 1b


After my previous post, I realised there's so much to say about the Assignats .... that I 'm offering you all a second post on this item.
I know you won't mind.

Let 's look at the specific marks on this note, and the security features that were used.


1. "crée le 10 Brumaire de l'an 2ième"... created the 10th of the 'fog month' of the second year...
  • The second year refers to the second year after after the monarchy was abolished and the counting started on September 22, 1792.
    The 2nd year was between : Sep 22, 1793 - Sep 21, 1794
  • "Brumaire" (fog month)
    The old Gregorian calendar, (that was catholic) was abolished and the revolutionary calendar had many changes.
    At a certain moment, months had 3 weeks of 10 days; days had 10 hours of 100 minutes and each minute had 100 seconds.
    More interesting for us, is that the names of the month were invented by a poet: Fabre d'Églantine. (
    Philippe François Nazaire Fabre d'Églantine)
    • Autumn months ended in '-aire' : 
      • Vendémiaire : Wine month (Sept 22 - Oct 21)
      • Brumaire : Fog month (Oct 22 - Nov 21)
      • Frimaire : Cold month (Nov 22 - Dec 20)
    • Winter months ended in '-ôse / ose' :
      • Nivôse : Snow(y) month (Dec 21 - Jan 19)
      • Pluviôse : Rain(y) month (Jan 20 - Feb 18)
      • Ventôse: Wind(y) month (Feb 19 - Mar 20)
    • Spring months ended in '-al' : 
      • Germinal : Germ month (Mar 21 - Apr 19)
      • Floréal : Flower month (Apr 20 - May 19)
      • Prairial : Meadow month (May 20 - Jun 18)
    • Summer months ended in '-idor' :
      • Messidor : Harvest month (Jun 19 - Jul 18)
      • Thermidor : Heat month (Jul 19 - Aug 17)
      • Fructidor : Fruit month (Aug 18 - Sept 16)
    • The missing days (Sept 17 - Sept 21) were called the "sansculottiden"
      Refering to the 'sansculottes'  the radical partisans of the lower classes; typically urban laborers.
      There were 5 such days in regular years, 6 in leap years:
      • 1. fête du génie — Celebration of Talent
      • 2. fête du travail — Celebration of Labour
      • 3. fête des actions — Celebration of Policy
      • 4. fête des récompenses — Celebration of Honors
      • 5. fête de l’opinion — Celebration of Convictions
      • 6. la Sans-culottide / la Sanculottide — (rough meaning:) "Day of the Revolutionary" 
Fabre d'Églantine
2.  Droits De L'Homme - Human rights - "Egalité - Fraternité - Liberté"

3. "La loi punit de mort le contrefacteur" = the law punishes the counterfeiter with the death penalty
(see my previous post : 200 counterfeiters were  beheaded by Guillotine in Paris alone!).

4. A signature... there are more then 100 different people who signed the Assignats. Very difficult to find out if an Assignat was counterfeited or not.

5. A dry stamp

6. Serial number


Around 1800 when Napoleon came to power as First Consul, the assignats became worthless, the amount issued far exceded the underlying value.

Napoleon became Emperor in 1802, but after he was defeated at Waterloo, the Kingdom was restored and King Louis XVIII took power in 1815.

To be continued

Banknotes : Security marks 1a

Modern banknotes are a true 'Fundgrübe' (treasury) for those who want to discover all new printing techniques, and a real playground for those who develop those new techniques. 

But first things first.
As techniques are improving, it means the first banknotes didn't have security features or they appeared not to be 'secure' enough.



In this first part, I'll start with very old banknotes. Not the oldest ones, as banknotes are described since the 14th century. Still we're going back to the 18th century. Some very old, but relatively 'cheap' banknotes are the french Assignats.


Assignats were issued by the new government of France, the 'Assemblé Nationale', after the French Revolution of 1789. They bare signatures of  hundreds of different people.
Louis XVI in 1786 - His Most Christian Majesty The King
These Assignats were based on the confiscated belongings (domaines nationaux) of the church, the noblemen, King Louis XVI and his family, and everybody else who ended up under the guillotine for whatever reason.


Monday, 21 January 1793, Louis (citoyen Louis Capet) was beheaded by guillotine
The early assignats still used the old monetary system , 
12 deniers = 1 Sol
20 Sols = 1 Livre
120 Sols = 6 Livres = 1 Ecu
The later assignats were issued in the new French Franc (100 Centimes)


5 livres (£) - 1973 (l'an 2)
I will talk about this note more in detail in my next post.
First, as the title said, I need to say something about the security marks.
Well there aren't many :-) 

The assignats were made of common bookpape, the only 'security marks' are a watermark and one or two drystamps.

1. There is a certain watermark visible as can be seen on this picture I found on eBay (thus this is not a banknote I have!)

FRENCH REVOLUTION WATERMARKED 100 FRANCS ASSIGNAT of 1795 HIGH GRADE CONDITION
eBay-picture of Assignat with clear watermarks
2. The second security mark that can be found is a drystamp

Example of a drystamp - depicting Justice
The Assignats however were counterfeited in huge amounts, and alone in Paris 200 counterfeiters ended up under the Guillotine, nowadays counterfeited assignats are very rare and worth more then the original ones.

more to follow !

Monday, June 4, 2012

Theme : Zodiac signs 10c

All stamps, shown in the two blocks in my previous posts, were also issued as single stamps.
There are thus, two variations of each stamp.

There's a small difference in colour between the two issues, but for some of the stamps, it's very difficult to see.

The best way to see the difference, is when the border of the stamp is still attached.

Romania, zodiac signs set 1 - single stamps

Romania, zodiac signs set 2 - single stamps

The single stamps don't have the gold print above or beneath the stamps.
In stead of that, you'll see "ZODIAC (I) or (II)

Theme : Zodiac signs 10b

In my previous post, I showed the first sheet of Romania, with 6 zodiac sign stamps.
If there's a 'first' sheet, there has to be a second one of course.

Complete sheet Zodiac signs II (2011)

In this second sheet, we'll find the following (remaining) zodiac signs : Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn(us), Aquarirus and Pisces.

Detail - Sagittarius

Again, half of the hemisphere is depicted on the sheet, and we'll see the zodiac signs that were on the stamps of the first sheet.

If we put both sheets on top of eachother, we can complete the whole image :

Complete hemisphere, by putting both sheets above eachother.