Banknote Security Around The World

Counterfeit Money Prevention and Detection Tips

Written by Carly Hallman

For counterfeit prevention, some countries go to great lengths to come up with security features on money, inventing new technologies, textiles, and techniques for making durable bills that are handled every day difficult to copy. Here’s some amazing international currency security features, as well as tips on how to check for counterfeit money while traveling.

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Banknote Security Around the World

The United States Dollar ($100)

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin
Independence Hall
  1. 3D Security Ribbon
    The 3D security ribbon is woven into the paper, not printed. The bells change to 100s as the bill is shifted.
  2. Color Shifting Ink
    Tilting the note transforms the bell in the inkwell and the numeral 100 from copper to green.
  3. Raised Printing
    Benjamin Franklin’s shoulder on the left side is raised, feeling rough to the touch. Genuine Federal Reserve notes have a distinctive texture due to enhanced intaglio printing.
  4. Portrait Watermark
    Shining light on the bill reveals a faint image of Benjamin Franklin in the blank space, visible from both sides.
  5. Distinct Paper
    Federal Reserve paper is ¼ linen and ¾ cotton, and contains blue and red security fibers.

The Singapore Dollar ($1,000)

Yusof bin Ishak, 1st President of Signapore
Government Building
  1. Encik Ysuof Portrait
    The hand-engraved intaglio ink portrait of Encik Yusof is difficult to reproduce.
  2. Embossed Ink
    The intaglio printing is raised for a distinct embossed feel, especially the word “Singapore”. The tactile nature of the bill also helps the visually handicapped determine the denomination.
  3. Microscript
    The entire lyrics of ‘Majulah Signapura’ are printed on the back in microsript.
  4. Fluorescent Fibers
    Invisible fluorescent fibers are laced through paper notes that glow under UV light.
  5. Polymer Singapore Arms
    The gold Singapore Lion symbol has an image of the Singapore Arms embedded within that will appear when titled at varying angles.

The Canadian Dollar ($100)

Robert Borden, 8th Prime Minister of Canada
Medical research, DNA helix, vial of insulin
  1. Sir Robert Borden Portrait
    A portrait of Canada’s 8th Prime Minister is printed with raised ink. A colorized holographic version is housed in the large clear window.
  2. Color-shift Building
    This metallic representation of the East Block building shifts color as the note is tilted, visible on both sides.
  3. Maple Leaf Outline
    The frosted maple leaf has a transparent outline.
  4. Maple Leaf Border
    A row of maple leaves cross into the large clear window alongside the East Block building.

The Australian Dollar ($5)

Queen Elizabeth II
Parliament House, Canberra
  1. Polymer Material
    Australian notes are printed on polymer that returns back to shape after it is scrunched up. (Use a portion of the full images of the notes)
  2. Flying Bird
    Shifting the note causes the Eastern Spinebill to move its wings and change color in the top-to-bottom window.
  3. Reversing 5
    The ‘5’ within the Federation Pavilion changes direction when tilted.
  4. Fluorescent Bird
    A vibrant image of an Eastern Spinebill glows in UV light.
  5. Rolling Color Patch
    The prickly Moses patch has a rolling color effect when shifted, visible on both sides of the note.

The Euro (€200)

  1. Security Thread
    When viewed against light, a dark line running through the note with the word “EURO” and the value in tiny letters can be seen.
  2. Infrared Properties
    Infrared light reveals only the right-side of the main image.
  3. Hologram Doorway
    Tilting the bill reveals the note value and a vibrant rolling spectrum around a window/doorway.

The Mexican Peso ($1,000)

Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, leader of the Mexican War of Independence
University of Guanajuato
  1. Linear Background
    Colorful lines cover bank notes. These are difficult to duplicate because photocopy machines print dots instead of lines.
  2. Perfect Register
    Impressions on both sides unite to form a map of Mexico and compass rose when viewed against light.
  3. Folio Numbers
    200-1000 peso banknotes have two folio numbers that must match in order for the bill to be authentic.

The Japanese Yen (¥10,000)

Yukichi Fukuzawa, Meiji era philosopher and founder of Keio University
Hōō phoenix from Byōdō-in Temple
  1. Watermark Bar Pattern
    Three vertical watermark bars appear when held up to the light. It is difficult to reproduce with personal computers.
  2. Latent Image
    When viewed from a certain angle, “10000” appears on the obverse and “Nippon” (“Japan” in Japanese) appears on the reverse.
  3. Luminescent Ink
    The Governor’s seal glows orange under UV light, with some background patterns glowing yellowish-green.
  4. Pearl Ink
    A semi-transparent pearl ink pattern appears in the blank margins on the left and right.

The United Kingdom’s Pound Sterling (£50)

Queen Elizabeth II
Matthew Boulton, leading entrepreneur during the Industrial Revolution, and James Watt, innovator of the steam engine
  1. Raised Print
    Raised print distinguishes the words ‘Bank of England’ and the number 50.
  2. See-through Register
    Irregular colored shapes printed on the front and back of the note combine to form the £ symbol when held up to the light.
  3. Print Quality
    The printed colors and lines are sharp and clear, with no blurred edges or smudges that inferior counterfeit printers may create.
  4. Watermark
    The Queen’s portrait and a bright £50 appears within the note when held up to the light.

The Swiss Franc (100 kr)

Alberto Giacometti, iconic sculptor and painter
L’Homme qui marche I by Alberto Giacometti, the most expensive sculpture ever sold at an auction
  1. Iriodin® Digits
    The denomination is printed in shimmering, transparent color that shifts in normal light.
  2. Perforated Digits
    Fine perforations make up the denomination, which serves as a security feature and helps the visually impaired.
  3. Microtext
    A short text about the featured individual is printed in tiny font only legible with a magnifying glass.
  4. Tactile Element
    A symbol, different for every denomination, perceptible to touch is embossed on the lower edge of the front, aiding the visually impaired.

The South African Rand (R 50)

Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid revolutionary
  1. Animal
    The lion featured on the back of the note appears within the circle.
  2. Microprinting
    The denomination is printed in the animals to the left of Nelson Mandela, visible only with a magnifying glass.
  3. Raised Slashes
    Raised lines on the right and left sides aid the visually impaired in determining the denomination.
  4. Security Thread
    The security thread color differs for each banknote. It is printed with the number, Coat of Arms, and the words “SARB” and “Rand”.


Paper bills have existed since the Song Dynasty in China in about 1,000 C.E. as a useful, lighter method of trade, but banknotes weren’t common practice until much later, about the 1600s in Europe and America. At that time, banknotes were promissory notes representative of gold or silver held at a bank. Slowly this system has been replaced by bills printed under the authority of national governments. The 1700s, though, was considered a golden age for counterfeiters. One of the first banknote security features in America was actually introduced by Benjamin Franklin, who signed his 20-shilling note and included images of a willow leaf.

Today, the bill that sports Benjamin Franklin’s image, the 100-dollar bill, uses some of the country’s most complicated technologies. The 100 dollar bill security features include a 3D ribbon, color-shifting ink, micro-printed images, and images that only show up when held to a light. Looking for those secret features is essentially how to check for counterfeit money. The 100 dollar bill is one of the most popular currencies in the world. It’s the most counterfeited, but also one of the most difficult to counterfeit bills in existence today.

But what about international currency security features? Surely the United States isn’t the only country that gets exhaustive with their strategies for fending off fake cash?

As late as WWII, artists were forced to create forgeries of currencies in concentration camps in Germany and Austria. Perhaps that’s why today’s Euros are fairly complicated now: hold the 200 Euro to an infrared light and you’ll see a sliver of an image.

Nearby, in Europe, the Pound Sterling and Swiss Franc are a world-famous currency of fairly high value, both of which have tactile markers as well as visible ones. The Swiss Franc is shimmering and beautiful, but the Pound Sterling may seem more recognizable. That’s possibly because Queen Elizabeth II of Britain has been printed on more currencies than any other person: the monies of 33 different countries, including Australian money. Security features are particularly colorful from the land down under; find a florescent Eastern Spinebill under UV light if you want to check for fake Australian bills.

To the north, in Japan, a security feature on yen banknotes comes to life under UV too: a governor’s seal in orange and beautiful background work in green. Their neighbor North Korea, however, has been accused of counterfeiting the American 100 dollar bill, to somewhat amazing ends.

Throughout the world, governments spend millions inventing new and exciting security features of currency notes. Internationally, fake bills might keep resurfacing, but innovative print ships have been evolving to fend off the tide, using everything to security thread to images invisible without UV light or infrared to tactile giveaways. Perhaps the cash of the future will have chips since it’s unlikely that cash will go away anytime soon!

But the secret of how to prevent counterfeiting is public awareness and people knowing about the banknote security features that are already there. Keep an eye out for real features of paper bills throughout the world!

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