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.

Banknote Security

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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 Slowly this system has been replaced by bills printed under the authority of national governments.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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