On November 14, 2011, the Bank of Canada began to circulate its new high-tech $100 bill. This is the first in a line of new polymer (plastic based), Canadian banknotes that are aimed at reducing Canada’s counterfeiting rates.
In the 2000's, there was an upsurge in the quality of easily available printers, scanners and graphic design software which, in turn, gave rise to unprecedented levels of counterfeiting in Canada. By 2004, Canada’s paper currency had become one of the most counterfeited currencies in the G-20 group of countries, ranking only behind countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. To remedy this unenviable reputation, Canada has turned to Australia, the country with the most success in controlling counterfeiting.
Australian bank notes are made from a polymer that was designed in 1966 by an Australian chemist, David Solomon. The challenge this created for counterfeiters is that it is extremely difficult to produce the polymer the bills are printed on. Unless they are produced exactly as are genuine bills, they will be brittle and they will rip easily, if put through the “snap test” in which a bill is attempted to be quickly pulled apart from the edges. Controlling the substrate material was previously a challenge in Canada because consumer-available paper could be purchased that could mimic the cotton fibre substrate then in use. In the future, Canada will buy the polymer substrate directly from Australia and it will be shipped with the same level of security as actual currency.
The polymer substrate also creates an additional problem for counterfeiters. In its raw form the polymer is transparent. Banknotes are created by printing images on sheets of the clear substrate. It was Mr. Solomon’s ingenious idea to leave part of the bill clear during the printing process, making it impossible to produce a counterfeit bill out of paper or other opaque material.
The $100 bill, bearing the likeness of former Prime Minister Robert Borden (1911-1920)
above, is only the first of the new polymer-based Canadian currency. The entirety of Canadian paper currency is being converted over the next two years to the new format. The $50 bill will be released in March 2012 and smaller denominations in 2013. This will be the largest and most expensive change to the national currency (costing about $300 million) since Canada switched to multi-coloured banknotes in 1969. However, the polymer-based innovation has the potential to dramatically increase the life of the individual banknotes while dramatically reducing its susceptibility to counterfeiting.
For an informative article on the new currency, visit:
Summary by: Thomas Wong
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