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Banknote Collecting Intro

Who, Where, What & How in the World of Banknotes      
Introduction to Bank Note Collecting      
Ways to Collect World Paper Money      
World Currency Names      
How to Invest and Promote Using Banknotes      
Gold vs. Banknotes (Investment Wise)      
History of Paper Money (Banknotes)      
Recognising Original Banknotes      
Handling of Banknotes      

Introduction to Bank Note Collecting

"People say when one collects something it's a sign of a higher intelligence."

Collecting something is actually a basic human instinct. Our ancestors who were gathering scarce objects were more likely to remain healthy and live longer. Accumulation of assets and wealth truly correlates to longer life expectancy. Collecting things relieves stress and raises up one's mood. Surrounding yourself with collectable items of your liking creates a feeling of euphoria within you. Never underestimate the joy of collecting something.

Most of us use banknotes every day without a second thought, but how often do you look at the contents of your wallet closely, using a magnifying glass or a more complex device? After a close inspection of a banknote, seeing all the richness of information a currency banknote provides, many people become interested in becoming banknote collectors.

Collecting world paper money let's you travel all around the globe without leaving comforts of your home. When you collect world paper money you explore different cultures, places, countries and continents, get to know many famous people, learn about nature, animals, birds, rivers and lakes that are plentiful in seven continents of our Earth. Collecting world paper money teaches you arts, geography, history, foreign languages even politics. Once you assemble, diversify and maintain your world currency banknote collection, you kind of become a stockholder of the entire world's economy!

Collecting world banknotes strengthens world currencies, helping world economies and cultures to prosper.


Banknote and paper money collecting is an exciting hobby which many thousands of people all over the world enjoy so much. If you are new to this beautiful hobby of collecting truly fantastic, magical collectibles ever collected in the world from all the mysterious countries and places on our Planet Earth, I hope this web site will provide everyone with amazingly beautiful images and all kinds of interesting, most intelligent and useful information on many thousands of magical, enigmatic and truly marvellous banknotes from all over the world and will teach you how to collect, what to collect and how to enjoy it. People started systematically collecting paper and plastic bank notes quite recently.

Although collecting of paper money was going on for a long time, but that was done only on a very small scale. Only in late 1950's paper money collecting became more of a global phenomenon. By 1920's paper money began to be issued by significantly more countries around the world and in early 1960's practically the whole world was using paper money for buy or sell transactions between people, businesses etc. As a result more and more people started collecting paper money as beautiful collectible items, for an investment or both. These days collecting world notes is growing very strong and very fast. There are millions of paper money collectors all over the world and every year new ones join in.

Knowledge abounds with a multitude of general and specialised catalogues covering notes of all modern and no longer existing countries. Prices and value of collectible paper money grows steadily and better notes now bring much higher prices than before making an idea of investing in banknotes as well as collecting attractive.

Various countries of the world have their own words for "paper money". These are translations of words "banknotes" and "paper money" into some world languages:

French: Billets, Papier Monnaie;
German: Banknoten, Papiergeld;
Italian: Cartamoneta, Banconota;
Japanese: Shihei, Okane;
Lithuanian: Banknotai, Popieriniai Pinigai;
Russian: Банкноты, бумажные деньги;
Spanish: Notas de Banco, Papel Moneda.

Click here to view the list of countries of the world, both modern and those which do not exist anymore and even those which have reunited or have split apart.

There are other uses for paper money, usually called banknotes, other than spending, collecting or investing. One of those uses is to create paper money art.

Banknotes are meant to be collected, not just spent... Designing, issuing and collecting world banknotes strengthens world currencies, helping world economies and cultures to prosper. Culture, traditions, art, human activities, customs, history, education, folklore, architecture, people's erudition, intelligence are elements of a spirit, vibe, energy, soul, the feel, the aura, ambience, genius loci, the atmosphere of a place. The more of it all is there, the stronger the spirit of the place becomes. And the younger a person is, the easier they detect and absorb all the good information into themselves.

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Ways to Collect World Paper Money

"Most banknotes are one-of-a-kind collectible pieces of art bearing unique serial numbers..."

  There are many ways of assembling a collection of world banknotes without having to spend a fortune on it.

You can begin collecting topical bank notes such as, for example, those featuring famous people, (scientists, writers, poets, politicians, teachers etc.), animals, fishes, birds, sailing ships, boats, cars, trains, planets, poetry, buildings, dams, rivers, mountains, views of nature and space, portraits of kings, queens, presidents, dictators and many many other topics that are already featured on banknotes of the world issued all across the globe up to date.

Another way of assembling a meaningful collection is to use historical context as your main criterion. For example you may decide to focus on collecting pre-WWII notes only. Or start a collection of World War II era notes such as occupational, prisoner-of-war, propaganda, emergency, local issues.

Also you may want to limit yourself to collecting paper money of the country you live in or were born in. You may want to collect all banknotes of a certain continent, or all notes of a certain group of countries, for example: Middle-East (covers Asia, Africa and even Europe) or you may choose to collect banknotes of countries that belong to NATO or countries of Pacific Ocean etc.

The most easiest way to start your collection is to buy a "beginner set" of world banknotes. That way you start your own collection of world banknotes from a scratch and at a low cost without spending many days and weeks collecting one banknote at a time. See Banknote Sets.

A good way of finding out where your interest may lie is to examine a group of paper notes (say at my online currency gallery or at a dealer's shop or at a paper money show) and see what kind of banknotes attract you most. Are those mainly engraved notes or notes of French influence or maybe notes with attractive serial numbers or those with holograms on them? Maybe notes printed on plastic/mylar? Also you definitely need some literature possibly a Catalogue of Modern World Paper Money to start with. Please visit my bookstore to view selection of books that may help you out in your hobby. Please note that to learn how to grade paper money is very important, as important as to learn how to tie your shoelaces.


A very simple way to start your world banknote collection is to buy a bunch of cheap notes, say at $1 each, one note from every different country of the world. Inspect the notes, study the features, enframe your notes. When you are done with your collection of possibly over 300 notes, then if your budget allows you may want to start collecting notes that are a little bit more of value, a bit more beautiful as well as costly. Let's say then you may want to try collecting notes that are worth between $1 and $10 each and so on.

Always try to buy two of each identical banknotes, so you can always replace a damaged one, enframe it or use the second one to trade with other collectors.

Did you notice that two banknotes which appear to be similar can have two or more different dates or signatures on them? There are notes that look similar, but were printed by different printers. Surely almost every note has a different serial number.

Here are a few more ideas what to start collecting in the world paper money collecting area. So, you may want to start or advance your paper money collecting into collecting notes by:

- Topic (birds, nudes, sailing ships, famous people, views, militaria etc.)
- Time period (WWII, 20th century, only notes dated 1999 etc.)
- Country (your native or favourite country)
- City (city that issued the note, that applies to local issues)
- Continent (Africa, Europe, Antarctica etc.)
- Features on a note (holograms, security insertion strips, paper kind)
- Material used (paper, plastic, mylar, cloth etc.)
- Signatures (there are so many varieties)
- Serial numbers (111111 or 000001 or 123321 or specimens 000000 etc.)
- Name of Printer (company or government who printed the note)
- Influence zone (for example: France and (former) colonies)
- Size (collect only large size notes or notes that don't exceed certain size etc.)
- Condition/grade (collect only Uncirculated or only circulated notes etc.)
- Science (collect notes that feature biologists, astronomy, engineering etc.)
- Watermark (type of watermark or a picture on it)
- Type (Counterfeit/Bogus/Forgery notes; Specimen notes; Error or Trial notes....)

Some banknotes become very popular and even scarce or rare as soon as they are issued. People are ready to stand in lines overnight to get certain banknotes. Most world banknotes are burned by their governments to get rid of old obsolete paper money and thus making many remaining banknotes scarce or even rare.

Please remember: the stricter your requirements for your collection are, the less notes you will likely collect in your collection or the more your collection will cost you, but the more value your collection will have. Also: if you just start collecting paper money, don't look for investment, just buy the notes you like and enjoy them. Later on when you become a more advanced collector you will learn how to buy up notes that are worth not only because of their beauty, but also because of their investment value.

Afterall, collecting banknotes may bring you happiness and good luck.

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World Currency Names: Why is a Franc called a Franc?

  Have you ever wondered why different kinds of money are called what they are? Why is peso called a peso and mark called a mark, for example? Well, the following list will let you find out a little bittle about what names of some world money mean.

ARIARY (Madagascar) - is a name for a silver dollar.

AUKSINAS (Lithuania) - means "golden" or "gulden". Auksinas derives from the Lithuanian word "Auksas" which means "gold".

COLON (Costa Rica, El Salvador) - derives from last name of Christopher Columbus - Cristobal Colon.

DRACHMA (Greece) - means "handful".

ESCUDO (Portugal) - means "shield", referring to the coat of arms on the original coin.

FORINT (Hungary) - comes from the city of Florence, where golden coins were minted from 1252 called fiorino d'oro. In Hungary, florentinus (later forint), also a gold-based currency, was used from 1325 under Charles Robert.

FRANC (Frank, Frang) (France, Switzerland, Luxembourg) - first issued in 1360, as a gold coin. Gets its name from its original Latin inscription - Francorum Rex, which means "King of the Franks", - the title given to kings of France in the 1300s.

GUILDER (Gulden, Florin) (Netherlands) - from the same root as "gilded", the guilder was originally a gold coin. It was first introduced from Florence in the 13th century. Florin - another nickname for Guilder means "flowers".

KORUNA (Czechia, Slovakia) - means "crown".

KRONA (Kroner, Kronor) (Iceland, Sweden, Norway etc.) - means "crown".

KUNA (Croatia) - means "marten". Marten skins were used as money.

KWANZA - derives from Cuanza, the largest river in Angola.

LIRA (Lire) (Italy, Turkey) - from the Latin word libra, which means "pound".

MALOTI (Kingdom of Lesotho) - Maloti is plural for Loti, currency of Lesotho,
a kingdom in Southern Africa.

PESETA (Spain) - means "little peso", and was created in the 18th century as a "companion" coin to the Spanish peso.

PESO (Mexico) - means "weight". It was introduced by Spain in 1497, then adopted by Mexico and other Latin American countries in the late 19th century.

POUND (English) - named for its weight in Sterlings, - the unit of currency in Medieval England. The first pound coin was issued in 1642.

PULA (Botswana) - Pula means ‘rain’ in Setswana, but "pula pula" does not mean a lot of rain. It means luck, prosperity, health.

RIYAL (Saudi Arabia) - borrows its name from the Spanish real, meaning "royal".

ROUBLE (Russia, Belarus etc.) - means "cut-off", a term that dates back to the days when portions of silver bars were literally cut-off from the bars and used as coins. The rouble was first issued as a silver piece in 1704.

RUPEE (Rupiah) (India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Mauritius etc.) - comes from the Sanskrit rupa, which means "beauty" or "shape". Another version of the story behind the name rupee is that it derives it's meaning from Sanskrit words rupyakam, where raupya means "silver" and rupyakam means "coin made of silver".

TAKA (Bangladesh) - the word "taka" is derived from the Sanskrit "tanka" which was an ancient denomination of silver coin. Taka currency name was also used in North India.

TENGE (Kazakhstan) - means "a set of scales".

YEN (Japan) - borrowed from the Chinese yuan, which means "round", and describes the coin. First issued in 1870.

YUAN (China) - means "round" and describes the coin.

ZLOTY (Poland) - means "golden".

Current and Historical World Currency Names and Countries of Their Origin

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How to Invest and Promote Using Banknotes

Tian Shan Mountains, China   We think that investing in a good collection of world banknotes (collectible paper and polymer currency and old obsolete banknotes as well) is more appreciative in a long term than investing in other commodities such as gold, stocks or even immovable property. Have you ever thought about buying an extra house or a parcel of land just for investment purpose? STOP & THINK. How about those high property taxes that you will get charged every year? Home insurance anyone? Severe damage done by renters? Can you take your home with you when you move? By investing in a collection of world banknotes you can avoid all those costs and troubles.

Invest in World Banknotes. Investments in collectible currency (banknotes) and collecting in/of world banknotes is HOT and has been going on for decades. Why investing in banknotes is hot? Because banknotes (paper and plastic money, current and old currency) have a collectible value which a lot of times increases with time. Investment in banknotes is probably safer than investment in stocks, gold or even in real estate.

Thoughts for 2023-2025 - USD, GBP, EUR are more or less stabilized yet inflation is in full swing. The best you can do to beat the inflation and to prevent your savings from this painful devaluation is to invest in world banknotes. Your foreign vacation became so much more expensive now and every 1000 of your savings just years ago became so much smaller this year. Not if you kept your money invested in a carefully selected collection of banknotes. By not investing in collectible banknotes you not only lose big percentage of your savings, but you also lose more of possible gain totalling in a (possible) loss of up to 150% or more. The optimal amount for a middle income person to invest in a collection of world banknotes would be somewhere in a range between $5000 to $25000 US (or an equivalent in another hard currency unit) or more yearly. Anything significantly less than those figures would probably be considered as collecting.

N.B.: Never underestimate your country's economy's ability to reinvent itself after a crisis.

Banknotes.com - Second Life of World Banknotes

Let's now talk about Inflation. Inflation is a general increase in prices that you pay for goods and services, stated as a yearly rate. If the inflation rate is 5%, it means that prices increase at a yearly rate of 5% (or more!). For example, the same basket of goods and services that you can buy today at $1000 will cost you $1050 next year. Inflation cuts into your purchasing power even further for longer periods. For example, if you have $100000 today and keep them in your bank account and inflation grows at just 4%, it would be worth $82193 in five years. After 10 years, it would be worth only $67556. It means you lose over $32000 in savings in just 10 years! Overcome inflation and win. How? Invest in an advanced world banknote collection. The better the collection the more value it holds. The more you will win in the future, the less you will lose in savings as the last resort.

How much money should you invest you would probably like to ask us. There is no amount too small or too big. The more you spend on your banknote collection, usually the more you should expect to gain from it in the future. Go for at least a 15 year investment goal, possibly a longer term (20-30 years). If you spend $500 on your collection, don't just stop there. You can spend as much as most of your savings on banknotes. Best is to buy one (1) to ten (10) of each identical banknote so you have extra pieces for trade, sell off or investment. Be prepared to protect your collection well. Purchase holders, albums, safelock boxes or even large fireproof gun safe(s). The more money you spend on your collection and the better you protect it from the outside elements, the more you should expect to gain from your banknote collection. And don't just invest. Buy for visual pleasure of collecting and for an educational purpose as well.

China, India, Central and Eastern Europe and many other emerging economies are growing at an "alarming" rate. Number of banknote collectors in those countries is increasing at a lightning speed. At the same time a supply of old and older banknotes is drying up, their value is skyrocketing. Even the current currency notes are sometimes in short supply. All this "bank note hot rush" creates excellent soil for banknote investing.

Some banknotes (have) become rarities (scarcities) virtually "overnight". All of a sudden the "right Moon phase" comes and suddenly everyone is demanding pretty much the same banknote(s). Every dealer, supplier and a retailer is sold out of it. The note becomes scarcity or a rarity in just a few short months or even weeks. That can happen to any banknote in your collection. Just make as much intelligent research as you can and try to guesstimate which notes of yours have a potential to become hard to find, scarce or even rare in just a short period of time.

  Why banknotes are the most popular investment today:

Let's talk Real Estate / Immovable Property versus Bank Notes / Collectible Currency Notes - you can invest in real property only if you have substantial amounts of money. Real estate investment is not for everyone. Real property and Banknote investment is one of the most enjoyable investments. You can see, touch, feel the look, the art and the feel of both real property and bank notes. To invest in bank notes you don't have to spend many hundreds of thousands or even millions of Euros or Dollars, Yens or Reals. You can start with as little as $30 or less purchasing a beginner set.

Talking Gold vs. Banknotes: everyone agrees gold is beautiful, so are banknotes. Gold is basically indestructable, banknotes can be burned, you must protect them well. Gold is faceless, unless you own an art collection made of gold. Banknotes do have "face". In fact not just one face, many faces, and not only faces. Banknotes are art, banknotes are education, banknotes are history. Finally, - banknotes are money and some of them can be spent without even getting their value appraised.

Since there seems to be no gold left at the Federal Reserve, it makes sense to buy as many of a variety of collectible banknotes (currency) as one can. Gold seems to have such an insignificant value, despite the market speculation in gold, that even the United States Federal Reserve Bank got rid of it, as it seems.

Don't wait any longer. Collect as many variety of banknotes as you can afford, now.

How To Lose Weight by Collecting World Bank Notes

Rule # 1: Replace sodium, trans fats, saturated fats and partially hydrogenated oils in your food with vegetables, minerals and supplements. Replace sweet and sweat drinks with spring water. Enjoy water. You will lose weight if you excercise enough. Eat less. That helps lose weight and it is a proven fact that less calories equals longer life. Once you lose weight, you will feel better and will live longer. Once you live longer you will have extra time and money for your hobby. Collect banknotes. Pursuing a good collection of world banknotes, drinking enough water, eating right, looking up into the sky more often and excercising lowers your blood pressure, adds years to your life.

Time is Money, but Money is Timeless!

Time is Money... Money is Time(less). Take a look at a bank note that you hold in your hand or in your currency album. Does it (do you think the banknote in your album has a gender; is a he or a she or an it? It's up to you to decide) have a date on it? Most banknotes do have a date on them. It's a date (usually) indicating when that certain bank note was approved, printed or issued for a circulation in a particular country and world wide. To you, to a collector the date on each bank note could mean a certain period in time, sometimes a New Era is marked by that date. The date could be important just to you, an important life event, your or your loved one's birthday, perhaps? Hunt that date down! That can be quite a challenge, can't it?

What's the best way to preserve wealth?

Are banknotes to you art and collectibles or just spendibles?

Enlarge   What would the collapse in the value of the dollar mean for the US? It's mainly bad news in an increasingly desperate attempt to maintain the illusion of prosperity, but some popular investments - such as banknotes, gold and silver - will usually pay off. Still your best investment is your and your loved ones' health - don't forget to take care of your own self, and your world bank note collection will be there for you to enjoy. Collecting just about anything normalizes your blood pressure, makes you more happy. Becoming and staying happy makes you resistant to some types of diseases. Eat with moderation - Collect World Banknotes.

Note: The above article is a mere opinion and not any kind of financial advise.

Are You buying Gold? Think again, buy Banknotes as well

Would you consider taking a risk and buying gold (again)? Think twice, read the below extract from the article and try collecting or investing to (or both) banknotes instead.

Some people think that Gold is Money, but it seems that it is not.

"For hundreds of years, much of the world had a single currency: gold. Gold was used as currency and to settle debts between nations. Paper currencies originated as warehouse certificates for gold and its cousin, silver.

However, that all changed in 1933, when President Roosevelt ordered all U.S. citizens to turn in their gold and silver to the government, under threat of a $100,000 fine and ten years in prison. In effect, Roosevelt seized all of the gold in America (except for rare coins, which were exempted), and for the next 41 years it was a crime for private citizens to own gold."

Source: http://www.isil.org

The Great Wall of China

Human activity creates soul of a place. Financial activity creates an economy.

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Gold vs. Banknotes

  Gold is said to be a great investment today, but it's almost too late to invest in gold in 2018+, because the gold has gone up in price so much it nearly hit the ceiling. Gold is thought to be great, but it's boring. Would you rather look at a piece of gold or at a piece of art? Gold can be dug up in a gold mine, but a bank note is issued and printed in a limited quantity usually by a governmental entity and it can't be multiplied or dug up more and more. You can't find banknotes on other planets either. Banknote is harder to preserve intact than gold, therefore scarcity of a banknote increases faster than gold's. Banknotes are related to Consumer Spending, which is more important than gold. Governments shred, burn and destroy entire prints of some or most of banknotes making them scarce or rare overnight.

Banknotes are light and easy to handle; gold is heavy, although you can melt gold and make jewellery and other things from gold; coins for instance. (Most) Banknotes bear serial numbers which makes them even more unique and attractive not only as an investment, but as collectibles as well. The scarcity factor, the beauty factor, the educational factor - that's where Banknote wins versus Gold. What wins you over? Try diversifying into both: banknotes and gold. Those two are still more affordable than immovable property today.


This website is made available with the understanding that it has been prepared for informational purposes only and the Provider or Author is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, financial or other professional services. The information at this website is not intended to create, and visitation of it does not constitute a lawyer-client relationship, accountant-client relationship, or any other type of relationship. If legal or financial advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. The Provider or Author disclaims all warranties and any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.

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History of Paper Money


The Chinese were the first to invent paper around 100 AD. They were also the first to invent paper money, which in its early form can be traced back to the 7th century.

In the year 812, the Chinese Emperor used it as a temporary solution because of the copper shortage.

This money was called "flying money". It was so popular that by the year 970 it dominated as a monetary unit.

These first bank notes carried a guarantee that it could be traded at any time for coinage. The name of this bank note was "cash".

The oldest existing bank note is the 1000 cash note of the Ming dynasty from the era of the Great War 1368-1398. It is 225 x 340 mm with a pile of coins centrally depicted . The picture was to show people who couldn't read that they could trade the bill in for the depicted number of coins.

When Marco Polo came back from his travels in China (1275-1292), people in Europe didn't believe that the Chinese used paper for money. Paper money in Europe came 300 years later. The use of paper money in China stopped in 1455.

The history of paper money in Europe is interesting. It started as emergency money sustituting for regular money. The first emergency paper bills are from 1483. The first bank notes were printed in the 17th century.

The first European banknotes were printed in Sweden.

In 1644 copper plate money was minted, but besides being very heavy it was quickly devalued because of the 30 Years War (1618-1648).

Therefore, Johan Palmstruch, who in 1657 founded the Stockholms Banco, suggested as a new monetary unit - a temporary "Kreditivsedlar" (credit paper). He printed the first banknotes in 1661.

Unfortunately for Johan Palmstruch, all this came to a bitter end. The bank very quickly got into trouble for printing too many bank notes. Palmstruch was taken to court and was made accountable for damages and was sentenced to prison. Not many Stockholms Banco-Notes remain today and are a rare collectors item.

A battle had raged for decades between the King and the merchants, for control over England's money system. The arrival of William III of Orange in 1688 with his "glorious revolution" heavily financed by merchants tipped the scales in favour for the often spoken wish for an independant credit institute.

Following the suggestion by William Patterson, the Bank of England was founded in 1694. The Bank of England printed "Goldsmithnotes" as promissory notes from English goldsmiths for account deposits. The clause "(I) promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of (...) pounds" (i.e. in gold) originally meant that they could be exchanged for gold, although in practice this was not always possible.

The state received a loan in exchange for the right to print banknotes. In time the Bank of England developed into the most influential bank of issue bank in the world.

One year after the founding of the Bank of England, the Bank of Scotland was initiated. It held the bank note monopoly for Scotland until 1717. Also in Norway, which at the time was a Danish province, in1695 the businessman Thør Møhlen, circulated banknotes (without interest) with the approval of the government. The notes had 5 wax seals. Unfortunately the population didn't find them acceptable and brought them immediately to the bank to cash them in. As a result, Thør Møhlen came into financial difficulty.

It wasn't until 1713 that Denmark began circulating paper money during the war with Northern Ireland. It was also served as a form of emergency coinage and emergency money.

France also began printing paper money in the year 1703 under Louis XIV. Because of uncertainties connected with paper money, other states waited until the late 19th century.

One problem with paper money was the paper itself. Several companies experimented with the processing of special paper in the 18th and 19th century.

Information (History of P. M.) from http://www.moneymuseum.com

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Recognising Original Banknotes

  Recognising Original Banknotes

One of the first steps to proper grading is to recognise the features of an original banknote. This will allow you to draw certain conclusions regarding the condition. In order to recognize the features of an original banknote it is necessary to have a general understanding of the printing processes and the features used in producing banknotes. There are many different types of printing processes and books have been written on these topics but for the layperson who is simply interested in acquiring general knowledge, we have drawn some generalizations to help in this understanding.

Printing Process

The earliest printing process, the woodcut, is produced by cutting away the unwanted part of a piece of wood. The design that is left in relief is inked up with a roller and transferred to paper. The design is drawn directly on the wood which is cut plankwise or along the length of the grain or tree trunk. Cut this way, however, the wood has a tendency to splinter. Artists discovered that they could avoid the problem by cutting on the end grain of hardwood blocks, a process called wood engraving. By using a burin, the wood engraver could produce a wider range of tones than were possible with a woodcut. This process was used on a few types of early style currency and in certain "emergency" cases where this was the only type of printing process available.


Lithography was the first fundamentally new printing technology since the invention of relief printing in the fifteenth century. It is a mechanical planographic process in which the printing and non-printing areas of the plate are all at the same level, as opposed to intaglio and relief processes in which the design is cut into the printing block. Lithography is based on the chemical repellence of oil and water. Designs are done with greasy ink or wax based tools on specially prepared stones or plates. They are then is moistened with a liquid, which the plate accepts in areas not covered by the wax. An oily ink, applied with a roller, adheres only to the drawing and is repelled by the wet parts of the plate. The print is then made by pressing paper against the inked drawing. Lithography was invented by Alois Senefelder in Germany in 1798 and, within twenty years, appeared in England and the United States. Almost immediately, attempts were made to print in colour. Multiple plates were used, one for each colour, and the print went through the press as many times as there were plates. The problem for the printers was keeping the image in register, making sure that the print would be lined up exactly each time it went through the press so that each color would be in the correct position and the overlaying colors would merge correctly.


The process of intaglio printing was and still is the most popular form used by banknote printing companies. It is an extremely time intensive process and requires the combined handiwork of highly skilled artists, steel engravers, and plate printers. Engraved printing plates are covered with ink and then the surface of each plate is wiped clean which allows the ink to remain in the "valleys" of the design and letter grooves of the plates. Each sheet is then forced, under extremely heavy pressure, into the finely recessed lines of the printing plate to pick up the ink. The printing impression is three-dimensional in effect creating "mountains of ink" on the banknotes. The height of these "mountains" depends upon the depth of the grooves that the engravers made on the plates, the quantity and type of ink used, and the pressure applied to force the paper into the plates. The surface of the note feels slightly raised, while the reverse side feels slightly indented. This process is called intaglio printing.

Definition of Original Raised Ink

An original banknote printed using the Intaglio process noted above will have definition of detail discernable by touch. There will be height to the ink. Different parts of the banknote will feel more raised up than others due to the fact that the engravers would engrave the plates at differing depths for different features of the banknote. As time goes by and the banknote gets circulated more and more, the height of the ink is slowly worn down until the note finally ends up looking "flat" and loses it's bright colours. If a banknote is washed or pressed, the "mountains" become flattened and loss of definition is noticeable. A true original high grade banknote will retain some or all of this original definition.


1000 Litas Banknote House in Kaunas, Lithuania (Click to enlarge)
Banknote Building in Kaunas, Lithuania
  Counterfeiting banknotes pervades the entire history of paper money. Tools to aid in the battle against counterfeiting were and remain the finesse and complexity of design and printing techniques. Coupled with special papers and security features, banknote printing companies and issuing authorities ensure that their paper money would be very difficult to reproduce.

The avid collector will encounter forged notes from time to time that even the untrained eye can detect. There are however examples in history whereby a sovereign nation or country has produced so-called "perfect" counterfeits of an enemy country. These were normally created and secretly sent into circulation in order to create inflation with the ultimate goal being to bring about the economic instability of the adversary. To the collector, identifying these counterfeits requires great experience.

With modern computers and printers, it has become easier for unscrupulous individuals to reproduce certain lithographed banknotes that were originally issued without many security features. As an example, the uni-face 1940 KGVI fractional issues from Mauritius lack virtually any security features and even the original printing was quite poor in quality.

Original banknotes in Uncirculated condition fetch considerable sums. The combination of the above factors has resulted in the modern forgery of these banknotes. To all but the expert eye, they are virtually undetectable.

Security Features

Numerous security features have been used throughout the course of history. Modern security features are extremely elaborate and utilize certain older techniques coupled with techniques developed through fantastic technological advances.

Paper Quality

The quality of banknote paper is one of the characteristic features that distinguish a genuine banknote from a forgery.

Engraving techniques

The process of engraving requires expertise and long hours to produce designs deterring all but the very devoted forger.

Watermarked paper

Watermarking is the addition of a design or portrait put onto the paper using a special technique. The image is visible only when the paper is held against the light.


Serial numbers are printed horizontally and vertically with assymetrical fonts and different colours to make them more difficult to counterfeit. They are also printed with special inks which penetrates the paper. As a result, the trace of the numbers can still be seen under ultra-violet light if the numbers were to be tampered with.

Latent Image

This security feature is based on the optical effect produced by light when introduced to special arrangement of plastic lines printed by intaglio technique. The picture becomes visible only when the note is held at the eye level in a horizontal position against a source of light.


Part of the background of banknotes contains micro-lettering which can be viewed under a magnifying glass.

Signatures and Dates

Combinations of different signatures and dates creates other variables adding to security.

See-through Features

Visible from both sides of the note, they are readily identifiable see through window features even under low light conditions. This security feature is currently only being used on Polymer notes.

Security Strip

A security thread is clearly visible when the banknote is held against the light. The thread is incorporated into the paper across the full width of the banknote and sometimes contains the microtext. A security thread may be metallic.

OVD - Optically Varying Device

Clearly visible optical shifts are generated when the note is tilted to the light.

Use of Polymer (plastic) for Banknotes

Becoming more popular due to the difficulty of forging as well as the superb strength and lifespan of the polymer notes.

Synthetic Fibers (threads) in the Paper

Usually visible colour threads added to the paper. More recently, fluorescent fibres in red, blue and green embedded in the banknote paper, only visible under ultraviolet light.

Shadow Image

A contrasted image appears when the banknote is held up to the light.

Invisible Fluorescent Printing

Invisible under normal conditions, elements of the design will fluoresce when seen under ultra-violet light.

Anti-Scanner/Copier Patterns

A coloured foil design is hot-stamped onto the paper and is over-printed in using a lithographic technique. When photocopying is used to reproduce the note, a black spot appears in place of the foil.

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Handling of Banknotes


Handling Banknotes

Most banknotes you will handle will be made of some sort of paper. Although a number of countries nowadays are adopting a polymer substrate (type of plastic), the vast majority of banknotes available to the collector will be made of paper in one form or another.

Clean hands are essential to prevent undue oils and dirt transferring to the paper. Ensure that there are no fans or breezes nearby which may blow the banknote from your hands. There should be no food or beverage in the nearby vicinity. There have been many cases of someone removing a banknote from a holder and then a third party ends up accidentally spilling something which stains the banknote. This is of particular concern at busy show bourses where the normal hustle and bustle of patrons may create this scenario. Removing the banknote from its holder or sleeve should be done with care. Once out of the holders, simply treat the banknote with care however not so gingerly so as to drop it. Lightly feeling the surface of the note can tell you a number of things.

Once you are finished handling the banknote, place it back into its holder. This should be done with the utmost care as this is when most banknotes become torn or creased. If you are viewing a dealer's banknote and are having any type of trouble getting it back into the holder, it is always better to hand the banknote and the holder back to the dealer and allow them to complete the task.

By virtue of its nature, a piece of paper money has a limited life expectancy, which is directly proportional to the amount of handling it receives.

From Printer to Bank to Wallet or Your Collection

The handling of a banknote used to begin at the printers with a manual counting of the sheets both prior to printing and then again prior to cutting. This is now done mechanically with little to no evidence of handling.

  In the very early years of banknotes, the actual cutting was done by hand which is noticeable by varying margin sizes of many countries banknotes.

After cutting, the banknotes were recounted, stacked and bundled. Bundling was accomplished by a variety of different methods and often created marks on the edges of the banknotes in the bundles (or bricks) as well as the banknotes on the top and bottom of the stacks.

The bundles are then stacked and either stored or shipped to the appropriate issuing authority. Storage was not always done in climate-controlled environments and in certain countries the effects of the natural environment are noticeable on the banknotes. This is particularly noticeable in banknotes from countries with a tropical climate. While in storage vaults, banknotes were often counted regularly for auditing purposes. They were normally kept in their respective bundles and often only random bundles were counted, however in the case of certain issuing authorities all bundles were regularly counted which created "counting creases" on these banknotes. If a banknote made it this far without traces of handling, these counting creases were often the first visible signs of handling manifested.

Upon requisition by a bank or bank teller, the banknotes would be further counted, usually more than once, before being released to the general public. Certain countries issued banknotes that were quite large which necessitated folding by the tellers in order to fit them into their boxes or drawers. Even if a teller did not need to fold the notes, it was certainly a necessity for a customer to fold the banknote to fit it into their wallet or purse. Banknotes from these countries are extremely difficult to find without varying degrees of folds in even the cleanest, crispest banknotes put away during that time.

Modern equipment and machinery has created a process whereby a banknote may now remain virtually untouched and pristine until the moment a bank teller hands the banknote to a customer.

The above steps relay the difficulties that collectors of old notes / times had in obtaining truly UNC notes. Many other factors, unrelated to grade, created additional obstacles for the early paper money enthusiast including economic factors, the relative unpopularity of collecting paper money in those days, the stigma attached to paper money in relation to precious metals with intrinsic value, not to mention the fact that paper money was almost always worth more than coins and very few individuals could actually afford to "save" a piece of paper money.

When we die, our bodies turn into soil, which feeds trees and plants, such as cotton, and when paper is made from those plants, some of that paper goes to produce paper money (bank notes; notes issued by banks), the banknotes that you and I collect. Therefore please respect each other and let's respect the banknotes we collect and take a good care of them.

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