The history of counterfeiting is almost as extensive as the history of money itself.
It’s said that even the first electrum coins in Lydia were regularly faked, and coming across counterfeit coins in Ancient Rome was a daily occurrence. Roman Emperors, like other rulers, also famously did their own counterfeiting, debasing the metal in coins and trying to pass them off as having higher value.
The problem of funny money remained an issue for society even thousands of years later. For example, at the start of the U.S. Civil War in 1861 – when banks still issued their own currencies – it was estimated that half of the banknotes in circulation were forgeries.
Banknote security features
And as we move towards a more digital world, the cat and mouse games between authorities and counterfeiters continues.
Today’s infographic comes to us from TitleMax and it details 10 popular banknotes from around the world, including the anti-counterfeiting measures that have been taken for each note.
Through centuries of collective experience, advances in technology, and many episodes of trial and error, the latest fiat banknotes have impressive security features that blow previous generations out of the water.
Common security features used
Many national mints have adopted similar anti-counterfeiting technologies for their banknotes:
Plastic money: In Canada, authorities were starting to find 470 counterfeits for every one million legitimate banknotes that existed – a rate almost 10x as high as other G20 countries. In light of this problem, the Bank of Canada recently introduced polymer notes that make counterfeiting considerably more difficult.
Polymer banknotes were pioneered in Australia in 1988, and like Canada, many countries have made the switch to polymer including the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Chile, New Zealand, and Mexico.
Holograms: More than 300 denominations in 97 currencies use holograms for protection, making them one of the most common security features globally. They can be incorporated into designs by the way of security threads, stripes, patches and window features.
Watermarks: One of the most common security features, watermarks are created by using different thicknesses of paper in the printing process. When hit with light, an image will be illuminated.
Microtext: Tiny text, which can only be read with a magnifying glass, is a common safety feature on many bills globally.
Color-changing features: Roughly 42% of banknotes issued since 2011 use color-changing features in which parts of the note change color to the viewer depending on the angle.
Security thread: Many notes use this security feature, which consists of a thin ribbon that is threaded through the note’s paper.
Invisible marks: Notes can also incorporate ink or markings that are only visible in fluorescent or infrared light, making them invisible to the naked eye.