There are over 50 billion dollars worth of Australian banknotes in circulation, all of which have a range of special security features that make them a lot harder for criminals to counterfeit. But did you know that although many banknotes from around the world are made from cotton or paper fibres, our banknotes are made from a type of plastic, or polymer? This means they’re tough and durable.
Australian banknotes start out as these plastic pellets. We first melt them down, and then blow up a huge bubble. The walls on the bubble are pressed together and run through a roller to form a long thin
roll of clear plastic film. After cooling, this film is cut into sheets and printed with a white ink. The white print helps other ink stick to the plastic. This is also when the clear window in the banknote is formed. Now these sheets are ready to run through a press that prints on both sides simultaneously. This way, the images will always line up perfectly. You can see this when you look at the Federation Star image on this $50 note. When you hold the banknote up to the light, diamond-shaped patterns printed on each side of the banknote combine perfectly to form a seven-pointed star inside a circle.
Next the sheets have the raised printing applied. This is called intaglio, and it gives our banknotes their distinctive feel. There’s another intaglio feature applied at this stage called micro-print. Microprint’s a very small text that appears on various places on different banknotes, which most of us need a magnifying glass to read. Then there’s the serial number. All of the banknotes are printed with a unique serial number in special ink that fluoresces under ultraviolet light. You can also use the serial number to tell when the banknote was printed. Look at the first two digits on this $50 note. This one was printed in 2009.
The banknote sheets are now given a protective coating. This helps to keep them clean and last longer.
And finally, the sheets are cut into individual banknotes … checked to make sure they were
printed without errors … stacked … wrapped … and packed onto pallets. This pallet has $48 million dollars worth of $100 banknotes on it.
These banknotes will be used mainly to replace worn or damaged notes which are taken out of circulation every day. The worn and damaged banknotes are then shredded into small pieces, melted and reformed into plastic beads. These beads can then be used to make other plastic products.
Well, there you have it. From pellets to pallets, that’s how Australia’s distinctive and durable banknotes are made!