Latest Developments in Polymer Banknotes

By Stane Straus,







Polymer banknotes are being introduced in more and more countries worldwide. Simply looking at countries close to Hong Kong reminds us of the recent introductions of polymer in the Philippines and (after a break) Thailand, on top of the countries already using polymer: Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the many Australia-Pacific nations. We should not forget about China (commemorative 20 yuan) and the Hong Kong $10 circulating banknote.



The current hotspot for polymer is the Caribbean, where several East Caribbean States and Trinidad & Tobago were joined by a full series of polymer notes in Barbados, with Jamaica joining soon with its own full series. This Caribbean surge is driven by De La Rue, who has transformed from a fierce competitor to a strong advocate of polymer.


Over the past three decades, many central banks around the world have been monitoring the development and acceptance of polymer banknotes by other central banks. Polymer has now been proven to work in very diverse climates and circulating conditions worldwide, from cold climates like Canada to hot climates like Mauritania, from very advanced 1st world economies like Singapore to 3rd world countries like Mozambique. Polymer delivers proven cost savings, high security, cleanliness and is environmentally friendlier than paper, which has been established by extensive studies by leading central banks, such as the Bank of England and Bank of Canada. For central banks, the default decision is shifting from paper to polymer as their primary choice. There are of course many printers, industry suppliers, paper mills and state institutions that insist on inferior paper technology in order to deliver more paper notes (compared to fewer polymer notes required due to higher durability of polymer) and in order to keep high employment and profits in these industries at the expense of central banks and, ultimately, the taxpayers.


In terms of security, several innovative and visually impressive security features are being introduced and developed on polymer. The latest such feature is Cinema, which gives a moving 3D impression, and is displayed prominently on the Polish “Copernicus” banknote. Previously, this feature appeared on the Lebanese 100,000 livre commemorative banknote.



For collectors, most basic varieties of polymer banknotes are still within reach, with some tougher and more expensive varieties requiring some luck to find. Collecting polymer is exciting as the field is well documented, most notes are accessible, there is a keen collecting community, as well as frequent new and exciting developments in terms of countries, designs and security features. Polymer as a collecting area has tremendous potential, as many countries are still to convert to polymer and we can expect the early polymer material, especially the notes that are in short supply and not commonly available, to appreciate in price.