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DuraNotes to Be Offered
By Kerry Rodgers and Robert Schwartz, Bank Note Reporter
August 21, 2012

This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter.
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Numismatic finds always attract interest whether via a metal detector or thumbing through a wad of bills dispensed by an ATM. And then, of course, once in a blue moon, items may escape the archives. When these are something very few knew existed, and also open a new chapter in bank note history, they are particularly desirable.

Serendipity struck 12 months back when a cache of previously unknown Bank of Canada, Bank of England and Banco Central de Venezuela bank note trials surfaced in the United States. They are extraordinary and historically important for having been printed on DuraNote polymer film.

Fourteen Bank of Canada DuraNote trials are due to be offered in Spink’s Oct. 3-4 sale, www.spink.com. Further Bank of Canada trials and the English and Venezuelan examples will be sold later.



A Brief History of Polymer Notes

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The use of polymer film for printing bank notes, rather than cotton-based paper, has taken a dramatic upturn in the last couple of decades. It started quietly enough in the early 1980s when American Bank Note Co. trialed Tyvek, a DuPont polymer film made of polyethylene fibers.

Circulation issues were printed for Costa Rica (20 colones, P-252) and Haiti (one, two, 50, 100, 250 and 500 gourdes, P-230A, -231A, -235A, -236A, -237, -238). Additional specimen bank notes were developed for Honduras, Ecuador and El Salvador. Problems with ink smudging and durability led to Tyvek notes being discontinued.

Bradbury Wilkinson employed Bradvek, an alternative version of Tyvek, to print an Isle of Man pound (P-38) in 1983 but it too proved not entirely satisfactory.

By this time in the 1980s Australia’s CSIRO were well advanced in developing an alternative polymer for bank note printing. Their work would lead to the all-plastic laminate substrate that has become increasingly popular today as an alternative to rag paper.

Meanwhile, across the Pacific in North America, Mobil Oil had had much the same idea. Its Mobil Films Division had achieved a breakthrough with a high grade polymer film based on Oriented Polypropylene aka “OPP.” This was produced in association with Canadian firm, AGRA Vadeko. The composite substrate was named DuraNote.



DuraNote

DuraNote offered advanced counterfeit protection through being constructed of 21 ultra-thin layers of OPP film, adhesive, coatings and printable surfaces. Contemporary promotional material claimed it lasted four times longer than conventional rag paper-printed notes. It stayed crisp and did not dirty easily. These properties translated into reduced printing costs. In addition the manufacturers proposed that each note would have a clear plastic window which, along with a choice of embedded security features, would make notes difficult to copy.

Several DuraNote advertising notes were produced by Silba International, Banknote Design & Security Printing, Inc. Today these appear regularly on the collectors’ market.

In addition test notes were printed for 21 countries using the regular bank note printing plates for each of the countries concerned. Among them was the United States, which produced some 40,000 sheets of DuraNote currency. These have never escaped the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Presumably they have been destroyed or are buried deep in the bureau’s archive.

In fact, until the present cache of Bank of Canada, Bank of England and Banco Central de Venezuela trials came to light, none of the various country test printings are known to have ended up in private hands or even been viewed by people other than those involved in the original project.



Bank of Canada

The present cache includes examples of two different Canadian bank note denominations: $20 of 1991 (cf. P-97, BC-58bPE), and $50 of 1988 (cf. P-98, BC-59PE). They comprise various examples of both partial and complete note prints involving different plate numbers. All lack serial numbers. All trial printings of the $20 are pin-punched SPECIMEN. Nine different types of security features are included with more than one type present in some examples.

One series of $20 trials show just underprints on the face but with fully printed backs. All nine different types of security features are demonstrated in these.

All examples of the $50 are fully printed and lack security features. All have SPECIMEN in black printed heavily across front and back.



Bank of England

The dozen BoE items are all variations of the 1993 £10 issue, cf. P-386. The original designs on both sides of this note have been transposed right and left about their mid line so that Queen Elizabeth (or Charles Dickens) now appears on the left instead of the right. This was the only way the BoE would allow samples of the trial printings to be released to Mobil. All lack serial numbers.

The trials include eight singletons and four uncut vertical sheets of two, three or four notes. The singletons include one with a double foil security strip, one on a high opacity clay+TiO2 film, and five fully printed (and archivally hand-stamped) dated November or March 1994.

The uncut sheets vary as to the presence or absence of undertints, and the type of filler used in the film; either clay+TiO2 or a clay alone. Two of the sheets of four are front uniface printings lacking underprints.



Banco Central de Venezuela

There are just two Venezuelan notes, both 1994 1,000 bolivares, cf. P-76, March 17, 1994. Both notes are needle-punched PROOF.

Unlike the BoC and BoE trials, these carry serial numbers: BDC9987701, BDC9987704 but the positioning of these and their style is different to that on the issued rag paper note. On the issued note the left hand serial employs novel numbering and is printed in blue.



Postscript

When Mobil merged with Exxon in 1998 the DuraNote project was abandoned and the patents and technology sold.



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