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A Digital Experimentation
The first banknotes
The first true banknotes from Europe were issued in Sweden in 1661. Much debate accompanied the issue, with some officials and merchants predicting paper money would herald the downfall of the country’s monetary system.

To overcome such objections, the monetary authorities issued the banknotes with no fewer than 16 certifying endorsements from prominent and trustworthy officials - all signed individually by hand!

Backed by the government’s guarantee to redeem the banknotes in specie, they were an immediate success, replacing the necessity to carry large, heavy, easily stolen quantities of gold or silver.
The first paper bill in Europe, issued by Stockholms Banco, 1660s
Early Counterfeit Prevention
Early banknotes usually relied on the difficulty of reproducing signatures and embossed seals to discourage reproduction. Generally applied by hand by specifically authorized persons, the task of signing each piece of money must have been onerous. Picture being that person and someone dumps hundreds of banknotes on your desk, each to be hand-signed in the same way, from first to last.

Special papers and inks were also employed in the making of banknotes. French Assignaughts, for example, included watermarks in their paper. The American colonies often printed banknotes on paper infused with mica particles. Sometimes high-denomination banknotes were printed in multiple colours, counting on separate passes through the press needed for the application of each colour to be too complicated for most counterfeiters to duplicate.

Several well-known early Americans applied their skills to outwitting counterfeiters. Paul Revere, a renowned silversmith (and early American patriot) engraved plates for Colonial banknotes.
Benjamin Franklin's bill, 1740s
Benjamin Franklin, a printer by trade, came up with the idea of using tree leaves to print a vignette on the backs of banknotes, based on the observation no two leaves have exactly the same pattern of veins, thereby making the duplication of a banknote impossible. Impressions used were entered into a book, which could then be consulted for comparison whenever a doubtful banknote was encountered. The problem with the concept was the man who possessed the banknote had no way of immediately certifying the note’s authenticity. Ordinary citizens probably did not even know where the master book was kept.
Evolution of Counterfeit Prevention
The next innovation in banknote making was the employment of elaborate engravings to further complicate their reproduction by would-be counterfeiters.

This technology was brought to a high level in about 1840 by the American Banknote Company (ABC), which assembled teams of the best engravers of the time to hand-engrave banknote plates. Different engravers etched each part of a banknote, some specializing in portraits, while others engraved letters, numbers, etc., producing master plates used to make printing plates.

Today, these banknotes, many of which are masterpieces of art in their own right, are highly regarded and sought after by collectors.
The US bureau of engraving and printing, 1914
One engraving discovery to emerge in the early 19th century was the realization the faithful portrayal of human skin was extremely difficult – a skill mastered by few engravers.

Exploiting the difficulty, despite the prudish mores of the time, many 19th century banknotes feature vignettes of nudes, presumably on the theory that the more skin the better. The Banque de France extensively employed the technique on French and colonial banknotes. The practice may have reached its peak on Finnish banknotes issued in the 1930s portraying happy groups of nudists.
The Invasion of Paper Money
Although outwitting counterfeiters was the primary objective behind printing advances, necessity was also a force. By the mid-19th century, paper money was becoming more acceptable to people as a media of exchange.

Expanding commerce and the industrial revolution saw a commensurate leap in the size and volume of financial transactions. The amount of money needed could no longer be physically or safely carried through the streets. Nor was it practical to move coin in huge amounts from one depository to another. Paper money filled the gap!
Text source
The International Bank Note Society: A history of Printed Money - The Battle with Counterfeiters

Image sources
Queen Elizabeth II engraving / The first banknotes in europe / Benjamin Franklin's Bill / US bureau of engraving and printing / John F. Kennedy stamp / All other images
Website by Leah Hardy

Webdesign course 2018-2019 ECAL

Supervised by Harry Bloch and Pietro Alberti