I’m hoping that the title of this post makes you scratch your head, make a weird face, and ask yourself, “What the heck is she talking about?” Because it should! I was out last night with friends and co-workers and for the first time in my life, I learned about plastic money or polymer biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP for short). I specifically learned about the Australian version of this type of money. We had a charming Australian amongst us who was more than happy to talk about home!
Being the inquisitive person that I am I kept bugging my Australian counterpart to see this money he spoke of, some part of me not quite believing him. Sure enough though, in-between karaoke songs, out of his wallet came some of the most colorful money I had ever seen. They’re really quite beautiful! Then he mentioned the plastic part and showed me that you can’t even tear them in half! I think I yelled, “Nooooooo!” as he attempted to tear the money. But there the dollar (aka banknotes) remained, all in one piece if only slightly bent where the attempt on it’s life was made.
Before the use of polymer money, Australia had paper money just like the rest of us. But due to an increase of counterfeit 10 dollar banknotes, the government started to get concerned and decided to make the switch in 1988 to commemorate the bicentenary of European settlement in Australia. While there was a switch-over period, all bills are polymer now.
Now that we have the history, let’s get down to the fun part, such as color choices and imagery! Each bank note uses what I would define as suites of color, with each note specifically tending towards a dominate color, making it very easy to recognize denominations. As for imagery, after talking to my Aussie friend, it ranges from the Queen on the 5 dollar banknote to other figureheads in Australian history. Then add to that secondary, completely detailed images and then place all of that on complex, swirling patterns and you’ve got yourself something that is not only beautiful, but a warning/deterrent to anyone thinking that they could easily forge one of these banknotes.
Now if talking about beautiful colors and fantastically detailed drawings haven’t gotten your interest yet, I’m about to make it worth your while. When was the last time you were able to see through your money? I don’t mean holding your money up to a light and seeing the somewhat incoherent image of a president swirling around between paper fibers. Actually see through your money, like a window? The answer is you haven’t because that’s just not possible with paper money, but with polymer, apparently anything is possible!
An added security feature has been added to the Australian banknotes called simply enough “transparent windows” that was introduced to polymer money in 2006. On each banknote there is literally a small window that can be shaped like anything and with the absence of ink, the clear polymer shows through. Of course everyone held it up to their eye and looked through. Naturally…haha
Besides learning about something new, the reason the Australian currency attracted me like a moth to light, is that money is a completely utilitarian object. We use to as a tool and mode of function but really nothing else. Some people collect coins and other currencies, but for the most part it sits in your wallet, purse, or pocket until you’re ready to part with it in exchange for something better than some pieces of paper. And while I also understand that all the colors, images and intriguing parts of the money is to deter forgeries, they could just as easily have made the money ugly, but still have the same security features. But countries continue to make their money colorful and interesting. My hunch is that if you have to look at it every day, you might as well make it the least visually offensive you can make it!
I tip my hat to you Australia! Keep up the good work!