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Errors on Bank Notes and Currencies

Errors on Bank Notes and World Currencies



Bank Notes issued by several countries contain many security features, few important amongst them being Security thread and OVD features. In order to enhance the security of the bank notes, these features are added to impede forgery and counterfeiting. It is not possible to eliminate counterfeiting fully whatever be the best feature deployed.  Initially it will appear to be difficult to forge with those new features, but the counterfeiters are able to duplicate overt looking similar feature though they may not covertly match them.   Since  the counterfeiters are able to find some way or the other to forge the notes, the Bank Note issuing authorities try to go in for technology with high cost and intricate technology that makes it highly difficult to counterfeit the notes  easily unless the enemy nations and state saboteurs decide to throw their  weight to subvert the economy. 
Bank Note and Currency production is not as easy as one may imagine. It takes the final shape after undergoing lots of processes both manual and mechanical. Even though at each stage the production process undergoes very strict quality control that look for any mistakes, at times normal human error lead to error on the notes produced. Errors normally occur during the printing process. Banknotes are printed in various stages and ways, and some of those methods can throw up different types of errors. Sometimes the error is detected only at the end of production leading to not only loss of production, but also the cost. If by mistake the notes with error goes into circulation, then it becomes a prized collector item and those responsible for releasing them with error face the music from the authorities. Therefore even in the most modernized units random sample checking is resorted to manually to ensure that every process goes in order.  

Some of the print errors occur during printing. The error need not occur only during processing or printing, but it can also occur even from the stage of designing which will remain unnoticed as the intricate design elements are complicated and cannot be easily noticed. The errors can also occur due to mismanagement which includes procurement of material like that of Paper and ink. There were instances in many units that the defects in the paper or ink lead to print errors which were noticed at the end of production leading to destruction of the entire  printed lots of the particular series in bank notes and currencies. Some of the errors remain unnoticed till someone from the public reported them or someone in the press itself accidentally noticed it. What type of errors normally occur in the presses and during processing ? Errors in the text printed on banknotes are the most common design error on banknotes, and this type of error has occurred on many notes over the years.

  • Design errors
  • Missing security features
  • Wrongly printed texts
  • Wrong numbering
  • Fine crease in the finished notes which remain invisible.
  • Trimmed note size not proper
  • Missing colors in designs
  • Improper color
  • Wrong prints which includes ghost images, improper prints etc.
  • Watermark defects

Acknowledgement:  This article contains valuable and interesting info from the article ‘Bank Note Oddities’ written by Mr. Peter Symes (p j symes) in the year 2001. Mr. Peter Symes  is an expert author on world paper money and has published many articles and books.I sincerely thank Mr. Peter Symes who has given me special permission to use the inputs from his articles and to reproduce them in this blogger for the benefit of the Security printers and Students – N.R. Jayaraman 

Mr. Peter Symes article  detail  some of the major errors that have crept in the bank notes printed by some of the countries. Read the following which display the error list as reproduced by Mr. Peter Symes . However some have also been added by me to update the knowledge: 

1) A ‘5-Pound note’ issued by East Lothan Bank in the year 1820 mentioned the word LOTHIAN as LOTIHAN. (LOTHIAN as LOTIHAN).
2) In 1950s the 1-pound notes of The Royal Bank of Scotland were printed by W. & A. K. Johnston Limited, of Edinburgh. The 1-pound notes of this period had two vignettes on their back, one of the head office of the Bank in Edinburgh (on the left) and one of the principal office of the Bank in Glasgow (on the right). The design for this note was introduced in 1927 and used for many years, undergoing only slight changes. In the 1950s W. & A. K Johnston decided to redraw the plates for this note. One of the engravers in their organization at period was Mr. W. H. Egan. He decided to leave his mark on the banknotes that he was helping to redraw. So, amongst the pattern of the cobblestones in front of the principal office of The Royal Bank of Scotland in Glasgow he inserted his name in such a manner that in order to find it, the note must be turned upside down and magnified at the correct point, whereupon the characters ‘W H Egan’ can be seen. This mystery remained unknown to all but the perpetrator and his family until 1989. In that year Mr. Egan returned to Scotland from the United States of America, where he had emigrated many years before. He presented himself to the Royal Bank of Scotland and asked for samples of the notes on which he had left his mark so many years before when only the intentionally caused error came to light. The intentionally created error notes were 1-pound notes of The Royal Bank of Scotland with serial number prefix AJ, dated 1st February 1956, to serial number prefix CX, 
 dated 1st November 1967. 

3) In 1954 Canada issued a series of notes that contained a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the front of each denomination. It was not long before it was observed that the Queen’s hair, to the right of her left ear, contained an image that could be interpreted as the face of a ‘devil’. Appearing to have a large nose, the shadow of a thick lip, and two bulging eyebrows, the detection of the image brought some concern to the authorities responsible for issuing the notes. Consequently, in 1955, the banknotes were re-issued with the Queen’s hair redrawn.

4) Perhaps the most well-known of all unintentional errors to have occurred on a banknote is the appearance of ‘SEX’ on a banknote issued by the Government of the Seychelles. In 1968 the Seychelles issued a series of notes, which was to become the last series of the Seychelles to feature a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The 50-rupee note of this series is dominated by a sailing ship, which appears to the left of the portrait of Queen Elizabeth. In the small space to the right of the Queen are two palm trees. The unintentional error on this note is that the leaves of the palm trees can be seen to spell the word ‘SEX’. The error became very well known, but the note was never issued with a modified design. The reaction of the Queen to this mistake has never been recorded, if indeed she was ever told. 
5) In the year 1970 Saudi Arabia released 5-riyal note with incorrect Arabic text . Subsequently the notes were re-issued with the correct text.
6) Yemen itself has an unintentional error which was probably the fault of the banknote designers, although the Central Bank of Yemen contributed towards the ‘cover-up’. The mistake involved an illustration and occurred on the 5-rial note issued by the Central Bank on 15 July 1973.
The front of the 5-rial note has an illustration of dwellings built against a steep hill and the Annual Report of the Central Bank of Yemen for 1973 stated that the buildings depicted were in the town of Zabeid. However, the illustration was of houses in the Wadi Du’an, which is in South Yemen. The illustration was adapted from a photograph taken by a German adventurer named Hans Helfritz. It was strange that an illustration of buildings in South Yemen appeared on a banknote issued in North Yemen, seventeen years before the unification of the two countries was however an unintentional mistake.
It is probable that the banknote designers know very little about the geography of Yemen and probably didn’t realize that the photograph was of a village in the wrong country. It is also unlikely that many Yemeni people realized that the illustration was of dwellings in a neighboring country. 

7) In the year 1980 Kuwait introduced their third series of banknotes. At sometime after 1986 slight modifications were made to the notes, one of which was the addition of lines of micro-printed text. On the front of the notes ‘Central Bank of Kuwait’ was repeated in micro-printed English text. On the back of the notes the same phrase was written in micro-printed Arabic text.
Despite the quality control mechanisms of Thomas De La Rue and Company, the micro-printing was not correctly applied to the 5-dinar note. On this particular denomination, the correct micro-printed text appeared on the front of the note, but the micro-printed Arabic text on the back of this denomination reads ‘Central Bank of Yemen’.
Thomas De La Rue which later prepared a new 20-rial note for the Central Bank of Yemen, which included a line of micro-printing. It would appear that the machinery, which applied the micro-printing to the printing plates, was prepared with the wrong string of text and the text prepared for the Central Bank of Yemen was executed on the 5-dinar note issued by the Central Bank of Kuwait. The error was apparently never picked up, either by the Central Bank of Kuwait or Thomas De La Rue, as all notes of this type had the error on it.

8)  5000-dinara note issued by Yugoslavia in the year 1985 wrongly showed the year of death of Joseph Broz Tito as 1930 instead of 1980 under the portrait of Tito. Once the mistake was noticed it was re issued with corrected version reading as 1980.
9)  An unintentional error occurred on some denominations in a series of notes issue by the State Bank of Nepal in 1981. When the 2-, 100-, 500- and 1000-rupee notes in this series were first issued, a line extended from the lower lip of the King of Nepal, who is depicted on the notes. This line gave the impression that the King was dribbling. The image of the dribbling monarch had such an effect that the notes were re-issued with the line removed. 

10)  A third incident of a fault in depicting a monarch occurred on the 50-baht note issued by Thailand in 1985. On this particular note King Rama IX is depicted with pointed ears, which give him a slightly pixie-like appearance. The embarrassing mistake was soon noticed and the notes were subsequently modified to obscure the pointed tips of the ears.

11) In 1985 Tanzania issued a series of four notes. The design on the back of each note incorporated a map of Tanzania with the name ‘Tanzania’ printed over the map. The problem with the map was that it did not depict the islands of Mafia, Pemba and Zanzibar, all of which are important places in Tanzania. The error was rectified in the following year when the notes were re-issued with the islands included in the map and the name ‘Tanzania’ shifted to the left of the map. 

12)  In the year 1991, Peru issued 100-nuevos-soles note and wrongly mentioned the name of the person on the note as ‘Jorge Basadre’ instead of ‘Jorge Basadre Grohman’. The said mistake was corrected in the next batch of notes issued.

13)   The ‘2,000,000-zlotych note’ issued by Poland in the year 1992 carried a similar error. Instead of printing ‘Konstytucyjny’ it was printed as ‘Konstytucyjy’ (Misspelled the word ‘Konstytucyjny’ without inserting letter ‘n’ the last). These were withdrawn and reissued after correcting the mistake.
14)  In the year 1980 Saudi Arabia again released 500-riyal note with incorrect Arabic text which was subsequently re-issued with the correct text. The entire series of notes issued by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency in the 1980s initially had an erroneous diacritical mark in the name of the issuing authority on all denominations. This mistake was rectified in subsequent issues of the various denominations.
15)  One mistake, that never made it into circulation, was on a note prepared by the Bank of England. On the back of the 5-pound notes issued by the Bank in 1990 was a picture of George Stevenson, the famous English engineer. Accompanying the illustrations on the back of the note were the years of Stevenson’s birth and death. The initial print run of these notes was discovered to have an incorrect date and so the entire print run was destroyed. The notes were then reprinted and issued to the public.
16)  Sometimes a mistake is not construed as a mistake until the note is issued. This occurred in an issue of banknotes by Mauritius in 1998. Until this issue, the denomination had always been written on the banknotes in English, Tamil and 1 Hindi – in that order. The notes issued in 1998 altered this tradition by printing the denomination in the order of English, Hindi and Tamil. Apparently, the change was made because the Tamil text would have encroached on the portrait of Sir Moilin Jean Ah-Chuen on the 25-rupee note, had the usual order been maintained. By changing the order of the text, the Tamil text was kept clear of the portrait and, in order to maintain uniformity, the change was incorporated on all denominations.
However, the change in order almost brought the country to its knees. Within days of the banknotes being issued, Tamils were protesting and burning effigies of the Governor of the Bank of Mauritius, Tamil members of Parliament threatened to resign, and representations were made to the President of Mauritius. Ultimately, the notes were re-issued with the text in the correct order and peace was restored to Mauritius. However, both the Governor and the Managing Director of the Bank of Mauritius lost their jobs over the incident.
Additional information 
 16)  In  1974s Indian bank note issuing authorities issued Rs 50/- deno which depicted the portrait of Parliament on its backside, but without a mast on the top of the building. However when the defect was pointed out, next series were introduced with Indian flag on top of the building. It was  an untentional design error. 

17) News 24, on its online news edition ( and Novalis Ubundu in their online news letter ( carried an news item stating that the The Reserve Bank of South Africa has to shred more than 3.6 million of R100 notes as the bank notes printed in Sweden, had the same serial numbers as a batch printed locally besides variation in color and cut note size which caused problems on automated machines.

18)  Errors occur for various reasons during the manufacturing stages of bank notes. Such reasons include ink starvation, spilled ink, incorrectly positioned sheet, folded sheet, joined sheets, alien material, machinery failure, and others. These and other reasons can appear simultaneously on the same bank note. Error bank notes descriptions and images of error bank notes as compiled by Mr. Stane Štraus has been shown in the site –– of  grouped into several categories. Please go to the said site and see the details.


About The Author


Retired Govt of India Official. My hobby is to write articles that range from Printing technologies to Spiritual.

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