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Forgers in the crosshairs as RBA unveils new $50

Thursday, 15 February 2018
By Jake Nelson
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The Reserve Bank of Australia has revealed the design for the updated $50 note, set to enter circulation in October. As with the new $5 and $10 notes, the $50 will be upgraded with new security features to deter forgers from copying the most-counterfeited banknote in Australia.

Australia’s 686 million $50 notes represent 45 percent of all bills in circulation, and at $3.4 billion, make up 47 percent of total value. They are the most commonly counterfeited denomination in circulation: of the 25.5 thousand counterfeit notes detected in Australia in 2016-17, 20.7 thousand, or 81.4 percent, were $50 notes.

According to James Holloway, deputy head of note issue at the RBA, the $50, being commonly received from ATMs, offers counterfeiters a sweet spot of reasonably high value with little chance of detection. “Some lower-denomination notes are counterfeited, but the $50 is by far the most common. The $100 tends to be noticed more, because they’re not seen as often,” said Holloway.

With the success of the new $5 and $10 designs, the RBA was confident enough to move the $50 ahead of the $20 in the schedule. “It makes sense to start with lower denominations to test how they go, make sure the production goes OK, and give the public time to get used to the new notes as well as the industry time to get the equipment together,” said Holloway. “So far it’s going very well on the security side, which was the intention. It’s a significant leap forward, and these should be a lot harder to counterfeit.”

The signature side of the new $50 note, featuring Aboriginal writer and inventor David Unaipon.

Philip Lowe, RBA.

Philip Lowe, governor of the RBA, says the new $50 offers the same boost to security that the updated $5 and $10 did. “Improved security and ease of recognition underpin the design of the new $50 banknote. With the release of the $5 and $10 during the past two years, we are confident the Australian public are becoming familiar with the new banknote security features,” said Lowe.

These features include a clear top-to-bottom strip with dynamic features, microprint of Edith Cowan’s maiden speech to Parliament and excerpts from David Unaipon’s work, and a rolling-colour patch. The note also includes four raised bumps to assist the vision-impaired community; the new $5 has one and the new $10 has two.

The serial number side of the new $50 note, featuring Edith Cowan, Australia’s first female MP.

As with the current design, the new $50 note will depict Aboriginal writer and inventor David Unaipon on the signature side, and Edith Cowan, Australia’s first female MP, on the serial number side. “David Unaipon and Edith Cowan were campaigners for social change and we are proud to continue featuring them on the $50 banknote. The new banknote provides the opportunity to tell more of the rich story behind these distinguished Australians,” said Lowe.

All Australian banknotes are printed by Note Printing Australia (NPA), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank. The printing process is complex and highly involved, incorporating offset, intaglio and letterpress stages to maximise security against counterfeiting. The Reserve Bank declined to comment on the specific machinery used.

The RBA will update the $20 note next year.

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