Money is an important tool we use in our daily lives and although its shape has changed over the years, we can’t imagine a world without it. The evolution of what we consider money has gone through many phases: barter, coins in different metals, different types of paper – or what we currently call banknotes – digital money, and finally, cryptocurrency.

The Central Bank of Egypt recently announced that new polymer or ‘plastic’ banknotes will be released into circulation starting November of this year. With this in mind, let’s look at the history, technology, and future of Egyptian banknotes.

The history of Egyptian money:

The Egyptian gold coin was the primary medium of exchange for goods and services until 1898 when the National Bank of Egypt was established. In 1899, the National Bank of Egypt started issuing banknotes for the first time when it was granted permission by the government to issue Egyptian banknotes payable in gold for 50 years. Gold sterling pounds were also used along with the Egyptian banknotes until 1914 when a decree was issued making the Egyptian banknote Egypt’s official currency and suspending its conversion into gold.

A printing house was established in 1967, culminating the efforts of the Central Bank of Egypt over the years, which allowed the CBE to print money locally instead of abroad. The Printing House of the Central Bank of Egypt is considered one of the oldest printing houses in the Middle East and Africa.

Egyptian banknotes received their first watermark to protect against currency counterfeiting in 1930 and in late 1968, metallic and holographic threads were embedded into paper banknotes as extra security measures. Over the years, more security features were added to the banknotes to make them difficult to counterfeit, including using optically variable ink (OVI). Additionally, each denomination bears a unique watermark to prevent counterfeiters from producing and circulating fake notes.

What are OVIs and intaglio printing?

OVIs are high-precision printing inks with a multi-layer thin film structure that displays a distinguishable, contrasting color change when viewed at different angles. Since OVIs are not widely available, they are considered an effective anti-counterfeiting measure for banknotes and other official documents.

Another distinctive feature that makes it easy to identify fake banknotes is intaglio printing (pronounced with a silent ‘g’). The intaglio printing process gives banknotes a unique appearance and feel by utilizing a special embossing technique. Through this process, banknotes are produced with extremely fine details and rich colors, which cannot be imitated using conventional printing methods.

A design with a story:

The Egyptian pound is known for its illustrious designs featuring various images of Islamic architecture, Pharaonic figures, geometric patterns as well as elegant typography. These design elements give Egyptian banknotes a special identity that resonates with the grandeur of the Egyptian civilization. The polymer banknotes are expected to roll out with new designs.

The future is plastic:

To combat counterfeiting and reduce costs, many countries are now switching to polymer or ‘plastic’ banknotes for their numerous benefits, including a lower environmental impact, longer lifespan, durability, and dirt and moisture resistance. The widespread transition from paper to polymer banknotes comes with hopes of eliminating the practice of counterfeiting. The highly specialized technology used to produce polymer cannot be found commercially. Polymer banknotes also allow for the addition of multiple intricate security features, including state-of-the-art metallic threads and see-through windows placed on the notes that are difficult to replicate.

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