Secrets of Bank of Canada’s new plastic money: An advance look of 12 possible security features

Nov 17th update:  Happy to say I finally got a chance to play with my new Canada polymer C$100 bill (with video).
June 20, 2011 Update: Today (June 20th), the Bank of Canada actually shows us the new polymer $100 notes. I’ve more coverage and technical analysis (with video) here in “Canada New Polymer $100 Notes in Nov 2011 – Now your money is smooth & will bounce!


The Bank of Canada today (March 11, 2011) announced that it will begin circulating new polymer (plastic) banknotes starting with $100 in Nov 2011 ($50 in Mar 2012, $20, $10, and $5 notes to be issued by end of 2013). Publicly, BoC has NOT disclosed what security features will be deployed in these polymer banknotes. But basing on research using publicly available information, I will try to give you an advance look of 12 **possible** security features in the new Canadian polymer money.

Clues that lead to the “secret”/unannounced 12 possible security features

I know Hong Kong has issued polymer $10 note (in fact I have one in my hand) and some googling lead me to the interesting HKU technical note “Ten-dollar polymer note: Polymer currency technology” (pdf) and the HK government info about the $10 note (pdf). Here is an excerpt from the tech note,

“Different polymer substrates are available for manufacturing purposes, but the one used in printing banknotes is unique and is not commercially available. Hong Kong is using the polymer type called Guardian®, and they are made from polymer biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP).”

From Guardian®, I then found that it is made by Securency International. And if I had known what to look, I would have found BoC actually stated this in its backgrounder: the polymer substrate will be supplied by Securency International.

Bank of Canada’s new polymer banknote uses Securency International polymer substrate

An advance look

I want to be clear that the following are 12 security features of Securency International‘s Guardian substrate. Since I don’t think Securency make any other polymer substrate, therefore logically BoC must be using Guardian so these 12 security features are all possible/available to BoC.

Here are the 12 possible security features with emphasis added. Since I don’t have the costs associated with these features and I don’t have any inside knowledge whatsoever, I am only taking some wild guesses and base my comments on what I see in the HK$10 note (about less than C$2).

[March 11th, 2011 Update: I did some more research and added this article, “Bank of Canada’s new polymer banknote – Patents & technologies by Securency International“.]

12 **possible** security features of Canada’s new polymer money

1. LATITUDE™ (link to pix) [Kempton: likely, especially on higher value banknote like $100]


“LATITUDE™ is an optically variable device (OVD) that is integrated into the transparent window area of the substrate and allows for design freedom, which enhances the security of the banknote. Through tilting the banknote, multiple images and optical effects are observed. ”

2. WinTHRU® (Complex Window) (link to pix) [K: very likely, it is very easy for users to identify a fake]


The ability to create transparent areas (or clear and complete windows) is a prime security feature within Guardian® substrate. Including a clear area in a banknote has proven to virtually eliminate the problem of the ‘casual counterfeiter’, who tries to copy or scan banknotes on readily available reprographic equipment (like colour copiers and scanners) [… more …]”

3. WinDOE® (Diffractive Optical Element) (link to pix) [K: don’t see why not?]

“The WinDOE® (Diffractive Optical Element) is a holographic structure applied to the surface of the clear window. When collimated light such as a distant point light source passes through the WinDOE®, it is transformed by the WinDOE® structure into a recognisable pattern (image) by the process of diffraction. The user can view the image in two ways. By holding the WinDOE® up to the eye and looking directly at a distant point source the user will see the image appear in space between the note and the light source. The appearance of the image will depend on the light source used. [… more …]”

4. G-switch® (Dynamic optical colour shift) [K: Hmmm, why not?]

“G-switch® is a dynamic optical feature that changes colour when tilted under a light source. The bright and transient colour-switching effect is produced in the substrate layers. When viewed at different angles, it alternates between two contrasting colours, creating an optically reflective effect. The colour change is easily observed without special equipment or skill, making it easy for the public to recognise.”

5. MultiCLR™ (Secure Multi-Coloured Substrate) [K: ?]

“Guardian® polymer substrate can incorporate a spectrum of colours, which represents an innovative and effective security enhancement to aid in reducing the threat of counterfeiting. MultiCLR™ is available in many colour and design options and includes a choice ranging from a dual-coloured substrate – one side of the substrate is a different colour to the other side, or multi-coloured substrate – which uses different colour layering combinations producing 3, 4 or even 5 colour substrate. It also presents excellent design opportunities to produce multi-coloured half windows.”

6. WinBoss® (Transitory Emboss) [K: Most likely. Embossed numbers can be read by the visually impaired.]

“The ability of Guardian® substrate to accept a permanent emboss is an important feature which utilises a further element of the intaglio process to enhance the security of the banknote. This is achieved by leaving the engraved areas of the intaglio plate uninked to create an embossed design during the intaglio printing process.This is most effective when the uninked design is a ‘transitory image’ (bottom) embossed into the transparent window area, generating an image that is visible in both transmission and reflection.”

7. GOLDswitch® (Metallic Patch) [K: most likely. Similar to what we have in our current notes.]

“This is a metallic pigment that is made up as ink and printed on top of the Guardian® substrate as a patch. This patch may then be used as the platform for other security features such as ICE® (Intaglio Contrast Effect) and TIED® (Transparent Intaglio Disappearing Effect). [… more …]”

8. IRIswitch® (Iridescent Feature) [K: ?]

“A colour changing ink with a pearlescent sheen is used to print broad colour bands or images onto the substrate. When the note is viewed at different angles the colour and the texture of the iridescent feature will change. Iridescent features on notes are strong visual features, which are easy to recognise and to see the colour change.”

9. SHAD H2O Switch® (Shadow Image) [K: very likely. People know how to use this to detect fake already.]

“The shadow image in Guardian® substrate is similar in effect to the watermark on a paper banknote. It is an excellent optically variable device that is not obvious in reflected light but visible when the note is held up to the light. It is produced by altering the opacity and sometimes the colour of the opacifying layers and is far more durable than a traditional watermark. The shadow image can be a portrait or text.”

10. MAGread™ (Optical Machine Readable Security Thread) [K: very likely]

Threads have been one of the most recognisable overt security features for currency authentication. Threads can be introduced in the Guardian® substrate. These threads contain metallic, magnetic, phosphorescent and fluorescent pigments. As these threads are printed they can vary in their shape and size and include micro-text. [… more …]”

11. WinVU™ (Vignette) [K: looks good, why not?]

“This is an immediately recognizable design feature placed in the window which adds both an aesthetic and security dimension to the WinTHRU® complex window. It creates another degree of difficulty for the casual counterfeiter who is already challenged with the task of emulating a window. Complex line structures can be introduced into the design to make it difficult to create a window. [… more …]”

12. MicroSam® (Micro Screen Angle Modulation) [K: How expensive is this? May be on $100 banknote?]

The self-authenticating MicroSam® (Joh. Enschede) feature is composed of two elements: A microSam screener and a microSam image. The screener is printed in the clear window and the microSam image is printed elsewhere on the opacified substrate (note). They are both composed of a series of fine lines that cannot currently be photocopied; they are finer than the resolution of the eye. The functionality of the microSam® is achieved by superimposing the screener over the image and a hidden message or code appears to the viewer. [… more …]”

source: Security Features of Guardian Substrate retrieved on March 10, 2011.

Concluding thoughts

I hope polymer banknotes will work well in Canada as I think it will be quite hard to fake. And fake polymer bills will be much easier for regular Canadians to spot. Mind you, I do wonder can the polymer banknotes survive out in Canada’s extreme cold temperature? Will the notes freeze and break into pieces?

By the way, Australia issued its first polymer note in 1992. Unless you look it up, I bet you won’t guess which country issued its first polymer note in 1991! Yes, 20 years ago!!! :)

Hint/Solution: You can look what countries have issued polymer notes and when.

Cross posted on


1) Bank of Canada’s press release and backgrounder of the new polymer banknotes.

2) Guardian

3) Security Features of Guardian Substrate

4) Securency International company profile.

Other media reports: At press time, none of Canadian reports went further than what Bank of Canada released publicly.

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