Every year, the International Banknote Society (IBNS) choses a ‘Best Banknote’ of the year. By the way, if you don’t belong to IBNS, you should. It is $35 / year and well worth it if you like to learn about banknotes and history. IBNS asks its members to vote on the banknotes based on artistic merit, imaginative design and the use of new security features. These are good factors, but it is really about the integration of all three of these factors into a cohesive design that advances one of the three aspects.
This Years IBNS Nominees
There are 4 UK 20pound banknotes included in the list of nominees. The twenty from the Bank of England, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank and Clydesdale Bank. Taken individually, they are not breakthrough concepts- obvious since they are the 3rd denomination issued in their series. Each uses a window and holographic stripes in different ways. The artistic interpretation of the Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank are very attractive but again not breakthrough. Together, they are an ambitious approach to have four unique designs that are similar enough to be cohesive but different enough to express a unique perspective. But so did the 10 and the 5, and frankly the recent Hong Kong issuances. So they are out.
There are some nominees that are attractive but incremental extensions from previous generations. The Bangladesh 200 Taka, Saudi Arabian 20 Riyal, Lebanon 100,000 Livres and Qatar 5 Riyal are nice upgrades. So again, while they are very attractive banknotes they are not ‘best-of’ in my opinion.
The Fiji 50 commemorative has one of the best uses of a window and a very attractive image of happy children on the reverse. It is a strong contender, but it is not my choice. The new 1,000 baht is large and shows a story on the reverse. This is engaging, but Thailand used this approach several years ago. Great design? Yes, but is it really a banknote? The Tunisia 10 Dinar and Ukraine 200 Hryvnia have excellent artistic design and integration of security features. The portraits are attractive and dominating- and they are women. But the layout is based on a standard so they doesn’t really break new ground.
The fact that the Bahamas 5-dollar note is important. Normally we see the most attractive designs and the best security features in high value banknotes or short-run commemoratives. The Bahamas 5 has a beautiful tropical design, integrating local flora into a attractive banknote.
Indonesia 75,000 Rupiah
The Indonesia 75,000 Rupiah commemorative note is very attractive, has some of the most advanced security features and shows multiple portraits with the dual focus of 75 years of leadership and the future as expressed by a great image of children on the reverse. Similarly, the Namibia 30 Dollar Note shows the portraits of multiple leaders and images of rhinos in multiple locations. Both of these notes advance design integration and are worthy contenders.
What is seen in many IBNS selected notes is the increased use of micro-optic or micro-mirror threads, windows and optically variable magnetic inks. In 2020, we are seeing further improvements in the integration of these features into the design.
Mexican 1,000 Pesos
The Mexico 1,000 Peso note is my winner based on the best integration of the micro-optic thread, color shift ink into a unique design. The front has 3 portraits. Multiple portraits to pay tribute to more than one person important to the country. The back shows a jungle scene with a jaguar that looks like it is going to jump off the banknote. The ecosystem shown represented is a UNESCO heritage site and completes the unified ‘Heritage’ theme of this series of banknotes. The colors are light to dark green with purple accents and security features. The 1,000 Peso gets my vote because it uses the most advanced overt security features in unusual colors, integrated into an imaginative design with an important theme. Mexico has a history of designing some of the best banknotes. This one is the best of the best, at least for 2020.