It has recently been made public that SICPA’s SPARK overt features are in over 350 banknotes. That is about 25% of all banknotes. No other single technology or supplier enjoys such breadth of usage. Crane probably has about 150 denominations with their MOTION, RAPID, SURFACE and related overt security threads. G&D / Louisenthal might have 50 banknotes with Rolling Star and its other colorshifting and micro-mirror products. Holographic patches from Hueck Folien and Kurz probably have another 50 denominations. And there are still a few countries that use colorshifting thread as a key overt feature. All together, maybe half of all denominations are using at least 1 expensive, anti-copy, overt security technologies that are used to help the public identify and authenticate the banknote.
Why Does a Bank Choose One Overt Feature Over Another?
Let’s start with the first assumption. They are ALL excellent at making it hard for counterfeiters to simulate a banknote. No doubt- they are all good. Possibly the biggest deciding factor is which technology fits the printing equipment or paper supplier.
Spark is a great technology. It is applied at the printer, but it needs special magnetic modules which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you are a state printing works and don’t have the modules, then you will be reluctant to make the investment to use SPARK. If you are a bank that buys banknotes, your printer of choice needs to have that piece of kit. Similarly applied stripes require special machines to apply the films.
Thread-based security features are delivered as part of the security paper. Most thread manufacturers also own banknote paper facilities. If a bank buy paper from Louisenthal, which is owned by G&D. Its mostly likely that Lousienthal will promote their own thread. Similarly, if you buy paper from Goznak, they will prefer to user their holographic threads.
The providers of these security features promote directly to the bank to try to get some part of their technology into a banknote – whether it is print, thread or paper. And many banks will put their tenders out in a way to split print, paper and thread between multiple suppliers. In some cases, a bank might end up with G&D printing, using a DLR paper and a Crane thread. This works when a bank has strong internal capabilities to manage the entire project and ensure quality compliance across the multiple suppliers. For other banks, it is just easier to ‘Buy DLR’ or ‘Buy G&D’ and use all of their technologies. That way, the bank only has one company to manage and work with.
While all of the suppliers want to say their technology is the best, the reality is that banks have many more factors to consider than just which tech is the best.