It’s widely accepted among the numismatic community and collectors that the Reserve Bank of Australia was the first to print the true and functioning polymer banknote in 1988. The introduction of polymer banknotes has revolutionized the numismatic world. It has increased security, durability and even sustainability. However, did you know that before Australia’s introduction of their version of the polymer banknote there were already some synthetic banknotes produced and circulated? Read along to learn about Tyvek Banknotes.

New Age Polymer Banknote Collection, 11 Piece Set | Source: Banknote World

Yes, you heard right. The first synthetic banknotes were made of a Tyvek material, produced by the multinational company Dupont™. The material is described as unique, non-woven and made from high-density polyethylene continuous filaments. This material is light, difficult to tear, and liquid proof. This material is still used in various industries today, one immediate example would be shipping mailers. However, in banknote trials Tyvek did not perform as expected, in hot and humid climates the ink would smudge, and fragility was also a problem. Their use was eventually discontinued.

Modern Tyvek Shipping Mailer | Source: Amazon

The three countries that printed Tyvek banknotes were Costa Rica, Haiti and Isle of Man. Let’s review their Tyvek banknotes. Our first example is the Costa Rica 20 Colones, 1983. It’s made from Tyvek and colored in shades of brown, red and green. The obverse side features a portrait of former Costa Rican president Cleto Gonzalez Viquez with the birthplace of Víquez in Barva, Heredia in the background. On the reverse side is an image of various people on stairs below allegorical woman representing Justice holding staff and scales. This was the only Tyvek banknote printed by Costa Rica.

Costa Rica 20 Colones, 1983 | Source: Banknote World Educational

Haiti released a large family of Tyvek banknotes. They came in denominations of 1, 2, 50, 100, 250 and 500 Gourdes banknotes. One example being the Haiti 1 Gourde, 1980. It’s colored in brown with a few hints of blue and red. The obverse side shows a portrait of former Haitian president François Duvalier who was in office from 1957 – 1971. On the reverse side is an image of the Haitian coat of arms. Haiti printed a total of 6 Tyvek banknotes.

Haiti 1 Gourde, 1980 | Source: Banknote World Educational

Finally the Isle of Man only printed 1 Tyvek banknote. It was the Isle of Man 1 Pound, 1983. It was made of a material called Bradvek which was another form of Tyvek. Colored in shades of green and purple. The obverse side features an portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the right side while the center shows an image of the Isle of Man coat of arms which consists of 3 armored legs. The reverse side shows an image of the Tynwald Hill landmark.

Isle of Man 1 Pound – Tyvek Banknote, 1983 | Source: Banknote World Educational

Years later the Reserve Bank of Australia released the Australia 10 Dollars Banknote, 1988. It was the industry standard  for future polymer banknotes across the world. The banknote commemorates the Australian Bicentenary of European Settlement. It’s made from polymer and colored in shades of orange, brown, blue, and green. The obverse side features an image of a sailing ship in Sydney Cove with rows of settlers in the background. On the reverse side is an image of an aboriginal boy in tribal body paint. In the background shows imagery of rock paintings and an aboriginal Morning Star pole used in ceremonies.

Australia 10 Dollars Banknote, 1988 | Source: Banknote World


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