by Abdullah Beydoun
Each year, the International Bank Note Society (IBNS) votes on a newly released banknote to receive the Banknote of the Year prize. Members of the society can nominate a banknote which has been issued to the public for the first time during the year of the award, and the recognized winner must have excellent artistic merit and/or innovative security features. Winners of the coveted prize are selected by a vote which includes all members of the IBNS, who are encouraged artistic merit, colour, contrast, balance and security features when determining a winner.
To get a sense of what it takes to win the Banknote of the Year prize, let’s examine the designs
and features of some previous winners.
Switzerland Locks Down 2016 Prize with New 50 Franc Note
The latest winner of the IBNS yearly prize was Switzerland, thanks to the striking designs of the 50 Franc note released in 2016. This bank note was the first new design released by Switzerland in two decades. It incorporates visual themes of wind and national experiences. The obverse side of the note features graphics of wind patterns on the Earth and a playful hand holding a dandelion with the seeds beginning to blow away. The reverse side features an image of a paraglider superimposed on a topographical map of the Swiss Alps.
The notes are vertically oriented, and are mostly green, but smatterings of red and blue create a rich palette on the exquisitely designed notes. The 50 Franc notes use the latest security features and three-layer substrate Durasafe technology. They were printed by Orell Fussli Security Printing Ltd.
2015 Banknote Prize Goes to New Zealand for $5 Note
The $5 note that won for New Zealand bears several differences from the 2016 winner. This note is oriented horizontally and follows a brown and orange colour scheme, depicting a variety of natural symbols, landscapes and national heroes of New Zealand. On the front side, the note’s main security feature is the Penguin SPARK patch and you’ll notice graphics of Mount Cook/Aoraki and famed explorer Sir Edmund Hillary. On the reverse side, New Zealand flora and fauna are pictured, including daisies, the yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho bird and native ferns. A secret Queen Elizabeth II watermark adds an extra layer of security.
Trinidad & Tobago Score 1st Place in 2014 for $50 Note
T&T’s winning banknote of 2017 was designed and produced in close collaboration with De La Rue currency and includes exemplary security features along with compelling images of wildlife and national symbols. The observe side contains an artist’s rendition of a red hibiscus and a red capped cardinal bird in flight against a clear transparent polymer plastic windows. The reverse side of the bill depicts the Central Bank Building in Trinidad along with a female reveller in full Carnival Regalia. The most visually stunning aspect of the note, however, is its bright gold colour scheme which is accentuated by reds and greens. This was surely the most visually unique new banknote of 2014.
Kazakhstan’s Hat-Trick – Three Consecutive Wins Follow Release of New Banknotes
Thanks to their unique combination of colour, imagery and security features. The 10,000, 5,000 and 1,000 Tenge notes are all visually moving – each uses a unique colour palette and incorporates national symbols and images of local wildlife. Kazakhstan also deserves credit for understanding trends in bank note design and applying those trends to their new notes – the notes are all vertically oriented on the obverse side and horizontally oriented on the reverse side, and the sizing is slightly smaller than that of American bank notes.
Winning the coveted IBNS banknote of the year award is no simple task – but it comes down to designing a banknote that an entire nation can take pride in. New security features are vital for maintaining the integrity of a national currency, but the imagery and symbolism contained in the design itself can communicate a rich and nuanced message that inspires national pride, love and curiosity. The IBNS annual prize exists to encourage innovation, but a truly moving depiction of a country’s wildlife, institutions, or heroes, is all it takes to inspire bank note collectors and win first prize.