New banknote series The new 20-franc note

Adding color to your wallet: the new 20 franc note has a few unexpected surprises.

by Stephan Lehmann-Maldonado 10 May 2017
It not only looks “Swiss”, a lot of Swissness goes into making it: a number of innovative Swiss companies are involved in producing the new 20-franc note. Photo: SNB

What message does the new 20 franc note convey?

 Red stands for passion, love and emotions. That’s why red is the basic color of the new 20 franc note. After all, it is supposed to show the “creative side” of our country and reflect its “vibrant cultural scene”. Light therefore plays an important role on this banknote: without light there would be no life and no energy. Designer Manuela Pfrunder has chosen a prism, the Festival del film Locarno, a butterfly and the globe as motifs. Overall, the National Bank’s new series of banknotes is intended to reflect “the many facets of Switzerland”. The design of each note centers around a primary theme. On the 20-franc note, this will be light.

Is it true that the new banknotes can even be washed without losing their color?

Yes. Whether you leave the banknotes lying in the desert, accidentally put them in the washing machine or even boil them in water, they’ll remain impervious to environmental influences. Their colors will shine as brightly as before. The security ink is Swiss quality – produced by SICPA, a company based in Prilly near Lausanne, which ensures that eight out of ten banknotes in use worldwide are printed with the right ink.

The “old” 50-franc notes have almost completely vanished from retail use. How is it possible to remove notes from circulation?

Starting from the date on which the National Bank issues a new banknote, there is a radical changeover. Subsequently, only new notes are available from the National Bank’s cash distribution services in Bern and Zurich and its 14 agencies. ATMs and bank and post office counters start issuing the new banknotes a few days later. The old notes are gradually returned to the National Bank, which then destroys them.

Do old, damaged notes lose their value?

No and no! You can still use them as a means of payment.

And even old, torn notes keep their value. However, just over half of the banknote must be present or identifiable. Notes that have been mutilated in this way can be exchanged at a bank counter for fresh ones. The National Bank employs a “banknote doctor” who reconstructs and restores damaged notes.

Which banknote will be issued next – and when?

According to the National Bank, the third denomination – the 10-franc note – is due to appear in autumn 2017.
However, there have already been major delays. The 50-franc note only went into circulation some five-and- a-half years later than planned. The reason: technical problems with the security paper. All of the banknotes are scheduled to be rolled out by 2019.

Who prints Swiss banknotes?

The company Orell Füssli in Zurich manufactures the Swiss banknotes on behalf of the SNB, as well as notes for a number of other countries. Printing banknotes is a complex process, both from an artistic and a technical perspective. Accordingly, the requirements made on the printer are very high. The National Bank made a decision in the 1970s that it would only have banknotes printed in Switzerland by Orell Füssli.

How secure are Swiss banknotes?

From where we stand today – very secure! According to the experts, we have the most difficult banknotes in the world to counterfeit.

What sets the new series of notes apart is the combination of complex security features and a sophisticated design. The new note has more than 15 security features such as micro-text, water marks and a tilt effect.

What type of paper is used?

Whether we can actually still speak of paper is debatable. The notes are printed on material made in Landquart by a company called Landqart AG. Given the name “Durasafe,” the special paper satisfies the most stringent security requirements. It consists of two layers of paper and a transparent polymer core, which makes it possible to integrate security features and colors on all layers. The paper’s composition also ensures that the note does not feel like plastic money.

How much does it cost to produce a banknote?

Our new money is expensive. Each 50-franc note costs 40 centimes to manufacture – 10 centimes more than in the past. On the flip side, the new notes should be more forgery-proof and more durable.

The National Bank isn’t yet able to predict how long the new notes will spend in circulation on average. The current 20-franc note has an average life span of one year, while the old 50-franc note circulated for around one-and-a-half years. The 1000-franc note, by contrast, remains in circulation for over six years because it passes through far fewer hands.

Why are the notes in the new series smaller?

Devices such as cash and ticket machines are becoming more and more compact. So banknotes have to move with the times. They are becoming shorter and narrower. They are also easier to store in a wallet and consequently suffer less damage. The 20-franc note is actually only slightly shorter – down from 137 millimeters to 130. By contrast, the new thousand-franc note is considerably smaller. Previously coming in at 181 millimeters, it is now just 158 mm long.

Is it true that the banknotes can no longer be printed off or copied?

Yes and no. Image editing programs such as Photoshop prevent editing of images of the new Swiss banknotes. And it is no longer possible to copy them on many printers and scanners. However, not all of these devices actually have this copy protection. The protection is provided by a program from the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group (CBCDG), an international working group set up by the world’s national banks to tackle currency counterfeiting.

Reproducing and copying banknotes is prohibited by law – but only if there is a risk of confusion with the original notes.