Swiss banknotes The firms that make our money

Switzerland has the most secure banknotes – and the most beautiful ones. Who are the discreet companies behind this success story?

Swiss quality can be found in four out of five of the world’s banknotes. Photo: SNB

Our suspicions have come true: the new 50-franc note is officially the world’s most beautiful banknote. At least that’s what the International Bank Note Society (IBNS) recently announced. The Swiss banknote prevailed against around 60 notes from other countries.

And the green paper product is not just beautiful; it is very secure, too. According to the Swiss National Bank (SNB), the new banknote series sets new standards in terms of security.

This is thanks not least to Swiss companies for whom quality, security, precision and discreetness are the number one priorities.

It is no wonder that these companies do not just supply Swiss customers. Whichever country you travel to, there’s a high chance you will find a great deal of Swiss quality in the local money.

Three Swiss companies work hard day in, day out to produce the paper that dreams – and sometimes nightmares – are made of. 80 percent of their production goes abroad, to other European countries and to Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Landqart supplies the paper

Landqart AG is anything but a normal paper factory. Swiss banknotes, euro notes and currencies from 50 other countries are all printed on paper manufactured in Landquart in the canton of Graubünden. Banknotes have a multitude of security features, some of which are already introduced during paper production. The best-known features are the classic water marks and the security thread. The company’s own special paper called “Durasafe,” which is used in the new Swiss banknotes, 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.

SICPA mixes the ink

The expertise of Swiss engineers and technicians is also required in the manufacturing of the printing ink. SICPA, a company based in Prilly near Lausanne, was founded more than 90 years ago by the chemist Maurice Amon. Its first product was a special type of milking grease. Today, people all around the world come into daily contact with the products of this special ink manufacturer. SICPA is now the world’s leading supplier of security inks and integrated security solutions for banknotes and securities. The inks have to be resistant to an extremely broad range of chemicals and must also be able to withstand various external influences – such as sunlight and being put in the washing machine – with as little damage as possible. For that reason, 150 scientists work in the SICPA laboratories to develop the top-secret ink formulas which make life difficult for forgers. One product developed by SICPA, called OVI ink, changes color depending on the angle it is viewed at. The company has filed various patents to ensure that this knowledge remains exclusive.

Orell Füssli prints the banknotes

The 430 million Swiss banknotes currently in circulation were all printed in Zurich by Orell Füssli. It has been manufacturing Swiss banknotes for the Swiss National Bank since 1911, and also produces notes for other countries in Zurich. Accordingly, the security requirements placed on the company are very high. In addition to banknotes, Orell Füssli also prints identity documents and securities. The Swiss National Bank decided in the 1970s that in future, it would only have banknotes printed in Switzerland by Orell Füssli. Since then, the central bank has owned a significant portion of the shares in the exchange-listed company. It remains a secure business for all the partners.

Paper still in demand

Even though cashless payment is growing rapidly and plastic cards are increasing in significance, banknotes remain highly popular. They are among a country’s most important ambassadors, and they also have to withstand a great deal. Even though each note passes through countless hands, it is still expected to look pristine and fresh. It must also be forgery-proof and not too expensive to manufacture. For Switzerland, the price limit stands at 30 to 40 centimes.

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