Grading banknotes accurately is more than discerning how damaged a note seems. There is a basic level of understanding needed- an integral part of which is being able to recognise specific features of an original banknote. If you cannot identify these basic features- you won’t be able to draw any significant conclusions as to a note’s grade.
Printing processes and techniques play a dominant role in creating these characteristics, and understanding these processes offers you a valuable insight which will be of great aid in any grading ventures.
The woodcut was the earliest printing process. These early prints were created using relief- the unwanted sections of an image or design were cut away from a piece of wood and the desired image was transferred to paper by coating it with ink and pressing.
Wood engraving was used on few types of early currency, and also employed when no other printing process was available.
Lithography was the second great development in printing technology. No longer relying on relief- lithography utilised the repulsive relationship between water and oil to create an image.
One of the most exciting prospects of this 1798 invention was the idea of printing in colour. Multiple plates were used (one for each colour) and a print would need to be fed through the press the same number of times as there were plates.
The main trouble presented by lithography was keeping the print lined up every time it went through the press to keep colours in the right positions.
The process of intaglio printing was and still is the most popular form used by banknote printing companies. It is an extremely time intensive process which calls on the skills of multiple tradespeople. This type of printing creates the impression of three-dimensionality which is often observed on banknotes.
How to spot an original intaglio banknote
An original intaglio banknote will be identifiable by touch- if you pay attention to the following features:
- Height to the ink
- Height in different areas of the note
- The longer a note is circulated, the flatter the ink ‘mountains’ become and the more the note loses its colour
- If a note is washed or pressed, these ‘mountains’ become flattened and lose their definition