GuardianĀ® - Facts and Figures

20 September 2013

Using Polymer Banknotes

What are polymer banknotes?
  • Polymer banknotes use a polymer substrate on which to print the normal offset and intaglio print layers the public sees on any banknote
  • Guardian® accounts for more than 99% of polymer banknotes found in the market today
  • There are more than 20 Billion Guardian® notes currently in circulation
  • More than 35 Billion Guardian® notes have been printed since they were first introduced to the market in 1988
  • Guardian consists of three major elements: the base film called Clarity®C; the opacified print layers that enable offset and intaglio inks to adhere to the substrate;  and security features that are either printed or embedded in the 75µ deep substrate
  • Guardian® notes offer benefits to Central Banks and the public that paper substrate cannot offer

How are polymer notes made?
  • The polymer is created using a unique ‘bubble’ process  in which a four storey-high chamber, gravity and air are used to create the base film (click on the image below to enlarge)
  • This base film is called bi-axially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) and is used exclusively for the creation of Guardian® substrate, which combines the base film with opacification print layers and security features that are both embedded and printed
  • Clarity®C – and therefore Guardian® – can be verified as authentic using a Verus® detector

The basics of a Guardian® note in cross-section

Why do Central Banks switch to polymer banknotes?
  • Central Banks are extremely well considered before they change the substrate of their national currency
  • Many study the use of Guardian® in other countries and when convinced of the benefits, will start the process by testing the use of Guardian® on one or two denominations
  • The benefits are extremely compelling and include dramatically reducing counterfeits in circulation, saving many millions of dollars in taxpayer funds due to their greater durability, being more hygienic and environmentally friendly, and helping Central Banks make the management of their banknote supply more efficient

How many countries use Guardian®?
  • Guardian® is currently used in 23 countries worldwide including
    • Australia since 1988
    • Mexico since 2002
    • Canada since 2010
  • Read the complete list of all countries that have issued Guardian® here

How are polymer notes different from paper?
  • As a three-dimensional transparent substrate, research worldwide consistently indicates that the public find Guardian® notes visually engaging due to the clear window and the vibrant and intricate designs that are possible
  • Guardian® notes have a smoother feel than paper – printing works will often use intaglio (ie, raised) print layers to give Guardian® notes their tactility

Do new notes stick together?
  • Yes, when paper or polymer notes are brand new, they can sometimes stick together at first
  • As the notes circulate this stops happening
  • Before counting a stack of new notes, separate them by fanning, tapping, shuffling or snapping them

Can these notes be used in ATMs?
  • Yes – there are many countries around the world that use polymer banknotes in ATMs
  • Commercial banks and cash handling organizations report that polymer is much cleaner and easier to work with than paper
  • Paper notes shed fibres inside ATMs that builds up and requires regular maintenance

What benefits does polymer offer over paper?
  • Guardian® notes offer the following benefits:
    • Durable – by lasting 3 to 5 times longer than paper which means we produce less notes overall. 
    • Waterproof – Whether it’s saltwater, freshwater or in the washing machine, polymer notes remain useable.
    • Secure – these notes allow us to stay ahead of counterfeiting through the use of leading edge security features – if we use polymer for higher denominations this will be a major benefit
    • Clean and Green – polymer notes are proven to carry less bacteria than paper and are also to proven to be far more environmentally friendly than paper

Do they last longer than paper?
  • Yes, polymer notes have been used worldwide for the last 25 years and are proven to last at least 3 to 5 times longer than paper

Can Guardian® notes be recycled?
  • Yes, once the notes become worn or damaged, Banks are able to recycle the notes

Can I clean them off if they get dirty?
  • Yes, they are resistant to dirt and oil and can be cleaned with a damp cloth

Can I fold or crease my notes?
  • Whether paper or polymer, it is better to keep your notes flat, not folded
  • To help them last longer, avoid creasing or crumpling them
  • When the user comes across crumpled or creased notes, it is recommended they flatten them by applying pressure or by curling them with one’s hand
  • Do not staple the notes together, as this may cause them to tear

What should I do if they get a tear?
  • While polymer notes are very durable and it is hard to start a tear in them, they can tear quickly if they are nicked
  • Torn notes can be mended with tape and used again

Checking Your Polymer Banknotes

Do I need to check my own money?
  • Even when a Bank introduces one of the most sophisticated and secure banknote substrate technologies to the market, every individual is still responsible for protecting themselves from professional banknote counterfeiters

Is it easy to check the banknotes myself?
  • Guardian® banknotes include innovative and easy to recognise security features that can be seen from both sides of the banknote
  • The notes are specifically designed to be easy to authenticate but extremely difficult to replicate


What impact does Guardian® have on counterfeiting once introduced to a monetary supply?
  • Due to the significant technical hurdle that Guardian® presents to casual and semi-professional counterfeiters, counterfeiting rates drop by at least 80% when first introduced to a monetary system
  • Professional counterfeiting operations remain a threat which requires the collective efforts of Guardian®, law enforcement, printers, suppliers, and the Central Bank
  • Educating the public on how to quickly authenticate a genuine banknote is also an important ingredient
  • Other key elements of successfully staying ahead of professional counterfeiters include:
    • Ensuring the note has adequate security through embedded security features, security inks, and integrated design
    • Introducing an upgraded generation of each denomination every 6 to 8 years
    • Working with law enforcement to quickly identify the source of counterfeit material in a city

How do rates of counterfeiting compare between paper and Guardian®?
  • Across every market in which Guardian® has replaced paper, the rates of counterfeiting are significantly lower, often in the order of at least 80-90% lower
  • The counterfeits that are detected in a monetary system using Guardian® are usually poor quality and easily identifiable as a fake note
  • Design on Guardian® is focused on enabling  the public to quickly authenticate each note as they receive it – which is the best defense against an individual suffering the pain of being caught with a counterfeit, which is worthless and cannot be redeemed

How do Central Banks fight counterfeiting?
  • The Banks fight counterfeiting by:
    • Researching, developing, and issuing new banknotes with more advanced security features
    • Offering free training to people who use cash regularly (like retailers and tellers) so they can identify and report counterfeit banknotes before they enter the cash supply
    • Supporting law-enforcement agencies in their efforts to investigate and prosecute this crime
    • Ensuring that banknotes in circulation are of good quality

Click here to view in pdf