Paper Money

India's bank notes to get a coat of varnish

India’s bank notes could be getting a coat of varnish, according to a report from the Reserve Bank of India.

Original images courtesy of Reserve Bank of India.

India is a huge country, most of it subtropical, with long hot summers and a sometimes torrential rainy season. A climate like that in the land that is the second largest user of paper currency in the world can have the side effect of making its money messy and replacing it expensive.

Buried on Page 151 of the 268 pages in the Reserve Bank of India’s 2017–2018 report is an interesting paragraph on what the bank is trying to do about it: “In consultation with the Government of India, the Reserve Bank has been exploring the feasibility of increasing the life of Indian banknotes. International experience suggests that varnishing of banknotes is expected to increase their life and durability, reduce the banknote replacement requirements and thereby lower the overall security printing expenditure. It is proposed to introduce varnished banknotes on a field trial basis.”

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The evidence that some kind of solution is needed is shown in the report’s disclosure that last year, India had to get rid of 27.7 billion notes. That is four times the size of the Federal Reserve Board’s entire fiscal year 2018 U.S. currency print order of 7.4 billion Federal Reserve notes for all denominations combined.

No further details were given, but India’s Economic Times reports that varnished paper money is already circulating in Kenya and Zambia.

Nine denominations now circulate in India, ranging from 1 to 2,000 rupees. All but the 1-rupee note have a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. A rupee is about 1½ U.S. cents.

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