Paper Money

South Korea bank reports new $100 'supernotes'

A specialist analyzes a suspected supernote at KEB Hana Bank in Seoul. While the U.S. Secret Service would not answer Coin World’s questions on the possible counterfeits, an official did acknowledge “ongoing investigations.”

Image courtesy of KEB Hana Bank.

A new generation of “supernotes” may have appeared on the international counterfeit market. That is the conclusion in a number of stories from media outlets as far flung as South Korea, England, and even Nigeria.

It started in November at a branch of KEB Hana Bank in Seoul, when an American $100 Federal Reserve note was flagged as suspect by a counterfeit detection device. Officials at the bank looked at it more closely after which they sent a scan to their main office, where there is a well-equipped counterfeit detection center. The center asked to see the actual note, and concluded upon detailed examination, that it was a new generation of supernote. The South Korean intelligence service and unnamed authorities in the United States confirm the finding, says Korea’s Chosun Media.

The U.S. coin market is made up of many small markets”When we discuss the rare coin market in the U.S., we are merely scratching the surface.The larger market for rare coins in the United States is made up of dozens of individual segments.

All previous supernotes, established to have emanated from North Korea, were of either Series 2001 or 2003. This one was of Series 2006 with the signatures of U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson. It differs from its predecessors in material and printing method. 

The note’s source has not been identified as North Korea, but Lee Ho-jung of KEB Hana Bank said on, “It seems that whoever printed these supernotes has the facilities and high level of technology matching that of a government. They are made with special ink that changes color depending on the angle, patterned paper, and intaglio printing that gives texture to the surface of a note.”

The notes were not yet reported to Interpol, and no determination has been made as to how many may be in circulation.

The Hankyoreh newspaper was told by a bank official, “To print supernote-level forgeries, you need a minting corporation-level production line in place, which costs hundreds of billions of won. This makes it difficult for ordinary criminal organizations to produce them.”

The United States Secret Service declined to answer a series of questions posed by Coin World about the notes, except to confirm that “As a matter of practice, the Secret Service does not provide comment about ongoing investigations.”

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The Congressional Research Service reported in 2009 that at least $45 million worth of North Korean supernotes had been detected in circulation, earning the regime between $15 and $25 million a year. 

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