Banknote ink transfer errors

A collector from Johor sent us an interesting piece last week. This is a fine example of an ink transfer of the obverse on to the reverse of a Malaysian 1976-81 50 Ringgit banknote signed by bank governor Ismail bin Ali (Pick# 16 / BNM-B16 / KNB16 ). This piece was printed by Bradbury & Wilkinson of Surrey, England.

Fig 1: Ink transfer to the reverse of the 50 Ringgit banknote
Fig 1: Ink transfer to the reverse of the 50 Ringgit banknote

As you all know the portrait of the Agong (or King) is suppose to be on the obverse :

Fig 2 : The obverse of the same banknote
And how can such incidents happen during the printing process? Here's how : below is a simple illustration of the normal printing process, in which the printing plate for the portrait is a the top drum (Drum A) and as the paper goes in between the drums, the plate on drum A is pressed against drum B and the image of the portrait gets transferred to the paper.

Fig 3 : Normal printing process
Now image transfer happens when there is a momentary break in the paper feeding and as a result the image on drum A gets transferred to Drum B, as shown below :

Fig 4 : Momentary break in paper feed, image of top drum is transferred to bottom drum

And when the paper feed resumes, the wet ink on drum B gets printed to the bottom of the same paper. The image transferred will fade as more paper gets fed into the printing drums :

Fig 5 : Ink with image on drum B is transferred to the back of the paper
The image on drum A is a negative, when transferred to drum B, it will be a positive and final transfer to paper will result in a negative image.

Hope this will provide some clarity on how such ink transfer can happen when banknotes are being printed.

Happy Collecting !

History of BEP - where US Dollars bills are printed

Cover of the booklet - BEP History
Fig 1 : Cover of BEP History booklet
Ever wonder who prints the US Dollar bills? It's NOT the U.S. Mint as most of you think. That task goes to the "U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing" or fondly know as the "BEP".

There is an interesting booklet of 36 pages, in downloadable PDF form, that chronicles the history of the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving since the Civil War in 1860s.  It is a different entity from the US Mint, which produces the US coins. Both agencies are under the US Department of Treasury.

If you want to understand how banknotes or "Dollar bills" are produced, this booklet will give you a good idea how it's done.

When BEP first started out, those banknotes were printed by private firms and then sent to the BEP in sheets of 4 to be hand cut and trimmed. Those days, the signatures were hand signed ! Sheets of 32 which we are all familiar with came much later. There is also an timeline that summarizes the history of BEP, from 1861 to 2005.  Lots of interesting information, complete with many photos that gives good insight into the business of making money. The booklet is free and you can access it here.

How to get the ANA Diploma in Numismatics - A Personal Experience

Fig 1 : The ANA "Numismatic Scholar" certificate
A friend of mine blogged about the numismatic course from the American Numismatic Association or ANA back in late September. Since the blog article was published, some folks have asked me about what was it like doing the American Numismatics Association's Diploma in Numismatics Program :

1. How much does it cost? How do I pay the fees?
2. Was the ANA course difficult to do?  Are the subjects difficult to understand?
3. How long did it take for you to finish it?
4. Are there any exams?
5. How many questions are there and what type of questions?
6. What is the passing mark? Is the failure rate high?
7. Do I really need to study for it ? (Duh !)
8. Is it difficult to study the subject ?

The questions posed mainly revolves around how "difficult" is it to obtain the qualification.

As of the time of writing, there is still ONLY 1 MALAYSIAN (Update : As of 2016 there are 2 Malaysians) who has been awarded the qualification of "Numismatic Scholar" under the ANA Numismatic Diploma Program, according to their records (Yes, I have written confirmation from ANA on that ... in case you really want to know). As some of you already know, I received my Diploma in Numismatics back in 24 July 2014, after spending just under 1 year pursuing it. Of course, there has been a few hundred "numismatic scholars" who have completed the course - if I recall correctly there are more than 600 worldwide.

If you are serious about numismatics, whether you are a dealer or a collector, you should enroll this course to get in depth knowledge on this subject area. At the very least, you are less likely to get conned into buying fake / counterfeit or OVER GRADED items and most of all able to sense if someone is telling you the real facts or just trying to bulls**t you. The returns definitely justifies the price you pay for this course.

If you REALLY want to know how to get one for yourself, read on.

A Visit to the Japan Mint Museum in Osaka

The Japan Mint is located in city of Osaka, it is the third largest city after Tokyo and Kyoto. It was established on 4 April 1871, a time when there is no heavy industries to speak of in Japan. Everything needed to make coins were imported and all the raw materials were produced on site, which explains the size of the mint facility. The mint was also build next to the Okawa river, which joins the main Yodo river ((淀川) and flows into Osaka Bay. This allow ships to bring in to unload the materials needed for the mint.

Fig 1 : Facade of the Main Building

Fancy Number Banknotes : 8 Popular Categories

Lucky number 8
Lucky 8
Numbers has been as source of fascination in many different cultures around the world. Believers will tell you that certain numbers mean certain things, in different cultures and numbers make people do very strange things.

Take the number 13 for example - it is considered an "unlucky" number in most Western cultures. This belief has different origins depending who you ask. Some say that 13 pence was the hangman's pay; while Judas was the 13th disciple of Christ and the list goes on. Somewhere along the line Friday 13th is also regarded as a bad day and triska-deka-phobics (i.e. people who fear the number 13) will refuse to drive or go out on those days.  Buildings in the West do not have level 13 as well.

Malaysia 1 Ringgit Ali Abul Hassan Side/Vertical Signature ??

Fake AAH Signature on the side/vertical on 1 Ringgit note
Fake AAH Signature on the side/vertical on 1 Ringgit note 
Almost all of Malaysian banknote collectors know that there is only one version of the 1 Ringgit Ali Abul Hassan (commonly referred to as AAH) signed notes i.e. the one with the signature is a center of the obverse and the only prefix for this is none other than the famous "CR" prefix.

Then one fine day, someone showed me the much-talked-about but never seen side/vertically signed note, which is quite interesting because my good friend LUNATICG happen to mention that in his blog article titled "Top 10 Myths in Malaysian Numismatics". This "phantom" piece is listed at item #4. The most astonishing part is that someone allegedly paid RM15,000 (about USD4,000) for that piece. However, there were no photos of that piece shown in the article.

Now I am not at all sure if this piece that appeared before me is that very same piece or if it is even produced by the same "counterfeiter"* (a special heartfelt thanks to Eryclunk Numismatic (FB name) for showing me this); but it is far too interesting to let it go without taking a closer look at it!

* Technically speaking this is not a counterfeit because the banknote itself it genuine. It is an "alteration" made to it so that it will fetch a higher market value. 

A numismatist or a collector - is there a difference?

Numismatist vs Collector
Got a comment or a different view? Use the "comment" feature 
at the end of this blog entry.
The word "numismatics" is not often heard outside the banknote and coin collecting community. Mention the word "numismatics" to anyone you meet on the street, you will almost certainly to get the "excuse me?" kind of reaction, as if it was some foreign language! In fact that kind of reaction is quite "normal" for a "numismatist". Worse if you tell people that you are a numismatist, they'll go "what?".

Like any other field of study or job specialization, such terminologies or "buzzwords" as they are commonly referred to, often sound unfamiliar. Take the medical profession for example, I am sure all of you know what a doctors are and what they do. But have you heard of cardiologist, gastroenterologist, oncologist, pathologist and radiologist ? No? I am not surprised. All of these are specialists professions for the heart, gut, cancer, lab tests and X-ray/imaging, They are your garden variety medical practitioners which are commonly found in your local hospital.

Banknote Grading Guide

This is a summarized banknote grading guide in a tabular form. Makes it easier to used because the factors that affect grade is clearly spelled out. The contents are summarized base on the International Banknote Society's ( adjectival grading description. This was presented at the recent the "Introduction to Numismatic Grading" course conducted in Kuala Kangsar.

If you have any questions about the course or numismatic grading, do email us at or Whatsapp +60 12 318 3042.

If you would like to get a FREE large version of this table (A3 size) in PDF, please email us.

Banknote Grading Guide by

Numismatic Grading Course at ProCINS Kuala Kangsar

Back in November 2014, I received a call from Dato' Sha, who is the founder "Kelab Warisan Numismatik Malaysia" (loosely translated : Malaysian Numismatic Heritage Club). After a polite introduction, he inquired about my background and my qualifications in numismatics. I briefed him about my numismatic interests and having just completed the Diploma in Numismatics with the American Numismatic Association (ANA) in July. To which he said that he is in the process of putting together a course in numismatics with University Malaysia Pahang (UMP) [Update 10 Dec 2015 : Please note that the certificate is issued by Koperasi Universiti Malaysia Pahang] and he is looking for a professionally trained numismatist to be one of the lecturers as well as develop the course content from scratch and I seem to fit the bill.

As for myself, I have always enjoyed sharing my knowledge and help people whenever I can. I have volunteered as a coach for MBA students, conducted systems engineering classes, spoke at industry conferences and also served on an Industry Advisory Panel  for a local university for the past 3 years. 

So there is no need to guess what my answer was going to be.

The Banknote Book by Owen Linzmayer

The value of having a good catalog as a guide in building your banknote or coin collection cannot be underestimated. Not having one is akin to driving blind folded. For the past few decades Krause Publication's "Standard Catalog of World Paper Money" or SCWPM series of banknote catalogs has been the "go to" book for every world banknote enthusiast. So much so that one cannot be considered a serious banknote collector if he/she does not posses at least one copy of the SCWPM on his/her bookshelf! After all, SCWPM has been around since 1961, it boasts a whopping 21,000 items in their listing with 13,750 banknotes illustrated.  Given its long history, the dominance of SCWPM as the leading authority in banknote catalogs has been undisputed, until now.

Fake error note : Malaya British Borneo 1961 10 Dollars

One thing about collecting error notes is that it is fraud with many dangers. We had one such case recently.  A collector who recently acquired a piece of famous "kerbau" 10 Dollar error note ("kerbau" is Malay for buffalo) and he asked me to take a closer look at it and let him know what I think. Here's the high resolution scan  :

Malaya British Borneo 10 Dollars 1961 Obverse - Fake Error
Figure 1 : Malaya British Borneo 10 Dollars 1 March 1961, Pick #9

The bottom right serial number appears to have been over printed i.e. the "9" has been over printed with a "0".

Re-grading aN Graded Notes at PMG

It's bound to happen. It is only a matter of time.

Late last year, a collector acquired 2 pieces of banknotes graded by alphaNumis decided to cut them out from the plastic slab and send it to PMG for grading, just to compare our grading skills/competency, which in our honest opinion, is a good thing. As consumers, people have every right to compare products and services. As a service provider, it's good feedback and opportunity to learn and improve.

Malaya 1 Dollar 1941 Graded by alphaNumis & PMG
Fig 1. PMG graded this piece at 55, same as aN grading. (Photos from Straits Settlements Shop)
The notes in question are Malaya 1 dollar from 1941, with King George VI. They were graded AU55 and EF40 respectively by alphaNumis. The result of the grading came back earlier this year and below are the photos posted by the collector, Andrew Chan, at his blogsite. You can read this piece on the grading here.

BNM Second Auction of Malaysian Banknotes with Special Serial Numbers 29 Mar 2015

Fig .1 Catalog cover of the second auction.
Almost exactly 6 months after its inaugural auction of banknotes with special serial numbers, the much anticipated auction was held today at the same venue, Sasana Kijang in Kuala Lumpur.

This time there was 178 lots up for grabs, compared to 231 for the first auction (53 lots or 23% difference). The buyer's premium is at 15%. The official schedule :

8:30 am    Registration Starts
10:30 am  Session 1 - RM1, RM10 and RM50
1:30 pm    Session 2 - RM5, RM20, RM100

The auction did start at 10:30am this time around, registration was comparatively smoother than last time, mainly because the crowd was not as big as the first time and also perhaps people know what to expect already.

A Malaysia 11th Series 1 Ringgit Misaligned Cutting Error (MisCut), or is it?

A collector from up north sent me an interesting banknote to grade. It is an 11th series Malaysia 1 Ringgit note, signed by BNM Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz. A first glance it does look like a very uncirculated piece with very good eye appeal.

alphaNumis - Obverse Malaysia 11th Series 1 Ringgit Misalignment Error note

The Malaysia 12th Series 10 Ringgit Black Rafflesia : The Controversy & The Facts

The past 2 days has seen a lot of sudden buzz around the Malaysia 12th series 10 Ringgit banknote that has a different color Rafflesia on the reverse. This interesting event was triggered by Dickson Niew's blog article. Dickson, the prolific numismatist cum blogger (Did I get that right Dickson?) provides an interesting insight into the origins of the mysterious "Black Rafflesia", commonly referred to as the "BR" note in social media circles. The article can be found here.

Black Rafflesia 10 Ringgit Reverse
The note in question ....

This note has been a subject of much discussion on local social media groups on numismatics since the second half of 2014.  Much of the controversy revolves around the issue on whether it is a genuine piece or a "post-mint-job".