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

How to Store & Preserve Your Banknote Collection

How do I store and preserve my precious banknote collection?

It is a very important question that every SERIOUS COLLECTOR will ask at some stage of their collecting journey. While most people enjoy the thrill of the chase when they are acquiring a sought after coin or banknote but they tend to forget that keeping the collection safe from damage or environmental harm is also just as crucial in retaining its grade and value.  Here's a few quick and easy things DO's and DON'Ts to protect your precious collection from mishandling, fungus, fading, insect damage and foxing :

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.

Spink Book Launch : Commemorating The Frank Goon Collection of Banknotes of British Malaya

For someone staying in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, it is a 5 hour road trip from here to the southern tip of the peninsular, Singapore. But is was well worth it, when one's goal is to get a much anticipated and perhaps this years' most important and significant book on numismatics - the 2nd edition of "Frank Goon Collection of Banknotes of British Malaya" published by Spink & Sons.

Spink Book - Frank Goon Collection of Banknotes of British Malaya
Image courtesy of Spink & Sons

This large format volume is no ordinary book. The book itself weighs in at close to 3kgs, contains 485 pages in full color, 28cm wide x 28cm high and 3.5cm thick. Most importantly, it contains high resolution photos of Mr. Frank Goon's personal collection of rare banknotes of the British Malaya, meticulously accumulated over the last 30 years. Incidentally, Mr. Frank Goon is the CEO/Managing Director of one the companies under the Kuok Group, which is owned by Mr. Robert Kuok, the richest man in South East Asia since 2002, with a net worth of more than US$10.5 billion.

The collection covers a wide time period of the colonial rule of the peninsular and its surrounding territories; from the era of the Straits Settlements to pre-war King George VI to the post-war Queen Elizabeth prints. That's from 1826 onwards.

SPINK Auction of Banknotes, Bonds & Shares, Coins and Medals of SEA 16 Aug 2015 : PART 2

[ Read Part 1 here ]

The result of the analysis is in!

Below is the list of 9 banknote categories of interest and their performance. The data displayed below is summarized from Spink's official realized prices and the catalog estimate prices, WITHOUT BP & GST. We took the maximum value of the estimate prices and set it as a basis of comparison against the realized prices. These 9 categories' has 339 lots (55%) and their realized prices adds up to SGD1.216 million of the SGD1.924 million total (excluding BP & GST) for the auction, that's 63.2%.  In addition, the overall sales performance for banknotes is above the overall auction average.

Spink Auction - Performance Summary Table
Table 1 : Auction performance for the 9 categories

SPINK Auction of Banknotes, Bonds & Shares, Coins and Medals of SEA 16 Aug 2015 : PART 1

Image Courtesy of Spink & Sons
Spink is back, to Singapore that is, after a 6 year hiatus. Their last auction here was way back on 4 July 2009. Reason? They couldn't find enough good materials. According to Barnaby Faull, Director of Banknotes at Spink, there are many collectors with good stuff in this region but the trouble is, no one feels like selling! It takes a lot of coaxing and persuading, which is what Spink is exceptionally good at, the contents of the auction catalog is evidence of Spink's competitive advantage and track record.

Six years is a long time to wait but the timing couldn't be better - it is held in conjunction with Singapore's 50th anniversary of independence, fondly referred to as SG50. The lion city had just celebrated it's 50th national day the week before on 8 August 2015, amidst much pomp and circumstance.

SPINK's Auction in Singapore is no different, in numismatic terms at least - the auction of "Banknotes, Bonds & Shares, Coins and Medals of South East Asia" at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Center is the one of the biggest in terms of value in this region so far this year.

An Introduction to the Traditional Coins of the Malay Realm

An Introduction of the Traditional Coins of the Malay RealmIt is not everyday that one comes across a person who is truly passionate about what he does. Passionate people are usually the enthusiastic, driven types and it is this drive that lead them to learn more and subsequently become very knowledgeable in their area of expertise. Passionate people are contagions people, as in they are ever willing to share what they know and come to love, it even rubs off on you!

Now if there is such a thing as the "MOST passionate person in the area of Malay Sultanate coins", it will to be none other than Dr. Ibrahim Bakar. This is an avid collector of regional ancient coins for more than 30 years. Job wise - he is a fully qualified medical practitioner with a private practice in the northern state of Kedah, Malaysia.

For most of us who collect modern coins, these ancient pieces of gold, silver and tin are somewhat foreign or even mystical, primarily because of the ancient Arabic inscriptions which we are not quite familiar with. While there has been some growth in the collecting community for such items for the last 10 years but it has not hit the mainstream yet. The lack of awareness, better research and publications that promote the understanding of the general public in this area is seen as the main culprit .... and this book represents a major step forward in the right direction.

The First Post GST Banknote & Coin Auction by MNP Auctioneers

MNP Auctioneers 14 Jun 2015 Catalog
Fig 1 : Catalog Cover Page
This has been an eventful year when it comes to banknote and coin auctions in Malaysia. We've had several high profile public auctions from Trigometric and Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) in the earlier part of the year but that was BEFORE the "Goods & Services Tax" or GST came into effect on 1 April 2015. MNP Auctioneers auction series 2/2015 will be the FIRST public auction of collectibles after the GST and collectors, dealers and market watchers are all waiting to see what is going to happen.

The results of public auctions is considered a barometer of sorts of the strength of the local market and a reasonably good indicator of what's hot and what's not.  The good news is that GST is imposed ONLY on the buyer premium, not the hammer price of the lot. So if you add 6% on top of the 15% buyers' premium, the effective rate is 15.9%. Not too bad actually and I do not think this will cause a hold back on the part of the bidders.

For MNP Auctioneers, this will be their first public auction held in Kuala Lumpur. They were contracted by Bank Negara Malaysia to run the Central Bank's auctions, so that would be considered BNM's auction rather than MNP's own. Their first for 2015 was held in Penang on 11 January 2015, with 50 lots of coins and 60 lots of banknotes. Base on the realized prices from MNP, 53 items were sold out of 110. Of that 53, 18 lots were coins and 35 lots were banknotes, that's a hit ratio of 36% and 58.3% respectively, overall hit ratio was 48%. We're waiting to see how the one in Kuala Lumpur will go. If the total number of collectors in the capital city of Malaysia is anything to go by, we can expect a bigger turn out at this event.

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.

"SP Banknotes & Coin Fair 2015" in Penang

Most Malaysian and Singaporean collectors are familiar with banknotes and coin fairs held quarterly in Malacca and Johor (Batu Pahat, Danga Bay) for the past several years. The fairs are a good place for enthusiast, dealers and the general public to come together to buy/sell and exchange ideas and get the latest information on market prices of these collectibles. However, there has not been any such activity at the north of the peninsular for the past few years and that was what prompted Bert Chang to organize one in the Straits Settlements' island of Penang.

Coin Fair in Penang April 2015
Fig 1. Event banner

Now if you are an avid Facebook user and do all your hunting and socializing on the most popular social media platform on this planet, then you would have at least encountered the "SP 钱币发烧友" Facebook group (Translation : "SP Banknote & Coin Enthusiast"). The SP stands for Sungai Petani, a town in the northern state of Kedah. This is an active group of 15,340 members from all over Malaysia (as of 29 April 2015) with many daily postings for stuff for sale and enquiries from group members. Bert Chang is the organizer of this community since 2013 and this the very first time a pure numismatic event was organized in Penang in recent years. This 2 day event (25 & 26 April) was held in Menara Komtar, the tallest building in Penang.

Highlights of the 2015 Singapore International Coin Fair

Singapore Coin Fair 2015
For the numismatist and collector residing in the South East Asian region, the annual Singapore International Coin Fair (SICF) is not just another show to attend, it's PILGRIMAGE ! Held at the prestigious Sands Expo & Convention Center for the past several years, this is by far the biggest numismatic event in this region. In the 2014 event, there were more than 10,000 visitors.

This year however, the attendance was noticeably lower, primarily because of the passing of Singapore's founding father, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew earlier in that same week; on 23 March. So the event was understandably subdued as the nation mourned the passing of one of the greatest leader the world has ever seen. A man who took Singapore from a third world country to a developed nation in just one generation, a feat that has never been done before and will probably never be equaled. Singapore is where it is today because of Mr. Lee. Rest in peace Mr. Lee !

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.

Trigometric's Inaugural Auction

This is an interesting and important auction, mainly because it is the first to be organized by one of the largest numismatic dealers in Malaysia - Trigometric Sdn Bhd or Trigo as it is commonly known, is synonymous KN Boon, after all it is his company. Yes, it is the very same guy who published the book "Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore Banknotes and Coins" catalog, now in its 7th edition. This catalog is used by major TPGs like PMG and NGC, so that gives you the idea of the importance of this much anticipated event.

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".