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".

On one side, there were folks who put up the photo of these notes thinking that they are genuine errors. On the other side, there are people putting up videos showing how it could be created with some chemicals and cotton buds. There were claims and counter claims, and it went on for quite some time.

One of the owners of these notes from East Malaysia contacted me in October 2014 and subsequently sent me 2 pieces to review, let's call this "SET A".

Shortly after that, another collector, from East Malaysia also, sent me 2 pieces of the similar note to study and he clearly and openly states that these notes has been "altered". The term "altered" is the term used in numismatics to describe a "post-mint-job", let's call this "SET B"

Before I go further, I wish to openly declare that I currently do not own or sell any of these BR notes. The rest of this artciles focus on the FACTS and findings about the BR note that I have analyzed so far. I will not make any attempt to theorize how it could or could not happen - there are thousands of reasons and causes, I'm just reporting my observations and the test results.

For Set A

1. Obverse - There is a very clear and distinct vertical line that separates the 2 tones of color  across the Agong's face. That line separating the 2 colors is exactly 3 cm from the right edge of the note. Note A1 is the normal note, A2 and A3 are the BRs.

2. Reverse - The two Rafflesia A2 and A3 clearly has a different color from the original normal piece A1, For these 2 specimens A2 and A3, their tone of color are quite close. Note that the prefix are AD and AN respectively and quite far from each other.

3. Under UV light - there is nothing unusual about Set A under the UV light, the usual BIG Rafflesia does appear and glow in red under UV, as expected.

Malaysia 12th Series RM10 Black Rafflesia - Set A Obverse

Malaysia 12th Series RM10 Black Rafflesia - Set A Reverse

Malaysia 12th Series RM10 Black Rafflesia - Set A2 Reverse UV
Set A : Specimen A2 Under UV light

Malaysia 12th Series RM10 Black Rafflesia - Set A3 Reverse UV
Set A : Specimen A3 Under UV light

For Set B 

1. On the obverse - the portrait of the Agong looks just like any other 12th series RM10 banknote, there is no line splitting the Agong's face into two different color tones.

2. On the reverse - specimen B2 was made specially to demonstrate that the discoloration is deliberately done and only part of the Rafflesia is affected. Specimen B3 has the entire flower covered.

3. Under UV Light - only the altered area appeared to be darker than the rest of the flower. If the flower is fully altered, there is no way to tell the difference (base on the current technique that is).

Malaysia 12th Series RM10 Black Rafflesia - Set B Obverse

Malaysia 12th Series RM10 Black Rafflesia - Set B Reverse
Malaysia 12th Series RM10 Black Rafflesia - Set B3 Reverse UV
Set B : Specimen B2 Under UV light

Malaysia 12th Series RM10 Black Rafflesia - Set B2 Reverse UV
Set B : Specimen B3 Under UV light

Interesting fact about the small Rafflesia and Agong - an IR Device.

In response to some of the queries, Dickson revealed that the Rafflesia on the obverse is printed using the different plate and printed "by itself" i.e. only the Rafflesia is printed on that print run, nothing else.

The small Rafflesia on the reverse (which is different from the BIG Rafflesia that appears under UV) is actually an INFRA-RED (IR) device. What does that mean? Under IR light, only the small Rafflesia will appear, the rest of the banknote will appear blank/white. This is an additional security feature that is used to identify whether the note is genuine or not; and not many people know this. This is the same for the Agong on the obverse of the banknote and for that to happen, a different type of ink is required.

Dickson's response on the Facebook discussion above does corroborate with the theory that the IR device is printed separately from the rest of the banknote on a different print run with a different plate because it requires a different type of ink.

But that is as far I will go in terms of the theory. I have currently have no way to confirm this from an independent, different source about how the inking problem can occur in the production of the BR. I am ONLY SAYING that these 2 observations are consistent with one another.

And for this BR case,  there is no discernible difference between the altered one and the non-altered one under IR light as well !

Malaysia 12th Series RM10 Black Rafflesia - Obverse Infra red
This is a NORMAL Malaysia 12th Series RM10, obverse under infra red light.
Please note that "Ringgit Malaysia" below the Agong portrait does not appear under infra red light.

Malaysia 12th Series RM10 Black Rafflesia - Reverse Infra red
This is a NORMALMalaysia 12th Series RM10 note, reverse rafflesia under infra red light.
Note that other patterns and features of the print around the rafflesia does not appear under infra red light.

So where does that leave us?

In summary, base on what we know so far, there is no easy and cost effective means to tell the difference between the altered and non-altered BR. Unless of course someone has access to sophisticated multi-million Ringgit worth of  equipment to be able to detect the chemical residue on the banknote (perhaps a mass spectrometer?).

What I have presented here are just the basic facts base on observations made so far. And I wouldn't go into speculating how that can happen, although I have a few theories of my own. Unless it backed by solid facts, I am not inclined to discuss it here.

So if you plan to get a BR, please be very careful and as my good friend Dickson Niew puts it - "caveat emptor" or in English "let the buyer beware" !

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