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.