This selection of resources includes some fascinating film footage, newsreels and other materials relating to the launch of decimal currency.
This short film was designed to educate and prepare the public for Conversion Day (also known as ‘C Day’). This film helped familiarise people with the new currency before it was introduced.
Film held by the Reserve Bank of Australia Archives (AV-000020). © Reserve Bank of Australia.
On February 14th you will start using new dollar notes, each printed with a number of colours, with one colour predominated. Other important features common to all dollar notes are this special watermark of Captain Cook and the metallic thread running down the note. The one dollar note is predominately brown and carries a portrait of the Queen and the Australian Coat of Arms on the front, and Aboriginal drawings on the back.
The two dollar note is printed in shades of green. John Macarthur and an Australian ram are on the front, and on the back, William Farrer and wheat. The ten dollar note is predominantly blue in colour. Francis Greenway and some of his architectural work are on the front, and Henry Lawson and manuscripts on the back. The twenty dollar note is reddish in colour. On the front, Kingsford Smith and patterns of wings; on the back Lawson Hargrave and flying devices. The new dollar notes are slightly smaller and are especially graded in size. After February 14th they will quickly replace the old notes.
The new decimal banknotes
This advertisement was created to explain many of the new features of the banknotes, which included a new size, brighter colours and security features. The banknotes also featured new portraits which represented a broader range of national figures, industries and enterprises than the previous banknotes.
Film held by the Reserve Bank of Australia Archives (AV-000022). © Reserve Bank of Australia.
On February 14th you will start using brand new dollar notes. Here is the one dollar note, equal to ten shillings. Predominately brown, with a portrait of the Queen and the Australian Coat of Arms on the front, and Aboriginal drawings on the back. See the new dollar notes on display at banks throughout Australia.
A new currency
This short advertisement was created to educate and familiarise the public on ‘C Day’ with the introduction of the new decimal currency.
Film held by the Reserve Bank of Australia Archives (AV-000029). © Reserve Bank of Australia.
From the 14th of February, C Day, you will be using new Australian coins and new notes. There are four dollar notes of new design and size, and six coins ranging in value from one to fifty cents. Remember, 100 cents equal one dollar. See the new notes and coins on display at banks throughout Australia.
In the Making… Money
The ABC produced this short documentary to explain the various stages of the design and production of the new decimal banknotes.
Film held by the Reserve Bank of Australia Archives (AV-000028). © A.B.C.
Money is perhaps the most complicated item man makes. Not because it’s difficult, but because it’s broken down into methods that make it impossible to duplicate. Engraving the master plate is the first step against imitations. Although it’s an exact and precise art, the fact that it is done by hand means it would be impossible for one man to engrave two dyes exactly the same. Differences in depth and width of lines would occur that an expert would soon pick up as varying from the original. Needless to say, the original dye is priceless and must be treated with great care. Plastic impressions are taken from this original which is then locked away. These impressions are set together and through electrolysis, a master plate is produced. Join marks must be filed and rubbed down until the surrounds are perfectly smooth. From this master is ground a metallic alto, which in turn produces the actual printing plate. While the printing plates are being ground to an exact thickness, the paper has arrived, already impregnated with the watermark and metallic thread; two basic forms of security. There are no fewer than three printing processes involved in the production of a banknote. The first is offset printing. This produces the multiple colours and the intricate line patterns that make up the backgrounds of our notes. These machines print ten separate colours in one operation. Six on one side of the sheet and four on the other, all ready for the foreground to be superimposed in the intaglio printing process. The artists original hand engraving was made with a certain depth to give a third dimension to the design. The ink is therefore dispersed with corresponding thickness. Because it’s so thick, it takes longer to dry. Sheets must be inserted to prevent smudging, and only one side of the note can be printed at a time. But once it is dry, this raised ink film becomes the main security feature of money. It gives a definite texture and feel that immediately distinguishes a genuine article from the forgery.
The third printing process is to number the notes. The operators here, as in all stages, make spot checks on their output. The main inspection is made by a barrage of girls whose only job is to sit all day and look for faults in money. Most errors are microscopic, and not many of them occur, but despite the monotony, these girls do find them. Try picking a fault yourself. This note is right, and this note is wrong. Did you see why? Well look again. In the right note, there is no printing in the white area, whereas here the foreground has been printed out of register and is not acceptable. Those that do get through usually become collectors’ items as there are so few of them. The sheets are cut down to single notes, then more girls will sort out those marked as imperfect to leave only the official legal tender.
The next stage is perhaps the most important of all. The notes are bundled into stacks of 100 and must be very accurately counted before distribution. These machines count 100 in one second but a double check is sometimes necessary. After all the security checks that have gone on in every stage of production so far, it is virtually impossible for even one note to be unaccounted for at this stage. But the count must be absolute because from here the notes are packaged and sealed in bundles of 10,000 ready for delivery. Approximately 300 million notes are made here each year. Not dollars. Notes. That’s a lot of money. Some is stockpiled for a rainy day, but most of it is issued to replace damaged money which is constantly being returned to the Reserve Bank.
Currency Conversion Jingle
Film held by the Reserve Bank of Australia Archives (AV-000066). © Reserve Bank of Australia.
Interview with Dr H C Coombs
The Governor, Dr H C Coombs, is interviewed by Walkley award-winning journalist Gary Scully. Dr Coombs describes the new decimal currency banknotes, highlighting the boldness of their colour, their uniquely Australian design elements and explaining their security features.
Film held by the Reserve Bank of Australia Archives (AV-000019). © ABC.
Interviewer: It has been suggested that this currency is probably among the brightest in the world.
Dr H C Coombs: Yes, we have certainly gone for lighter and brighter colours in the note. We think this is not completely unique, there are currencies in the world that use these lighter colours and we think they're attractive. We think they're appropriate in the Australian environment, and we think once people have got over the little sense of unfamiliarity in this, they will come to like them very much.
Interviewer: What are the main precautions against forgery?
Dr H C Coombs: Well, the precautions against forgery are complex. Some of them are specific, such as the watermark in the paper – the Captain Cook head. There is a metal strip almost in the centre of the note, which runs from one side of the note to the other. But the other features are more difficult to be precise about. There is the use of separate portraits in every note. These are, we believe, very difficult to imitate and are a recognised security feature in notes all over the world. Also, the paper itself is of very special quality and fineness and we think will be hard for any potential forger to imitate.
Interviewer: Doctor, I understand the production techniques used in these notes were radically different from the old system, Can you explain a little about this?
Dr H C Coombs: They are different in a variety of ways, apart from the fact they are, of course, a completely new and fresh design. Perhaps the aspect of the technical side of the note which is most different from the predecessor is in the background. This has been printed by a process that we have never used before. And indeed, in some respects we use it in a way in which its not been used anywhere in the world. This gives a design for the background which uses a variety of colours, although in each note, one colour will predominate. But they are printed with a series of overprintings which are very precise and very fine and this gives a complexity and detail of background which we hope will be exceedingly difficult to imitate; but at the same time, attractive and interesting to the holder of the note. And the quality of the printing which I referred to earlier. This is above all, I suppose, the thing which is most difficult for a forger to imitate. That is why it is always wise to have a fairly careful look at a note. Lots of pieces of paper can generally look like a note, but it's very hard to imitate the precision and fineness of good note printing.
Interviewer: Doctor, when 'C Day' comes around, will there be enough of these notes?
Dr H C Coombs: Well, we hope so. There will certainly be more of these notes available in banks than the whole of the existing issue, so that it would be possible for everybody who has an Australian note now to replace it with a new one. They won't all want to do this of course, so for some time both sets of notes will circulate side by side. But we expect that the new notes will pass into predominant use very quickly.
Decimal Currency, 14 February 1966 - Television advertisements
Aborigines of the Northern Territory: Bark Painters
Aborigines of the Northern Territory: Bark Painters (Australia, 1972). From the Film Australia Collection. Made by the Commonwealth Film Unit. Directed by Bob Kingsbury.