By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
On Thursday, May 9, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) acknowledged a typo on the new $50 polymer banknote. In circulation for almost seven months since its October 18 release, it took until early this month for the misspelling “RESPONSIBILTY” to become news. The bank claims that it has been aware of the mistake since at least December 2018.
Nevertheless, the typo is clearly visible at the end of the second line of microprinting at the 1:19 mark in the promotional video below, published on YouTube on October 4, 2018 (more than two weeks before the bill was issued):
About 46 million ($2.3 billion AUD face value) of the “most widely circulated” banknote in Australia entered circulation before the error was brought to the attention of Bank authorities, though a total of 400 million notes were actually printed. The misprint is in the process of being corrected before the next scheduled print run, which is set for the middle of 2019.
According to Jim Noble of Noble Numismatics, this is the first time the RBA has allowed a typo of such a scale to enter circulation. While misprints have found their ways into the wallets of the general public, Noble says that those have been individual errors, not entire runs.
The misspelled bills will continue to circulate.
In a statement to nine.com.au, a Reserve Bank spokesperson said that “[t]he error is being corrected as part of a normal print run so there is no additional cost… We are not withdrawing or recalling bank notes with the spelling error.”
Likewise, a Bank spokesperson confirmed that “[t]his does not affect the legal tender status of the banknotes.”
The RBA is currently reviewing procedures to ensure that a mistake like this doesn’t happen again.
The typo is part of a quote from the first speech to the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia delivered by Edith Cowan (1861-1932), who, in 1921, became the first woman ever elected to parliament in Australia. The full text of the quote, located in microprinting in front of a depiction of the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women that Cowan helped found in 1916, should read:
“I stand here to-day in the unique position of being the first woman in an Australian parliament ... It is a great responsibility to be the only woman here, and I want to emphasize the necessity which exists for other women being here. If men and women can work for the state side by side and represent all the different sections of the community ... I cannot doubt that we should do very much better work in the community than was ever done before.”
Cowan has featured on the reverse of the Australian $50 banknote since the first polymer note was issued in 1995. The front features Aboriginal writer and inventor David Unaipon (1872-1967), who has also been on the polymer note since it was first released.
The bill is part of the newest series of polymer notes called “Next Generation” banknotes. State-of-the-art security and accessibility features have been incorporated, such as holographics, a transparent window, and tactile features for the visually impaired.
Next Generation versions of the $5 and $10 denominations came out in 2016 and 2017, respectively. An updated $20, which features pioneering businesswoman Mary Reibey (1777-1855) and the Reverend John Flynn (1880-1951), founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, will enter circulation in October of this year.
The following video demonstrates some of the new security features added to the 2018 note:
Unfortunately, the blunder on the $50 bill is not the first time in recent years that notes produced by the Reserve Bank of Australia have garnered unwanted attention.
A vocal number of Australians reacted negatively to the “Next Generation” $5 banknote when it entered circulation in September 2016, calling the note “vomit-like“, among other colorful appellations.
And, just a couple of months later, a vegan activist in the UK started an uproar on Twitter when she asked the Bank of England if their polymer notes are produced using animal fat, or tallow. UK-based polymer note manufacturer Innovia does indeed use tallow for the substance’s cost-friendly lubricating and anti-static properties, and the Reserve Bank of Australia is one of 24 nations to whom Innovia supplies its substrate for the printing of banknotes. To their credit, both the Bank of England and the RBA were forthright about this fact.
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