The Bank of Jamaica conducted a thorough analysis of all the alternatives to cotton, including varnished paper, polymer and Louisenthal’s Hybrid, among others. For the $100 note, the bank rejected the polymer option as it would involve a redesign, the loss of the traditional security elements and the resulting need for a public education campaign. There were also challenges in processability, online destruction and ink abrasion. The bank selected Hybrid, on the basis that it has excellent anti-soiling properties and mechanical strength. Many other countries with similar climates to Jamaica’s already use Hybrid, so there were several customer references as a basis for the bank’s decision. A further decisive factor was that the substrate retains its brightness much better than other substrates (it scored 2.2 in the loss of brightness – Delta L – tests, compared with coated cotton at 12.4 and standard cotton at 22.4). Yet it has the same look and feel as cotton substrates – including high-quality intaglio elements.
Lower costs and processing efficiency
So in July 2012, the Bank of Jamaica issued its new $100 note made from Louisenthal’s Hybrid substrate, which comprises a cotton core coated with an ultra-thin layer of polymer laminate. The polymer shrugs off dirt and moisture while increasing the note’s resistance to rips and tears. The note still has the soft feel of notes based on cotton substrate. That helps people check that their banknotes are genuine and avoids the need for a public awareness campaign to tell people about the changes. Hybrid can also integrate a wide range of security features and is optimised for processing by all conventional bank automation machines. But for the Bank of Jamaica, the most compelling argument for Hybrid was to prolong banknote life to reduce printing costs.
Jamaican study proves effectiveness
In 2014, the Bank of Jamaica initiated a research project to analyse the lifecycle of the various types of substrate in circulation on the island. For the $100 note, the bank found that Hybrid increased its lifespan from four to more than 14 months – over three times longer than before the changeover. Based on this experience, the Bank of Jamaica then switched the $50 to Hybrid too.
An innovation that really pays off
Hybrid has proved its success in many countries around the world – in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Recent examples include Suriname, which has introduced 5 and 10 Surinamese dollar notes based on Hybrid; and the Bahamas, which enjoyed such a level of success with its Hybrid-based $1 Bahamian dollar notes that it added the B$5 and B$10 notes soon after. The slightly higher initial cost of Hybrid is rapidly offset by the fact that central banks don’t need to reprint nearly as often. That’s why Hybrid is an investment that provides a return within a short timeframe. For central banks of medium-sized countries, the additional costs of Hybrid banknotes are recouped in just two years and everything after that is a pure cost saving. After a circulation period of ten years, Hybrid banknotes achieve savings of approximately 20 percent compared with cotton banknotes.