Talk Description to Me

Episode 53 - Currency

May 29, 2021 Christine Malec and JJ Hunt Season 2 Episode 53
Talk Description to Me
Episode 53 - Currency
Chapters
1:51
Canadian Money
7:20
American Money
9:24
British Pounds
11:30
Norwegian Krone
15:23
Security Features
23:07
Cash Graffiti
Talk Description to Me
Episode 53 - Currency
May 29, 2021 Season 2 Episode 53
Christine Malec and JJ Hunt

Moolah, bread, bucks, scratch ... cash by any name is always sweet! But what does the money you covet and carry actually look like? Today, Christine and JJ break down the visuals of banknotes: the art, the portraits, the security features, and even the cheeky graffiti that's scrawled onto bills and put into circulation.   

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/TalkDescriptionToMe)

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Moolah, bread, bucks, scratch ... cash by any name is always sweet! But what does the money you covet and carry actually look like? Today, Christine and JJ break down the visuals of banknotes: the art, the portraits, the security features, and even the cheeky graffiti that's scrawled onto bills and put into circulation.   

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/TalkDescriptionToMe)

JJ Hunt:

Talk description to me with Christine Malec and JJ Hunt.

Christine Malec:

Hi, I'm Christine Malec.

JJ Hunt:

And I'm JJ Hunt. This is talk description to Me where the visuals of current events and the world around us get hashtag in description rich conversations.

Christine Malec:

Today we're going to be talking about money, everyone's favorite subject, but more specifically currency around the world and what it looks like. And I was when thinking about this ahead of time, I do some English tutoring. And so I thought I would ask my students describe the money from the country where you grew up. And I was quite shocked that people were completely stumped. They couldn't remember without having it right in front of them, what the images were on the bills of the country where they grew up. And it made me think about how money is something cash is something people are simultaneously so used to and so familiar that you know, when something is not right, you know, it's not a currency from your own country. And yet, when asked, most cited people draw a bit of a blank, because it's something you sort of You see, but you don't see. And currency is so country specific that we thought it would be an interesting topic to, to dive into and do some description on. So I'm JJ, are we starting? Are we starting here at home in Canada?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, let's start in Canada. It's what we know, even if, as you say, you forget some of the details when it's not sitting right in front of you. And for the record, I totally agree at when I started doing my research for this episode. I was kind of blown away by how much I'm like, Oh, God, how did I not realize that? Are we I think I maybe knew that. But I completely forgot that that was part of our bill. Like, over and over again. I was surprised that the how rich The art is, and the history is in these bills in these bank notes. So yeah, let's start by talking about what we know the Canadian bills. Canada is very well known for our colorful bills. We've got a blue rendered in a pardon me a $5. Bill rendered and blues, a $10. Bill in purples, the 20 is green, the 50 is red, and the $100 bill is brown. I don't know if you've ever heard it called a brownie. But sometimes say hey, here's a brownie for you. And it's a hundred dollar bill.

Christine Malec:

Oh, I never heard of that. Is that one of your 1940s-isms?

JJ Hunt:

That's right. Ha ha. [Old-timey radio voice] Hey, pass me one of those brownies. Yeah, exactly.

Christine Malec:

That's so your 1940's vocabulary.

JJ Hunt:

The front of the Canadian bill - all of them feature portraits of political figures. And with the denominations in large, simple bold fonts, and then there's a transparent window stripped down the right side. And it's embedded with a double sided hologram. These are security features. We're going to talk more about those in a bit. But it's it's a full strip from top to bottom of hologram and and and see through window transparent window. There's also a hologram of a maple leaf at the upper left. And then the backs of the bills feature scenes that speak to the identity that we want to promote about ourselves. So we've got this space shuttle Canada arm, there's an image of in the National Railway Vimy Ridge War Memorial, an arctic research icebreaker, and then there's a medical researcher at a microscope on the back of the $100 bill. Our newest bill in Canada is the vertical $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond Viola Desmond's a woman of color. She was an entrepreneur, a civil rights activist who refused to give up her seat in a segregated Halifax movie theater in 1946. And so this bill is notable for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's this is the bill that has the features the first black Canadian in portrait on a bank note very big deal. And it's also the first vertical note in Canada. So it is a total outlier. All our other bills are horizontal in their presentation. And this one is vertical so it's really stands out there. They're very lovely bills, they're very lovely.

Christine Malec:

There's a little interesting side note about Viola doesn't which doesn't seem to get much press but one of the reasons she went into the the whites only portion of the theaters that she was visually impaired and she wanted to be able to see the screen. And so there's that element to her. Her willing to stand up for herself that doesn't get, you know, as much press as maybe it should. So yeah, Viola for being on our new bill,

JJ Hunt:

I didn't know about that I didn't know about that!

Christine Malec:

Uh huh.

JJ Hunt:

On all of our bills, the illustrations and portraits are engraved, or at least have the engraved look. This is a very, very popular style for bank notes, in part, because this is how early bills and even some modern bills, this is how they were printed, they were printed off of engraved plates. engravings can be really very detailed. And the detailing of the engraved prints was used for security reasons, right, this was a security element, the government would own the original plates for printing. And they were so detailed, that creating forged plates was extremely difficult. So that's why original bills were printed off of engraved plates. And even if the printing technique has changed, the look of the banknotes has persisted. So a lot of banknotes and we're going to be talking about today. Have that look that engraved printed look or even some have an etched look.

Christine Malec:

What do you mean by it looks like an engraving. What does that look like visually?

JJ Hunt:

In general, bank note engravings tend to have lots of very short, clean, even straight lines. The shading is done with hatching. So again, parallel lines or cross hatching where you cross over. That's how a lot of the shading is done on these. It's a very orderly, very precise, stiff and formal look. And that is kind of across the board.

Christine Malec:

I think it's worth noting, just for fun that our currency is plastic. Yeah, if you live in a country that doesn't have that it's really strange when you first touch it, you get used to it quickly, but it's more durable.

JJ Hunt:

That's what a lot of newer bills in various countries have this plasticized paper, right? It is. It's waterproof, it's harder to draw on or write on. And it's, it is so much more durable. And that also means you can incorporate those windows and things like that. It's much harder to do that with with kind of more linen a paper feel.

Christine Malec:

So let's talk American bills.

JJ Hunt:

The greenback, the American greenback and so called because of the coloring, right? The American bills have been printed with like a kind of a dark gray green ink. Since basically forever, I think it was the late 1860s when the first US bills were printed with green ink. And green ink was used then because it couldn't be counterfeited using black and white photography, which was the only readily available photography of the day. And so that's why they use this green ink. And then as the bills evolved and time went on, the American government decided to continue to use that color of green to project an image of stability and dependability. American money is safe and secure, it will never change. So green has continued to be the dominant color across all the bills. us money has a very staid, formal, old school look it these bills look most similar to their to their original counterparts as kind of any bill that I came across. The bills are bordered with very intricate engraved designs. And each each note is unique. But they're all very very similar. Most have an engraved portrait of an important political figure that's offset to the left on the front, and engraved illustrations of historical buildings and monuments on the back. The denomination is present in all four corners front and back. And and much of the writing and the numbering on these bills, looks. It's kind of old fashioned very embossed, so the important lettering is embossed and the way you create an embossed look on in an engraving is you use a drop shadow. And this is a drop shadow that is on a font that is I think early 20th century font, very formal, very stuffy. That kind of looks like the nameplate on a banker's office door.

Christine Malec:

Where are we going next?

JJ Hunt:

Let's talk about the British pound. So the current British pounds come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 pound notes and they all feature the same portrait of a younger middle aged Queen at the front. And what's interesting about these, it's the same kind of engraved look that you find in the American and the Canadian. But what I found about the British pounds as you can really see the stippling. The stippling really stands out. So stippling is a technique where you use lots of tiny dots to create texture and tone and It's clear that that technique has been used to create the contours on the face of the queen. So when these tiny dots are close together, the human eye perceives that as being darker when they're further apart, the human eye sees that as being lighter. If those dots are all lined up close together, it looks like a solid line. If they're spread out, then it's just kind of there's an implied line. And that stippling is part of all of the engravings that we've talked about. But it's particularly prominent I found in these portraits of the queen. There are really intricate design elements on the British Pound notes that overlap an illustration of the Bank of England on the front, that's kind of the front center of the bill. And the font that is used. The Bank of England title is in this elaborate medieval looking calligraphy. And then the word pounds that is at the bottom of the note is written in a flowing cursive font. And all of that that I've just talked about is kind of the middle and right side of the bill. So like maybe two thirds of the bill and, and those are all done in kind of monochrome coloring. So there's a teal color for the 5 pound bill a more of a pumpkin orange for the 10, purple for the 20 and red for the 50. And it's worth noting that the size increases with each bill. So the five is the smallest bill the 10 is a little bit bigger, the 20 is bigger still. And the 50 is the physically it's the largest bill.

Christine Malec:

You mentioned when we were getting ready for this episode that you were interested in the Norwegian kroner. Why is that?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, the kroner are kind of interesting because they're, they're lovely looking bills, but they have a more modern aesthetic, which is different than you know, all the other bills we've talked about. They're pretty classic. They even if they're newer and plasticized as most of these bills are, they kind of have an old fashioned look to them, but not the krona the kroner actually is, they're more modern. So these bills were introduced the most modern ones in 2017 - 50 100 200 500, and 1000. And those are in dominant green, red, blue, kind of a mustard brown and purple respectively. The front's are kind of the traditional side. So each image on the front features, it's like a detailed engraved style illustration that speaks to maritime life. So there's a lighthouse of Viking ship, herring, a sailboat and a cresting wave. So those are on the front, no political figures, no historical figures, this maritime life. And all of the fonts on these bills are very clean. They're they're clean, all caps on adorned with serifs and frills, right, so it's very clean lines, very clean writing. But the backs are the really interesting part. They're small works of modern art. So backing all of the important practical information security features are these abstracted seascapes in the same dominant color scheme. So the bottom quarter of each bill is the sea. And above the ruler, straight horizon line is the sky, the sea is made up of, again, the dominant color with some wavy lines. And then above that the the sky is are these horizontal bars of color. So for the 500 bill, for example, the 500 kronor bill, it's got that mustard brown color scheme, and the sea is a muted kind of chocolate brown color. And it has these thin offset wavy lines that go all the way across. And then above the horizon, the bars of color in the sky are golds, yellows, burnt oranges, and tans. Really very handsome. Very modern, very clean. Absolutely a different look than when you compare that to an American bill, which, you know, could be from the early 1900s. It's a completely different look.

Christine Malec:

I'm kind of confused by the color scheme. How do you know it's sea and sky? If it's in those colors that are not normally associated with the sea in the sky?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, well, I mean, first of all, the you've got a straight horizon line and the wave action, these offset wavy lines in the sea. And then really, so much of it is the proportions.That's an interesting question because I automatically knew that that's what they were going for. But how would you know with everything in browns? There is this, the quality of these horizontal bars that kind of fill the canvas. If you move it far enough away from your eye, you would start to see a blended color. It would look more blended. When you pull it closer, you can see how distinct those horizontal bars are. It has a diffused quality to it that makes it seem like a sky. But really, for me, it's about that strict horizon line and the waves on the sea below. And once you've identified that intellectually, then the sky just naturally falls into place.

Christine Malec:

I know bills have a lot of security features in them to to detect counterfeit. Can we talk about some of those?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, this was this was a place where when I started doing my research, I realized just how much I've been not looking at in these bills, there are so many different security features. And most of them have a visual element to them, even if they're a little bit hidden. So there's some pretty standard ones like watermarks that are embedded in the in the paper itself, and then the paper quality, right. Older bills have a linen feel to it a very high quality kind of linen texture, and the newer bills in lots of different countries of this class, the size that we've talked about. And those are hard to reproduce. So the paper quality, the watermarks, certainly, but then there are kind of more complex things like invisible ink and invisible ribbons. So the US bills have very thin ribbons woven into the fabric. And they're for the most part, not always, but for the most part, they're invisible until you hold them up under black light like a UVA light. And under black light, these ribbons glow. So they look like thin green, blue or red bars that run parallel to the edge of the bill. And it can be anywhere they don't have to be centered that ought to be to the right or left, it's depending on that paper and how it was cut. Because it's woven, right into the fabric, British pounds New Zealand dollars, there's an East Caribbean dollar, all of their bills have their denominations written in invisible ink, so that if you put it up, put those under under black light, the denominations will light up the pound notes are really cool. When you put the most modern British pounds under a black light, the number the denomination will glow in a colorful Harlequin diamond pattern. So within the bill, it'll be like a glowing orange and glowing yellow diamond pattern five, or whatever it is, I can't remember which color is associated with which pound. Really cool. Apparently on the Indian rupee, if you put a the most modern rupee under black light, Gandhi glows!

Christine Malec:

Ha ha ha!

JJ Hunt:

Really interesting choice.

Christine Malec:

Wow, nice.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, really cool. And then there are holograms. Sowhen I say holograms, I'm not talking about the most sophisticated kind of hologram that you can find, like art holograms, those holograms have 3D images that really jumped out at you These aren't quite that the Holograms that are put on bills, I'll just talk about the Canadian ones because I have access to them. In Canada, the Holograms look like a shimmering illustration on very fine, very smooth foil. And when the light hits that hologram in a certain way, you get a rainbow reflection off of the image. So if you tilt it back and forth from side to side, that hologram image has a rainbow quality and shimmers a little bit. In Australia. They've done some very cool things with elements that I think are related to holograms, not exactly holograms, but I think they would fit into that broad category. So the $5 bill in Australia features several images of birds. And when you tip the bill up and down, there's a rolling color effect on one meaning that the color change rolls up and down the image. So it's like a like a bronzy color that moves all the way up and all the way down this picture of a bird as you tip it up and down. And then there's a second bird on that same bill. And as you tip it up and down, it appears to flap its wings.

Christine Malec:

Wow.

JJ Hunt:

It's kind of like, have you ever seen those flip books where people have drawn pictures in the corner and you thumb it and one image comes after the other Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, and you can you can create kind of an animation like that. It's a very simple...

Christine Malec:

Yeah I've heard of those.

JJ Hunt:

This is a simple version of that where if you tip it back and forth, up and down, up and down, then then the bird appears to flap its wings really cool and again, extremely difficult to counterfeit. Like how who's got the technology? That is that is not a printer you can buy at Staples that can print these. Then there's micro printing. So on some bills, I think the US bills use this a lot, there are elements in the original engraved design lines that look to the naked eye, as they say, like straight lines. But under a microscope, if you look really, really closely, some of the lines on the bills are actually printed words and phrases, just in a very, very, very tiny, tiny font. So for example, on the on the American 50, where President Grant's beard meets his color, it looks like a straight line. But if you zoom in really close, you can see that it actually says the United States of America in these very tiny all caps, that's micro printing. And then there are these windows that we talked about. So on those polymer plasticky feeling bills, there is a strip or an element of clear plastic in Canada, it's a strip from top to bottom of the bill. In the window, these are totally see through. And again, they're virtually impossible to replicate with a simple printer. And the paper is hard to you know, you have to create that craft that paper, it's very difficult. And when you hold them up to the light, not only are they are they transparent, but there are often letters, numbers and messages that are embedded in there, so you won't be able to see them if they're in your wallet. But if you hold those bills up to the light, you'll be able to see that there are additional messages hidden in that clear plastic window. And then there's raised print. So lots of different bills all around the world use raised print, I think the Singapore banknotes have done a lot with raised print. These aren't supposed to be like tactically legible. It's not an accessibility feature. It's just a slight raised print technique on commercially printed on this commercial paper, so that it's just slightly raised so that you know if you if you rub your thumb across it that it's comes from the mint as opposed to comes from a regular printer. But again, this is not an accessibility feature. There are tactile elements on lots of different bills. Canada, the UK, Bahrain, Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, the Euro, the kroner, lots of these different bills have accessibility features that are either bumps like little dots, or even lines that are used to identify denomination as I said, Canada has them are these do you use these? Do you find them functional?

Christine Malec:

They are life changing. Life changing, literally. Maybe 15 years ago or something they started putting little Braille notations on the corners of bills and it Yeah, life changing. That's all I need to say.

JJ Hunt:

And do they hold up? Like if you get an older bill, are those bumps, are they still raised?

Christine Malec:

Yeah, that's a that's a good question. They're fairly durable. I mean, I think when they started, they were on the paper version, and they were much less durable, the plastic plasticized are much more durable, but it's true. They do. They do fade at a good Braille reading. accustomed fingertip can usually parse, parse that out, but they they do fade. But I'm excited to hear how many other countries have that. I didn't know that. You mentioned earlier about drawing on bills and stuff. And I've heard of this phenomenon of people doing it. And it always seems sort of whimsical and just a little bit defiant. Yeah. And, and so I wonder if you can say some things about examples you saw of people doing things to to currency to beautify it or personalize it?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, there are lots of different reasons why people write on bills. Sometimes people just like scribble notes, like, I want to remember that. And what do I have on hand? I got a bill. So they'll just scribble a note. Sometimes they are as gifts like, here's $20 from your grandma, and she writes on it, "Don't spend it all in one place!", right?

Christine Malec:

Ha ha.

JJ Hunt:

Or sometimes people are, as you say, they're political about it. You are defacing money. It is technically a crime. So there's, there's something political about it. So, I really love this stuff. This stuff, you know, it tickles my funny bone. So I did a quick Google search on this stuff. And I found some really interesting notes that were written on bills. And now of course, people take photos and put them online so it spreads it a little bit. I found that torn American $5 bill that someone had written in bluing someone had written "Jesus loves you!" right across the bill. There's actually a fair bit of proselytizing on bills. There have been kind of semi formal campaigns where people stamp religious messages on bills, usually in red or blue ink all along the border. So I've seen this in usually American 1s, where it's again "Jesus loves you - call this church! Services on..." whatever. But it's using an ink pad and and stamp so that you can do this on a lot of bills all at once and then put them into circulation. It's like a flyering campaign.

Christine Malec:

[Whistle.]

JJ Hunt:

I saw another American $1 bill and it had a fine red pen, handwritten note that said, "Please return this bill to me, Gary."

Christine Malec:

Ha!

JJ Hunt:

And then Gary lists his full address in Phoenix, Arizona. And then it ends with a little statement where he says, "I am very poor." Hmm. I don't I don't know what to make of that.

Christine Malec:

I don't know what to make of that either. That's whimsical, I wonder if you got it back?

JJ Hunt:

I wonder. I wonder. I saw an American 20 that said,

this is a quote:

"This $20 bill was used to buy some weed, please use for weed only. Or cocaine." Ha ha ha!

Christine Malec:

Ha ha ha!

JJ Hunt:

Then that bill was just put back into circulation! So who knows, who over time has gotten the "Please use for weed only bill!"

Christine Malec:

And who obeyed it!

JJ Hunt:

That's right. That's right. That's right.

Christine Malec:

A noble purpose.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah. Sure?!

Christine Malec:

Ha ha.

JJ Hunt:

I saw another this is another American 1, a lot of these tend to be American bills. An American $1 bill and written all around the border on either side of, of George Washington was was this message. It was dated June 16 1982. And the message said, "I love you. I'm still your future wife. I am going to wait until you get out to be your wife someday."

Christine Malec:

[Gasp!] Wow!

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, I love imagining the story there. Was is this? Some woman who writes a message to a lover who is about to go into prison or something?

Christine Malec:

Oh my god.

JJ Hunt:

And the lover is to take this dollar bill - but I don't know. Maybe that's it, I don't know. There are a lot of interesting things you can do with sketching on portraits, altering these portraits. I've there are some very good ones. So have you heard of the Five dollar Bill Murray?

Christine Malec:

No. But I love it already.

JJ Hunt:

Ok, if you take the portrait of Abe Lincoln on the $5 bill, and you darken the line of his slightly downturned mouth, and you add a full beard and a mustache, and then you kind of flesh out the nostrils a little bit, and then darken and raise the eyebrows, you get a pretty passable Bill Murray.

Christine Malec:

Ha ha ha!

JJ Hunt:

A bunch of people online who have done these $5 Bill Murray's. $5 Bill Murray's. But my personal favorite for these was the 2015 trend in Canada, that was called Socking Laurier. Have you ever heard of this?

Christine Malec:

Ha! I have not heard of that one either, but I love it already.

JJ Hunt:

Okay. So on our old fives, these are the paper ones, someone discovered that you could turn former prime minister Wilfred Laurier into Spock from Star Trek --

Christine Malec:

Ha ha ha!

JJ Hunt:

-- by adding dark hair with straight bangs and pointy

Christine Malec:

Ha ha ha! sideburns. And then giving the eyebrows an upturn at the

JJ Hunt:

If you do this pretty simple little addition, it outside corners, and then adding points to the ears. And it's really good. becomes a very good Spock. So people were Spocking their $5 bills all over the place, and it became such a problem that the Bank of Canada had to actually issue a public warning about it. And they did this whole news campaign they were interviewed, and spokespeople went on various news networks... But of course that only made things worse. Now people were like "What? You can do this with a $5 bill?"

Christine Malec:

Heh heh heh.

JJ Hunt:

There was a lot of Spocking going on. And in fact, someone then kind of did a little side path on the on the on the Laurier bills and figured out you could also turn him into Snape from Harry Potter.

Christine Malec:

Gasp!

JJ Hunt:

Specifically the Alan Rickman Snape from the movies. All you had to do was add this kind of greasy looking shoulder length black hair with a center part.

Christine Malec:

Ha ha!

JJ Hunt:

And you end up with Snape from Harry Potter. Yeah, pretty good.

Christine Malec:

Peace and long life, dude. I love it.

JJ Hunt:

That's right. My personal favorite, this isn't so much of a drawing-on, or a written-on thing. This is a silly trick that you can do. And no disrespect intended on this. You know, I'm not trying to slag any monarch or political figure at all. These are just funny little things. So here's a little gag that you can do. What you do, you're at the bar and you say to the guy next to ya, "I bet I can tell the joke so funny it will make the Queen smile." And this works for any bank note from any country as long as it features a portrait where the subject is more or less facing us. That's all you need. So what you do is you start telling a terrible joke, and you take that bill and you start to fold it. You put two more or less vertical creases, straight lines, down the face. Each line has to run through the middle of the eye and the outside corner of the mouth. So one vertical crease on the left side of the face, one vertical crease on the right, that goes through the middle of the eye and touches the outside corner of the mouth. And then as you're wrapping up your joke, you run your rounded fingertip between these two lines. So you basically create like a trough, a concave trough. And then as you say your punch line, you tip the bill so that you or your mark is facing the bill and you're looking up the portrait on an angle. So the mouth because you're looking up this trough surface, the mouth is now curved. The corners of the lip are turned into a smile, and th eyes look wide and happy and th eyebrows are arched in th middle. And it's clear that th Queen is now smiling at you joke. And if you tip it th other way, and you look down th face down past the eyes, an then down past the mouth. Tha goes the other way. And it look like the Queen is frowning. Ti it back and forth and you ca make her laugh or cry, laugh o cry.

Christine Malec:

See, you've ever told about joke though, s I'm sure you've never done

JJ Hunt:

No, no and all my jokes make the Queen smile.

Christine Malec:

Heh heh heh. W hope you're loving the show. We really enjoy the challen e of putting together a new episode each week. To ensure tha our efforts are worthwhile. We eed to reach as many people as possible. That's where you ome in, help spread the word. Maybe send a podcast link to t ree friends. post about the how on local listservs and Fac book groups. Perhaps tweet abo t a favorite episode and tag s me followers you think might lik it, or show your love by becom ng a patron. The broader our rea h the longer we can stay oyd and keep afloat. With your s pport. We'll be around for a long time. Thanks for listenin and staying connected on socia media. It's what makes this so ewarding for us have feedback o suggestions of what you'd like to hear about. Here's ow to get in touch with us. Our mail address is talk escription to [email protected] Our Facebook page is called talk escription to me. Our w bsite is talk description to e.com and you can follow us on T itter at tal

Canadian Money
American Money
British Pounds
Norwegian Krone
Security Features
Cash Graffiti