PIL’s

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Australian Banknote Plate Identification Letters

Introduction and Acknowledgments
My sincere thanks to Frank Robinson and Dennis Wood for the amount of work they put into this area of banknote information. Without their considerable input this page would not have been possible.

Type 1 specimen notes

Plate Identification Letters
Plate Identification Letters are very small letters found on each banknote of nearly all paper decimal notes issued. Although initially thought to be a security device, it seems that some markings were included to assist with quality control. The plate letters were on the intaglio printing plates. Plate Identification Letters were to be phased out by 1990 and prior to the introduction of polymer notes. Despite this, an interesting feature occurred during the latter part of the printing of the 1993 Fraser Cole paper Ten Dollar note. The machine used to print notes had three intaglio plates on a circular drum and printed three sheets for each revolution. The anomaly occurred when one of the three printing plates – which had no PIL – became damaged. This plate was replaced with a printing plate that had a PIL. Research shows this happened in the second last printing run prefixes MNB – MPV. The result was that every third note printed in the final run of the Fraser/Cole $10, had a PIL. Therefore only one in three MRR last prefix notes were printed with a PIL.

In the decimal series, PIL’s only occur on the “AUSTRALIA” paper notes and on the ten dollar bicentennial polymer notes.

When the PIL’s were chosen, the criteria included
the need to have a different PIL for each note in a sheet of notes
the number of notes in the sheet

As the size of the notes varied with the denomination, thus the number of notes that could be printed on a single sheet varied with the denomination. Later new printing machinery was purchased which was capable of printing larger sheets (referred to as “super sheets”). Thus the numbers of notes printed per sheet were

DenominationStandardSuper
$135
$22445
$52440
$102440
$202440
$502432
$1002432
$10 [Polymer r310]24

With 26 letters to the alphabet, not all letters were required for some sizes of sheets, whereas other sheets needed more. When a letter needed to be duplicated it was prefixed with the symbol |. Thus the letters used for each size of sheet were

24 notesall except I and W24 letters of the alphabet
32 notesall except I and W, then A to H preceded with |24 letters of the alphabet then 8 letters precede with |
35 notesall except I, then A to K preceded with a |25 letters of the alphabet then 10 letters precede with |
40 notesall except I and W, then A to Q preceded with a |24 letters of the alphabet then 16 letters precede with |
45 notesall except I and W, then A to V preceded with a |24 letters of the alphabet then 21 letters precede with |

In summary, the letter “I” is never used as a PIL (including the situation where letters were duplicated in the series) and the letter “W” is only used on the one dollar notes.

Location
PIL’s are found in different locations on various denomination banknotes.

One Dollar:
Situated on the obverse side, at the bottom of the Queen’s portrait, 5mm above and to the right of the word “Treasury”.

Two Dollar:
Situated on the obverse side, at the bottom right hand corner of the sheep’s fleece.

Five Dollar:
1] Situated on the obverse side of the r205 banknote, in the bottom gumnut to the left of the chin.
2] It was moved from the r206 to be situated 19mm below the “ST” in “AUSTRALIA”.

Ten Dollar:
1] Situated on the obverse side of the r305 banknote, in the top right honeycomb hexagon, at the bottom left of the portrait.
2] It was moved in the r309 – First Prefix [UCD] Johnston/Fraser – to be situated 29mm below the first “A” in “AUSTRALIA”.
3] The only polymer banknote to have a PIL is the first circulation issue Australian polymer banknote [r310]. The PIL’s were located in the foliage under the top of the third tree from the left on the front of the banknotes.

Twenty Dollar:
Situated on the obverse side, above the end of the wing, to the left of the portrait collar.

Fifty Dollar:
Situated on the obverse side, to the right of the last book on the second of two rows at the left centre of note.

One Hundred Dollar:
Situated on the obverse side, to the right of the the portrait, at the top of the first mountain in the central range.

The location of PIL’s on banknotes may be seen here.