You pull out a $20 bill and hand it over to the cashier. The cashier looks at it with a blank stare and says it won’t do.

The money you gave them won’t buy that corny gift for your Dad or even a damaged can of beans for that matter. It turns out that particular twenty you gave them is worth about the same amount as Monopoly money.

Counterfeit money is just that, fake money. It’s one of the oldest crimes in history. In the 19th century when banks could issue their own currency,it was a serious problem.

Did you know? During the American Civil War it was suspected that one-third of all currency in circulation was counterfeit.

The bad thing about counterfeit money is the last person who accepts the note ends up with it; they won’t get their money back. It’s illegal to knowingly pass on a counterfeit. So, the higher the fake bill is, the more money is out of your pocket.

But don’t dump out your wallet just yet in search of a counterfeit. According to the RCMP website,your chances of being stuck with a fake bill are virtually zero.

Canadian bills over time have become loaded with features that have more purposes than just looking pretty. One of these features is holographic stripes.

Did you know? The word hologram is derived from the Greek words "holos", meaning whole or complete, and "gram", meaning message.

Holograms are an advanced form of photography that allows images to be recorded in three dimensions. They are made with laser light.

As the laser shines on the object that is being used to create the holographic image, the beam is split so that it will directly fall on the photographic film plate. If two light waves of the same frequency cross each other, this causes interference in the two beams of light.

It’s this interference that creates a pattern. As you know, light waves are made up of crests (high points) and troughs (low points), much like ocean waves.

When the position of the crests and troughs of two waves match each other,they are said to “add” and a bright spot is created on the film.

When the position of a wave crest matches a wave trough, the waves cancel each other and a dark spot is produced on the film. An optical hologram is composed of millions of these interference points recorded on a high resolution film plate.

Did you know? The wavelength is the distance between two wave crests, and the number of wave crests that pass through a given point in one second is called the frequency.

To view a hologram is simple. Shine a regular light on the pattern and the light will come back out the way it went in when making the hologram.This creates the illusion that the hologram is a three dimensional object.

Holographic stripes are just one feature on money notes. Here some other security features you can look for on a $20 bill:

  1. Watermarked portrait. Hold the note to a light and a small ghost-like image of the portrait appears to the left of the large numeral (20).
  2. Windowed colour-shifting thread. Hold the note to the light and a continuous, solid line appears. From the back of the note, the thread resembles a series of exposed metallic dashes that shift from gold to green when the bill is tilted.
  3. See-through number. Hold the note to the light and the irregular marks on the front and back will form a perfectly aligned number 20.

The RCMP encourage peopleto look for more than one of the security features on money forCounterfeiters can sometimes imitate just one feature to fool people.By checking for more than one feature, you will still be able torecognize if it’s a fake.

For more security features on Canadian currency visit these related links:

CBC In Depth: Counterfeit

How to Spot Counterfeit

Learn More!

CBC: Counterfeit:

RCMP: Counterfeit Scams

Fact Monster

Wikipedia: Holography


History of Holograms

Science Whatzit!: Holograms

Mad Sci Network

Make Your Own Holograms!

Chloe Elizabeth Jones is studying journalism at Mount Royal College inCalgary, Alberta. She grew up in the Outback of Australia but has livedin Alberta for several years. However, she still finds the fact thatthere is a thing called 'winter' in Canada hard to handle.


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