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Swiss National Bank unveils latest CHF50 note

Playful: Switzerland’s latest banknote features a dandelion and a paraglider. Keystone

The new CHF50 ($52) banknote, introduced by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) on Wednesday, has 15 security features to thwart counterfeiters, including shimmery ink, glittery thread, window cut-outs, ultraviolet elements and microtext.

The note, which like its predecessor is mainly green, will go into circulation on April 12. Its three-layer structure consists of two outer layers of cotton paper and a polymer core for reinforcement – making it more durable than traditional banknote paper.

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It’s been 20 years since the last Swiss banknote series was issued. The new 50-franc note will be the first member of the ninth series to go into circulation. The SNB chose to kick off with the 50-franc note for logistical reasons, as these are commonly used yet not as common as some of the other denominations. The old notes will remain legal tender until further notice. 

The 20-franc note, which is already in production, will enter wallets in about six months. The rest will follow in six-month or annual intervals in the following order: 10-, 200-, 1,000- and the 100-franc note, which is due out in 2019.

Asked at the media conference in Bern why the SNB had decided to keep producing 1,000-franc notes, chairman of the governing board Thomas Jordan replied: “We’re not looking at withdrawing the 1,000-franc note. It’s used a great deal in Switzerland as a means of payment.” The valuable purple note is controversial because of fears that it could be used for criminal purposes. Earlier this year, the European Central Bank said it was thinking of dropping the 500-euro ($569) note for that reason.


Banknote designer Manuela Pfrunder Keystone

The theme of the new series is “the many facets of Switzerland” and each note is based on a concept: time, light, wind, water, matter and language.

“On the 50-franc note, we tell the story of the wind… [Switzerland] is not only permanently in motion, but it also engenders movement,” explained designer Manuela Pfrunder, who has been working on the banknote series for the past 11 years. The SNB commissioned Pfrunder in 2007 after inviting her to participate in a design competition in 2005.

As she told, she’s especially proud of the background on the 50-franc note. “On the front side, there are all these little arrows that show the zones and various directions of the wind.” Even the thumbnail of the hand holding the dandelion is covered in these arrows. Another fun feature is a microtext list of Switzerland’s 4,000-metre peaks – best viewed with a magnifying glass.

“It was a big challenge to fit all the aesthetic and technical aspects onto such a small piece of paper, but it was also an exciting task,” Pfrunder said.

In this new series, all of the banknotes feature hands rather than faces.

“Whereas in previous banknote series the human factor was limited to a single distinguished personality from the past, the hand in the new series expands the reference to include all people,” Pfrunder said.

Speaking of people, Pfrunder was quick to point out that she wasn’t the only person behind the new designs. In particular, she cited graphic designer and colleague Adrian Heuberger.

“I really enjoyed the research. I could get in touch with scientific and cultural aspects that I might not have otherwise,” Heuberger told His favourite in the new series is the 200-franc note, which depicts the Big Bang Theory and the Large Hadron Collider based at CERN near Geneva.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR