Recognising Outstanding Design and Innovation in Latin American Banknotes and ID Documents

07 June 2023

The prestigious Regional Banknote and ID Document of the Year Awards form part of the industry’s High Security Printing (HSP) Latin America conference. This year’s event was held in Nassau, the Bahamas, with the awards presented at a special ceremony in the beautiful gardens of the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, during the conference dinner on 6 June.

The regional Banknote of the Year Award recognises outstanding achievement in the design, technical sophistication and security of a banknote or banknote series, with emphasis placed on reflecting the cultural heritage of the issuing country in the note, and the relevance of the overall design and symbolism.

Awards were made in two categories for this year’s Banknote awards – Best New Banknote (for which there were two winners) and Best New Series – with Argentina, Barbados and Guyana all receiving recognition.

For the ID awards, there are also three categories – Best New Passport, Best New National ID Card, and Best New Other Security Document. This year, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Bahamas were all winners, two of them joint.

Best New Banknote – Joint

The Central Bank of the Republic of Argentina is currently replacing the images of flora and fauna on its existing notes, introduced in 2016, with national heroes. The new 1,000  pesos, which has been unveiled and will go into circulation later this year,  features one of its best known historical statesmen, José de San Martín, who played a major role in winning independence from Spain and bringing freedom to his native Argentina in 1812 (and is often referred to as the Homeland Father). He also won independence for Chile (1818) and Peru (1821).  

The key security features of the new note are a 4mm wide  RollingStar® i+  thread (the latest iteration of the company’s micro-mirrors technology) on the front, and SICPA’s SPARK Flow®. The thread features the Flame effect, representative of the votive flame which evokes the spirit of José de San Martín, and BRCA is incorporated as Cleartext, along with magnetic properties for machine readability. The SPARK feature is also in the shape of the votive flame. The colour shift of both are a matching gold-to-green.

Joint winner of the Best New Banknote was the Bank of Guyana for its upgraded $5,000 , issued in December 2022. 

Although the same design as its predecessor, the previous DualTrack™ thread on the reverse, and holographic stripe on the front have been replaced with and a 5mm wide Pulsar™ thread from Oberthur Fiduciaire. The note also benefits from the addition of a SPARK® Live Truspin image in the shape of a jaguar (Guyana’s national animal). The colour shift in both the SPARK feature and the thread are a synchronised gold-to-green.

This is the first circulating note to feature the Pulsar colorshift thread, which was launched last year, and combines two colours with micro-optics to create dynamic movement, colour and optical effects.

Best New Series

The Central Bank of Barbados was awarded the Best New Series prize for its new family of polymer banknotes introduced in 2022.

The notes, in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Barbados dollars, were designed and printed by De La Rue on its SAFEGUARD polymer substrate. They retain the key motifs of the previous series, but have a vertical rather than horizontal layout, larger portraits and a cleaner, more modern look.

The security features include the highly reflective ARGENTUM™ on the three lower denominations, and a holographic stripe with depth effects which are visible on both sides of the note on the three highest denominations

All notes feature GEMINI™, a print feature that reveals itself under light, and embossed tactile marks for the visually impaired. The reverse of the series is brought together by a satellite image of the island of Barbados being printed in part on each banknote. This forms a complete image across all six denominations when the notes are placed together, the outline of which glows when placed under UV light.

Celebrating Innovation in Identity and Travel Documents

In addition to the awards for banknotes, the regional ID Document of the Year Awards were presented at the ceremony, giving the industry an opportunity to celebrate this year’s Best New Passport, Best New National ID Card and Best New Other Security Document.

Best New Passport – Joint

The quality of entries for the Best New Passport category was so high this year that it seemed unfair to have to decide between the top two entrants – so it was agreed to make this a joint award.

The first joint Best New Passport award went to Brazil for the new passport designed and developed by department of Federal Police, the Brazilian State Mint Casa da Moeda and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Brazil has many cultural and natural resources. Its people, traditions, fauna and flora are well known, and appreciated across the globe. The project represents the country’s identity by honouring the most outstanding icons from all states and biomes throughout the passport pages. The team’s goal was to allow each citizen to feel represented and to learn about the great natural and cultural diversity of the country.

The new passport integrates a suite of security features including latent images, OVI, 3-colour Orloff intaglio print, bicolour UV-fluorescent security fibres, tri-colour UV-fluorescent sewing thread, UV-fluorescent security thread embedded into chemically sensitive paper, electrotype and mould made watermarks, as well laser perforation and a holographic security laminate on the datapage. Each passport page features a different design both in print and watermarks illustrating Brazil’s biodiversity. This is the first major redesign since the booked was last redesigned over two decades ago.

The second joint Best New Passport award went to Costa Rica for the new biometric passport designed and developed by Veridos together with partner GSI Sertracen and the government.

Costa Rica embraced the modernisation of its passport in 2021, just as the nation reached the 200-year anniversary of independence from Spain.

The new passport illustrates the values of the country, showcasing four important facets: biodiversity, renewable energy, education and peace, and talent. These are represented in a series of motifs showing plants, animals, ancient monuments, and other elements that are unique to the country’s different regions.

The passport’s pages feature more than 60 security features, including holographic effects, microtext, security threads, intaglio, latent images, relief patterns, multiple laser images, and flipbook animations – some visible to the human eye, others not. But some of the most innovative elements sit within the passport’s main data page. Taking advantage of the properties of polycarbonate, the new Costa Rica data page features multiple laser-engraved images including a transparent portrait window and a holographic strip. The technical feat of creating a bright, clear image on polycarbonate was achieved through the use of Veridos’ innovative CLIP-ID technology. It is the first country in the region to implement polycarbonate colour photo with CLIP-ID technology.

The passport is now ICAO compliant meeting the high standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation for travel documents.

Best New National ID Card

The Best New National ID Card award this year went to the National Registry of Natural Persons of the Government of El Salvador for the recently introduced Unique Identity Document (DUI) used to identify all Salvadorans both inside and outside its borders. In addition to serving as an identification document, the card is used to vote in municipal or presidential elections as well as gain access to various government-provided services.

In 2021, the government of El Salvador signed a contract with Mühlbauer to introduce a new ID card with multiple laser image (MLI), which carries the laser engraved birthdate and portrait of the cardholder. The new DUI is issued through a biometric personalisation and identification system that uses state-of-the-art technology making it highly secure. The personalization process is based upon the MB Alfresco® technology, a combination of laser engraving and inkjet printing for the portrait of the owner. Made of polycarbonate and integrating 37 security features, which minimises the risks of forgery or alteration, the new DUI is a highly resistant, durable and ecological document.

Mühlbauer also extended the physical card into a mobile ID, implementing the MB Steel Reader app, which holds the information of the physical document. The information can be shared with institutions in private and public sectors electronically. The new hardware to enable the digital changes also comprised self-enrolment kiosks distributed all over the country.

The national system now comprises multiple enrolment, personalisation and issuance offices across El Salvador and includes mobile enrolment facilities for citizen who are unable to attend of the enrolment centres. In addition, several dozen El Salvadorian consulates in the USA and Canada have been equipped to process applications and issue National ID Cards to El Salvadorian citizens.

Best New Other Security Document

The winning entry in this category went to the Road Traffic Department of the Government of the Bahamas for the new Bahamas Driver License introduced together with the new Learner Permit, Public Service License and Vehicle Title Certificate.

The Bahamas Driver License project started after many incidents of fraud and counterfeits with the previous Bahamas DL. The design was conceived with colour notes of Bahamas great beaches and their magnificent birds.

A large array of complex features is integrated into the card including rainbow graphics with guilloche pattern, microtext with deliberate error, relief effect microtext, OVI, CLI, UV print, personalisation with laser engraving and a Kinegram®. The license is designed to combine various elements to ensure its authenticity and prevent counterfeiting, built into polycarbonate material.

All the documents are in sync to the colour theme and maintain the individual secure functionality complementing their aesthetics.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Concluding the awards ceremony, a special Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Harald Klint, of Colombian security agency Imaprok, and among the best-known figures in the industry,  particularly in the region.

Harald, aged 86, is probably the oldest person currently working in the security printing and minting community. He set up Imaprok nearly 30 years ago in, and in that time it has represented many European companies in Latin America. He has also been a proud participant in every HSP Latin America event since its inception in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, and a great supporter of Reconnaissance over the years.

The next HSP Latin America event will take place in Santiago, Chile in June 2024.  Before then will be HSP Asia, which takes place in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 4-6 December 2023. Nominations are now invited for the HSP Regional Banknote and ID awards for the Asia region.