Until now, we had paper money, and we had plastic – which meant credit cards. Well, now the distinction is blurred: as of April, Israel joined a growing list of countries that have plastic paper money!
See the two 20 Shekel banknotes above. The one on the right is the trusty ol’ paper banknote, showing the late Moshe Sharet. The other showed up in April, amazing many citizens and confounding countless vending machines. It is made of a tough polymer, and looks exactly the same except for the transparent window in the star of David at top left – a transparent area that is continuous with the paper itself, a superb anti-forging device.
There is also a watermark of Mr. Sharet below the star, but in a resolution unheard of in ordinary paper watermarks. This did not scan well, but you can get the idea in the detail from a Romanian polymer note that fell into my hands – note how the transparency feature here is interleaved with opaque lines in the eagle, and see the bearded man in the watermark, visible only because the scanner shone a light through the thickness of the plastic paper.
These Polymer banknotes were originally developed in Australia, and have the advantage – in addition to making forgers miserable – of resisting the severe wear and tear that paper money must endure far better than their predecessors. They are entering service in a lengthening list of countries, and although at first they complained that they are strange to the touch, I already see people getting used to their unaccustomed smooth texture.