Colombia officially begun circulating its redesigned 20,000 peso bill today as the first in a series of redesigned notes that will help prevent counterfeiting. The multi-colored bill is largely orange and includes the likeness of former President Alfonso López Michelsen, who served from 1974-1978.
Its most notable feature is subtle but represents an ongoing campaign to rebrand the peso. While the older version prominently features the number 20,000 in four places, the replacement bill includes only the description “20 Mil Pesos.”
Colloquially, this is how money is talked about throughout the country, with “mil” meaning thousand in Spanish. Now, especially since the currency has lost so much of its value against the dollar in the past two years, the government is seemingly trying to drop the extra zeros to make prices and exchanges simpler.
In effect, this now looks more like a 20 peso note than a 20,000 bill. The central bank, La Banco de la Republica, is seemingly changing the name of the denominations without doing so formally.
This was first done on the 50,000-peso bill and then repeated with 100,000-peso bill, which became a new addition to the denominations offered by the bank when it was introduced in March. That bill, which is includes former President Carlos Lleras Restrepo on the front and the iconic Cocora Valley landscape on the back, was the first to drop the extra zeros and push the common “100 mil” expression towards being the recognized nomenclature.
The true aim of the redesign, however, is to help fight counterfeiting, a widespread problem in the country. The new 20 mil bill features several security elements, including strands of vibrant colors that change shades with movement. There is also a watermark with 3D effect, raised images, micro-lettering of BRC (Banco de la Republica Colombia) stitched into the design, patterns that can only be seen in ultraviolet light, and tactile elements that differentiate the 20 mil bill from other denominations. Certain security aspects can also be read by machines dedicated to authenticating currency.
Counterfeit bills have long been a problem in Colombia, where everyone from taxi drivers to grocery cashiers give a visual inspection to almost any bill they receive worth more than $5 USD. Fake U.S. dollars are also sold, and this has only ramped in recent years, with the technology to produce dummy bills becoming more widespread and the value of the dollar against the peso increasing.
“While the value of real dollars has increased, the cost of producing fake ones has remained relatively stable, making the process significantly more lucrative for fraudsters,” wrote Mike LaSusa of Medelliín-based publication Insight Crime in February. “Colombian police sources told El Tiempo that a fake $100 bill, which would have sold for between 8,000 and 10,000 pesos (between $2.40 and $3.00) a year ago, now sells for between 15,000 and 20,000 pesos (between $4.50 and $6.00).”
The 20 mil note is just one of several redesigned bills with enhanced security features that will enter circulation in the country. According to Colombian news network Caracol, the 50,000 peso is next up. It is expected to include an image of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez.
All images: Colombia’s Banco de la Republica