Serious purpose is behind those garish new bank notes
New Zealand’s getting new bank notes and they look incredibly garish.
That shouldn’t be a surprise. There’s been a continuing a trend for cash to become less sombre.
It’s tempting to think that our ‘‘brighter’’ money (the Reserve Bank’s word) continues a trend that says something profound about our relationship with money.
Perhaps notes that look more like play-money suit a society in which many treat it in a frivolous easy-come easy-go way and allows house prices to reach science fiction levels and has a pretty woeful savings record.
But actually, the garishness of the coming bank notes is all part of our nation’s defence system against counterfeiting.
More garish notes containing distinct, often clashing colours, are harder for the bad guys to copy. Ditto notes with natty holograms and large transparent windows in them.
We’ll be getting new $5 and $10 notes around October next year.
The following April we’ll get the $20, $50 and $100 and, judging by the pictures released by the Reserve Bank, when the $100s arrive you might need to reach for a pair of dark glasses.
As a cultural item, money now says as much about the manufacturing capabilities of the overseas mints where it is made as the country where it circulates. But our usage of cash says more.
We remain a society of people who really do have a use for cash despite the attempts of the banks, Visa and Mastercard for us to become cashless.
The value of currency grew, the Reserve Bank says, at 5.9 per cent in the year to June 30. Why do we love cash so? Cash can be a useful way of keeping a tight lid on spending money for those on budgets.
I’ve met businessmen whose wives allow them a couple of hundred dollars spending money a week and they get it in cash.
There are some uses of cash that save us money, such as using it in cabs to avoid having to pay electronic transaction fees.
About half of people have significant stores of emergency cash squirrelled away at home in case of emergencies.
Some save for things like Christmas and holidays in cash.
Criminals – and some tradies – like it because cash is anonymous and cash transactions leave no trail for authorities to follow.
Prospective bankrupts can bury some in a tin somewhere as they prepare to go bust.
And of course, we still like to stick it in cards at Christmas and for birthdays.
Many people would actually like to use more paper (or should I say polymer) money, rather than less.
Four years back, a quarter of us told the Reserve Bank we’d like $1 and $2 notes as an alternative to pocket-bulging $1 and $2 coins. Many (nearly one in five) wanted $500 notes and one in 20 (presumably the super-rich and drug dealers) wanted $1000 notes.
A few wanted $25 notes and a random scattering thought $15 and $30 notes would be a good idea, though the cost of bringing in new notes is high so as inflation eats money’s value we tend to just print a higher proportion of the big notes.
There is a pro-coin brigade as well.
Three in 10 wanted $5 coins and an unrealistic bunch of nostalgists (one in 10 of those surveyed) wanted the return of the one-cent coin.
The next step in the evolving garishness of currency will be coins, I am certain.
For my money, there’s little to beat the garishness of the halfminted, half-printed coins that are now being turned out as manufacturing techniques improve. Now that does have the potential to produce a colourful pocketful.