The International Bank Note Society was founded in 1961 by a group of people who collected, traded, sold, and admired rare paper currency. It wasn’t a large community. For decades, the IBNS’s activities extended more or less to a trade journal, a membership directory, an annual mail-bid auction, and networking events. Meanwhile, the rare-coin trade was big and getting bigger, growing into what the Profession Then, in 2005, the IBNS made an announcement: Its members had chosen the first annual “Bank Note of the Year.” All bills introduced into general circulation the preceding year had been eligible; voters were instructed to choose the one with the best combination of artistry and security. The IBNS may have been tiny, but it knew how to stoke rivalry among the world’s mints. The news release crowning the winner, a Canadian $20 bill with a sublime portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, said it had “only just beat the new Faeroese 200-krone bank note,” which featured “a Ghost Moth printed i...

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