‘DuraNote’ polymer printer’s essays

Described by auctioneers as “extremely rare” pieces of Canadian banknote history, a pair of 1991 $20 “DuraNote” essays drew bidders’ attention at a U.S. sale this June.

Following two failed attempts to produce polymer currency in the 1980s by the American Bank Note Company (“Tyvek”) and then Bradbury Wilkinson & Company (“Bradvek”), Mobil Oil found promising results with a composite substrate called “DuraNote.” Built with 21 ultra-thin layers of oriented polypropylene film plus “adhesive, coatings and printable surfaces,” it was promoted as a cleaner, longer-lasting alternative to existing substrates, according to a 2013 Bank Note Reporter story.

Test notes were printed for nearly 30 countries, including Canada, using regular printing plates; however, like its predecessors, DuraNote was shelved due to its complex production process.

A progress proof with the same ‘SPECIMEN’ overprint but without the main obverse design (shown) also brought $3,000 US as Lot 25.


On June 15, the U.S.-based Archives International Auctions offered two certified DuraNote essays, one completely printed and another produced as a progress proof.

Lot 24 offered the fully printed example with a pin-punch “SPECIMEN” overprint. Certified as Choice Uncirculated-64 by Paper Money Guaranty (PMG), it brought $3,000 US (about $3,900 Cdn.).

The following lot offered the progress proof with the same “SPECIMEN” overprint but without the main obverse design, which only featured the underprint. Certified as About Uncirculated-55 by PMG, it also brought $3,000 US.

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