Australia $5 - 1992 & 1993     Click to enlarge
New Note Series: Five Dollars - 1992 & 1993.

Before the Bicentennial $10 issue of 1988, design work commenced on a New Note Series (NNS) in polymer which was to replace the existing paper series. In the initial design, a $2 polymer was envisaged but in 1988 the $2 note was discontinued and replaced by a coin. The intended $2 polymer design was transferred to the $5 polymer.

On 22nd May, 1990, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) announced that the major design elements of the new $5 polymer would be a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on one side and a depiction of Parliament House on the other. This, of course, would be the new Commonwealth Parliament House in Canberra which was opened on May 9th 1988 by Queen Elizabeth during her bicentennial year visit. (Eighty seven years earlier, to the day, Australia's first Parliament was opened - see Federation $5 note below for more detail.)

Inclusion of the Queen's portrait replacing that of Caroline Chisholm, on the paper $5 attracted criticism from certain sections of the community. RBA publicly defended its decision to include the monarch's portrait on at least one note in the series which has been the convention for over 70 years.

Indicative of the planning of this NNS is that the portrait of the Queen was especially commissioned by RBA in 1984 and it is based on a photograph by Mr John Lawrence. In 1988 the Queen gave her approval for the use of this portrait on an Australian note. It is quite common for the same portrait of the Queen to appear on the notes of a number of countries; this particular portrait only appears on Australia's $5 polymer.

Originally, the new polymer $5 was to be released in May 1991. However, technical difficulties were incurred in moving to large scale production resulting in delays; the RBA made announcements in November 1990 and in May 1991 to this effect. An RBA Press release advises "The Bank judged it prudent to defer the issue and suspend production until all the technical problems had been resolved satisfactorily." Note Printing Australia (NPA) "responsible for printing the notes progressively overcame those problems and production of the $5 note recommenced in January, 1992."

Thus the first note of the polymer NNS was released on 7th July, 1992.

AA00 $5 Front - P50a, Mc301 & R216
>AA00 $5 Front - P50a, Mc301 & R216
AA00 $5 Back - P50a, Mc301 & R216
>AA00 $5 Back - P50a, Mc301 & R216

Bruce Stewart, the chief designer at NPA designed this note. The portrait of Queen Elizabeth II is slightly right of centre on the front of the note. At the left are the leaves of the gum tree.

Australia's new Federal Parliament on Capital Hill, Canberra, is the centrepiece on the back of the note. There is also a landscape plan. The former Parliament House, opened in 1927, is depicted along the bottom of the note.

Security Features:

Those discrete to this note include:
(a) A clear window containing a gum flower which can be seen from both sides of the note.
(b) A perfect registration device which becomes apparent when the note is held up to the light in the form of a seven pointed (Commonwealth) Star within in a circle. Four points on the front of the note combine perfectly with three on the back.
(c) Micro-printing of "FIVE DOLLARS" in nine lines at the top left above the gum leaves.
(d) The Australian Coat of Arms in the under-print becoming apparent when the note is held up to the light. This acts in much the same way as a watermark. It is located at the top left but to the right of the micro-printing.
(e) One horizontal serial number at back right in Butsch Grotesque font. The colour of the serial number may vary from light green to black from note to note (see below).
(f) Multi-coloured fine line drawings on both sides of the note.
(g) When exposed to ultra-violet light, the serial number and a checkerboard to the left of centre on the back fluoresce. For those observed, there is no visible difference in the fluorescing qualities of the light green and black serial numbers.

First and Last Prefixes:

For this note the appropriate prefixes are:

Undated 1992 Issue:AA 00 (first) and AB 19 (last).
Dated 1993 Issue:BA 93 (first) and EA 93 (last).

First and last prefixes command a premium over the regular prefix. The premium is quite significant for the undated 1992 issue, particularly for AB19. Colour variation in the serial number (see below) also impacts upon the premium. The premium is not significant for the 1993 dated notes (see below).

Given the significant number of notes issued in 1992 and 1993, circulating notes were not required for 1994. Only AA 94 $5 notes are available and these are in a folder or collector pack.

Serial Number:

Once again, in a departure from tradition, this note has only one horizontal serial number (Butsch Grotesque Font). All previous Australian Government issues and subsequent polymer notes of a higher denomination have the serial number printed twice. In production of these notes, two layers of ink are applied to print the serial number. In the case of the $5, firstly a light green fluorescing ink and then a black ink. Hence, the finished product has black serial numbers. Significant numbers of notes missed out on this second, "black" printing, either wholly or partially, thus creating a serial number ranging in colour from light green through to a darker green and then to black.

When queried on these green serial numbers, RBA maintained that they arose through the action of washing powders when notes had been left in pockets of clothing and were put through the wash. The difficulty with this explanation was that many notes which were presented to dealers at shows and shops were in perfect condition, showing no signs at all of any mishandling. The myth was dispelled some three years after issue when one Sydney Banknote and Coin dealer obtained directly from RBA a pack of 100 notes all with light green serials.

As with the $10 Bicentenary note, the serial number is on the back. Initially, the same structure was used i.e. a prefix consisting of two letters and two numbers followed by six numbers. The serial number prefix range was AA00 to AB19 permitting a theoretical maximum of 119,000,000 notes however maximum notes were not issued for every prefix.

Changes to the Five Dollar:

In 1993, before the introduction of the NNS $10 polymer, a decision was made to date all notes with an abbreviated two digit date. A new, Fraser-Evans $5, was introduced. Hence the two numbers in the prefix now represent the date e.g. "93" for 1993. The alpha prefix becomes the significant variable. For the first dated $5, the prefix was BA 93 going through to EA 93. Not all letters of the alphabet are used.

By starting with BA 93, the duplication of notes with the same serial number was avoided which would not have been the case if the 1993 dated notes started with AA i.e. an AA93 dated note would have fallen into the AA00 to AB19 serial number range of the undated 1992 issue. There was the distinction however in that the 1992 undated polymer $5's were signed by Fraser - Cole and the 1993 dated notes were signed by Fraser - Evans.

It seems that RBA / NPA became somewhat comfortable with this distinction as in 1994 an AA 94 Fraser- Evans folder version was issued.

The 1993 dated notes use additional ink in an attempt to produce a note closer in resemblance in the feel and behaviour of a paper note.

Catalogue No:SCWPM P50a (Undated 1992) and P50b (Dated 1993).
Mc301 (Undated 1992) and Mc302 (Dated 1993).
R214 (Undated 1992) and R216 (Dated 1993).
Precise Date of Issue:7th July, 1992. (Undated 1992).
Numbers Issued:Not known. Whilst there is a theoretical maximum, there was a considerable level of spoilage in production.
Prefix Range:Refer above.
Signatures:Undated 1992 note:
Governor of Reserve Bank of Australia -
Bernie Fraser (19th September 1989 to 17th September, 1996.)
Secretary to the Treasury -
Anthony (Tony) Cole. (14th February, 1991 to 23rd March, 1993.)

Dated 1993 note:
Governor - Bernie Fraser as above.
Secretary - Edward (Ted) Evans. (24 March, 1993 to 26th April, 2001.)

Colour:Light mauve with grey and cream.
Commonly referred to as the "grey $5".
Dimensions:130 x 65 mm.
Note: The paper notes, particularly the later issued $50 and $100 were higher than the depth of wallets. When considering the new series a "generic" height of 65mm was determined. To assist in differentiation of denomination, each note from the $5 upwards increased in length by 7 mm.
Printer:Note Printing Australia on polymer substrate.
Specimens:Undated 1992 issue. Official bank specimens exist with "SPECIMEN" overprint and special specimen serial four digit number. AA 00 000000 notes without "SPECIMEN" overprint also exist.
Replacements:Australia ceased to issue replacement notes in 1972.
Country Ranking:Australia is the first country to issue a NPA polymer note.
Printing Method:Intaglio.
Sheet Size:40 notes per sheet.
Product:For non - commemorative circulating notes, the product released is outlined under a separate heading at the end of the Australian section.