Mexico     20 Pesos - Click to enlarge
Issue: 20 Pesos.

Mexico issued its first polymer note, a 20 Pesos, on 30 September 2002. Details of the note were announced at a pre-issue launch on 8 September 2002 which gave bank tellers, other high volume cash handlers and the public in general some three weeks in which to familiarise themselves with the characteristics of the new note. Its launch coincided with a visit to Mexico of Australia's Treasurer Peter Costello for an APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Conference) Finance Minister's meeting and he was in attendance at the launch which was hosted by Banco de Mexico Governor Guillermo Ortiz Martinez.

This issue was a long time coming as it was about February 2001 when it first became known to the collecting fraternity that Mexico was to embark on the polymer journey.

As it transpired, one of the reasons for the elapsed time was that part of the issue was printed in Australia by Note Printing Australia (NPA) and part was printed in Mexico by the Printing Works of Banco de Mexico using polymer sheets supplied by Securency, the joint venture between the Reserve Bank of Australia and UCB of Belgium. This was not a concurrent process. Mexican officials attended NPA to participate in the Australian printing and to learn the intricacies of printing on polymer. Upon conclusion of this process, thought to be about December 2001, the completed notes were shipped to Mexico. Australian technicians then travelled to Mexico to assist in the printing of the second run of notes at the Banco de Mexico Printing Works.

Banco de Mexico entered into a technology transfer agreement with Securency for the supply of press ready polymer sheets sufficient to produce 425 million 20 Pesos polymer notes. Deliveries of the polymer sheets are contracted through 2003.

At the launch of the note on 8 September, 2002 , the Governor Ortiz Martinez advised that of the initial issue 50 % was printed in Australia and 50% was printed in Mexico. Further printing is to occur during 2003 and possibly later; it is intended that all future printing will occur in Mexico. Ortiz Martinez also added that subject to a successful evaluation of this issue, then Mexico would consider converting fully to polymer. (It currently issues 50, 100, 200 & 500 Pesos notes in paper.) Thus the acquisition of the polymer sheets from Securency under the current arrangements is for the 20 Pesos exclusively.

At the time of issue, there were about 130 million of the paper 20 Pesos in circulation. Therefore this order for 425 million notes, given the enhanced durability represents several years requirements.

To date, a way of determining which notes were printed in Australia and which notes were printed in Mexico has not been identified.

As the design of this note is very similar to the paper 20 Pesos it replaces, the transition was relatively smooth. Full conversion and phasing out of the 20 Pesos paper note is expected to take about two years. The security features of the new issue are of course quite different and there are many subtle design differences. A description of the note and its security features follows.

Mexico - P116 - 20 Pesos - Front
Mexico - P116 - 20 Pesos - Front
Mexico - P116 - 20 Pesos - Back
Mexico - P116 - 20 Pesos - Back

Description: A portrait of Benito Juarez is the dominant feature on the front of the note. Juarez of native stock, was largely self- educated, became a lawyer, a judge and Minister of Justice. He supported the oppressed and opposed the dictatorship of General Santa Anna. There were very turbulent times in Mexico in the 1850's & 1860's. Juarez served two terms as President of Mexico; he died in office in 1872. He was a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln with whom he held similar views and they apparently corresponded at length over a number of years.

At the centre of the note is a design very similar to the coat of arms of Mexico. Based on an ancient Aztec sign, the design features an eagle perched on its left leg on a cactus branch and fruits as it holds a rattle snake in the other leg and its beak. Below the cactus are oak branches (left) symbolising strength and laurel branches (right) symbolising victory. Here the eagle is front-on with wings spread, whereas on the coat of arms its wings are partly furled and it is depicted in left profile.

The decree date authorising the issue of these notes (17 May, 2001) is towards the left near the see through window accompanied by the imprint "Mexico DF" - Federal District.

At bottom left is the name "J. PERAL"; it is thought that this is the designer of the note. Clarification of this is awaited. In the sloping left side of the box containing the word "PESOS" at the very bottom right of the note is the imprint "M. SASIAN GRAB." "GRAB" is thought to be an abbreviated form of "grabado" being "engraver" in Spanish with "M. SASIAN," the name of the engraver. Again clarification is awaited.

Also at bottom right (extreme) are the words "Banco de Mexico" followed by the letters "FB" in a stylised form. This denotes the printer with the "FB" representing Fabrica de Billetes or note printing factory / works. All notes observed to date have this imprint, possibility including those printed in Australia.

A monument to Benito Juarez , "Hemiciclo A Juarez", features on the back of the note with a backdrop of stone archways and a resting lion. This monument sculptured from white marble sourced from Carrara in Italy was designed by architect Guillermo de Heredia. It was inaugurated by President Porfirio Diaz on 18 September 1910 (the year of the 100th anniversary of independence). It is located in the centre of Mexico City.

"M SASIAN GRAB." also appears at the bottom right on the back of the note in small print. Both the Peral and Sasian imprints appear on the paper 20 Pesos.

Security Features: Those discrete to this note include:
(a) A see through window with a white border at the far left containing the denomination numeral "20" on a background of diagonal lines. The "embossing" of these lines and the denomination numeral is quite pronounced and is readily felt at a touch which of course serves as an aid to the visually impaired.
(b) Bars printed in magnetic ink located underneath the serial number at the top left. There are notes with two bars and notes with three bars.
(c) A seven digit serial number with an alpha prefix all in red at the top left. The series letter is shown twice; once at top right and also diagonally to the immediate right of the see through window.
(d) An imitation security thread.
(e) The denomination numeral "20" as a latent image or under-print in the style of a watermark to the right of Juarez's portrait. "20" is shown twice - once in the normal manner and below that as a mirror image.
(f) The denomination numeral "20" as a perfect registration device when viewed from both sides of the note. On the front, it is to the right of Juarez's portrait.
(g) Underneath the perfect registration device is Juarez's signature in fine lines.
(h) When the note is held at certain angles, a series of dots in raised (intaglio) print appears of the front of the note. The arrangement of the dots is in the form of the appropriate printed design. They appear in "BANCO DE MEXICO" above the serial number, in the eagle and in the branches on which it stands, in the denomination identifiers "20", "VEINTE" and "PESOS" on the bottom of the note and in the horizontal band also along the bottom of the note.
(i) Micro printing of "BANCO DE MEXICO" between parallel lines towards the top, left and bottom of the front of the notes and at top and bottom on the back.
(j) Intricate fine line drawings in complex and variable geometric patterns on both sides of the note.
(k) A large area of the back of the note glows lightly when exposed to ultra- violet light.

Series, Prefixes and Serial Number:

Mexico has retained its traditional method of numbering its banknotes rather than adopting the system which has become synonymous with NPA polymer. Mexico operates a series system (Series A, B, C, D, E, F etcetera) Each serial number is alpha numeric; a single letter prefix followed by a 7 digit number. There is only one serial number to the 20 Pesos note, in red at the top left on the front.

There seem to be two different prefixes (sub-series) per series letter. For example, series "A" covers prefixes "A" and "B", series "B" covers prefixes "C" and "D" and so forth. It is understood that the letters "I" and "O" are not used for series or prefix designations.

From observation, the initial issue seems to have stopped at series "M", prefix "Z". For this issue, it seems that only one prefix letter of the two available was used for most series letters. There were exceptions and more work is being done in this area.

(Series "L" both prefixes, ""W" and "X" and series "M" both prefixes, "Y" and "Z" were identified in the initial issue. For all other series letters, just one prefix, the first in the sequence was observed (eg series "A", prefix "A"; series "B", prefix "C" etc). Over three months after issue, series "J" prefix "T" appeared to complement the already observed prefix "S". It is not certain whether this pattern and the later appearance of "J - T" reflects different print runs or the quirks of the distribution system. Those prefixes not yet observed may appear in the future.)

Bar Varieties:

Two varieties have been identified. Vertical bars printed in magnetic ink are located directly below the serial number. One variety has 2 such bars and the other variety has 3 bars. It appears that certain series and prefix letters will apply to certain bar varieties. From notes observed, the 2 bar notes contain the series letters "A" to "F" (and prefixes "A" to "L"- and possibly "A" to "M" if it appears in the future). No satisfactory explanation has been received as to why there are these bar varieties - the standard response is "security feature". It seems there could be more to it.

Bar varieties are illustrated below.

Two bar speciman Three bar speciman
Two BarThree Bar

Signature 1

Signature 2

Signature 3

Signature 4

Signature 5

I have ascribed numbers 1 to 5 in descending order to these signatories.

Each note has two signatures and five different combinations have been identified. The Cajero Principal (Chief Cashier) signs each note in combination with a member of the Junta Gobierno (Board of Governors) in rotation. There are five Junta members - the Governor and four Deputy or Sub - Governors.

The names of signatories are:
Governor - Guillermo Ortiz Martinez
Deputy Governors
- Jesus Marcos Yacaman
- Guillermo Guemez Garcia
- Jose Julian Sidaoui Dib
- Everardo Elizondo Almaguer.
Chief Cashier - Raul Sierra Otero.

The order in which I have listed the names of the Deputy Governors (above) is the order used by Bank de Mexico and perhaps it denotes seniority or some other designated order.

It appears there are five different signature combinations for each prefix. It also appears that the signature of the Governor is more common than that of an individual Deputy Governor although this may simply be another quirk of the distribution process.

Signatures are in horizontal format whereas on the paper equivalent, they are in vertical format.

Each bar variety also has five different signature combinations. So these notes may be collected in sets of ten. Indeed, many collectors are putting together signature sets of the 2 bar and 3 bar notes as well as the "A" prefix notes (2 bar only).

To date I have not been able to match all of the names to the signatures.

(It will be interesting to see if any further signatures come to light as the printing continues. Perhaps the signatories are incorporated in the 2001 authorisation for issue and hence they are now set.)

As well at that of the Cajero Principal (Raul Sierra Otero) - always at the right - the following Junta member signatures have been identified.

Signature 1 - Guillermo Ortiz Martinez - Governor (left). Otero at right.
Signature 4- Jose Julian Sidaoui Dib - Deputy Governor (left). Otero at right.


There is little wording on this note - no legal tender or anti - counterfeiting clause which is commonly seen.

Veinte - Twenty.

Junta de Gobierno - Board of Governors.

Cajero Principal - Chief Cashier.

Catalogue No:SCWPM P 116.
Precise Date of Issue: 30 September, 2002.
Numbers Issued: Expected to be 425 million.
Prefix Range:Series continuing. Commences with Series "A", Prefix "A".
Signatures:One of :
Governor - Guillermo Ortiz Martinez
Deputy Governors -
- Jesus Marcos Yacaman
- Guillermo Guemez Garcia
- Jose Julian Sidaoui Dib
- Everardo Elizondo Almaguer.
With Chief Cashier - Raul Sierra Otero.
Colour:Grey and multi-coloured.
Languages: Spanish.
Dimensions: 129 mm x 66 mm.
Printer: Note Printing Australia and Banco de Mexico Printing Works on Guardian polymer substrate.
Specimens: Assumed to exist.
Replacements: Not known for recent paper issues.
Country Ranking:Mexico is the 21st country to issue an NPA based polymer note.
Nepal issued a polymer note on the same day. Because of the arrangement of time zones, the Nepal issue is deemed to precede the Mexico issue. Mexico is accorded 21st ranking.
Printing Method:Intaglio.
Sheet size:60 notes per sheet.
Product:60 note sheet (6 columns x 10 down), 30 note half sheet (3 columns x 10 down), 20 note third sheet (2 columns by 10 down) and 5 note fragment of sheet (1 column x 5 down).
Further Information:

There is still much to be learnt about this issue; particularly given the varieties and the use of particular series letters and prefixes. Signatures also need to be matched with names. If anyone has information which clarifies the position, please contact me.


I am indebted to Ricardo Ramirez of Guadalajara, Mexico who has provided much assistance to me in the development of this module. Much of the information concerning names of signatories, available series and prefixes and general background information would not have been possible without his assistance. He has very kindly reviewed my work. Any errors are my responsibility.