With Great Currency Comes Great Responsiblty

This sentence is free of typographical errors (hopefully). Thsi oen, hoewvre, is amolst a compelte adn ttoal ditaser. And yet, you can still read it.

Which explains how this happened.

Pictured above is the reverse side of the Australian $50 note, issued in October 2018. The redesign featured enhanced security features, as listed on this pdf, here: among other things, there is a clear circle in the bottom-left showing an open book, the “50” is textured, and — important for our purposes today, there is microtext. The lawn in front of the building? If you look carefully, it contains the words from a speech by Edith Cowan, Australia’s first female member of Parliament. 

And that microtext? It has a problem.

Don’t see it? Well, don’t feel like it was your responsibitltrlltlty… I mean, responsibility. Let’s zoom in a bit.

Still don’t see it? Again, not your job. But it’s mine to point it out, I guess! So, here we go.

“Responsibilty.” One “I” — when it needs two. The one in “bility” is missing.

News of the typo hit the media in May of 2019. By then, the Australian government had already minted 46 million of the notes, according to the Washington Post, causing embarrassment among the 25 million Australians who had been using the typo-laden money. But it wasn’t new to the government. According to the Australian publication The Age, a tipster had made them aware in the previous December, but authorities didn’t want to immediately take responsibility (heh) for the error. It was too late to make a change, though; by then, the problem was simply too big to reverse, at least immediately. The government had already issued millions of AU$50 notes with the error, the equivalent of about two per Australian citizen. As recalling all the error notes was a fool’s errand, the government decided to just let them be. 

The notes with the missing “i” will go away eventually — per the Post, “the central bank has announced that the misspelled notes already in circulation will eventually be replaced — even though that might take some time,” through the normal course note replacement. Newer AU$50 notes won’t have the typo, but the old ones aren’t going to be removed from circulation until they reach their natural state of retirement. As a result, the bills with the typo aren’t worth anything extra. 

Bonus fact: If you cut your AU$50 note in half to remove the typo, you’re costing yourself money if you throw out the half with the error. According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, “a banknote with a significant piece missing is classified as incomplete. These banknotes may not be worth full value because the Reserve Bank needs to take into account the possibility that pieces of the banknote may be presented for value separately. The Reserve Bank’s policy is for the value of each piece of a banknote to be proportional to the part of the banknote remaining.” If you cut a bill in half, therefore, each half is only worth 50% of the note’s value. 

From the Archives: Fruit Loopholes: Another story about a typo. One with actual consequences!