Rarely seen and even less touched in everyday life: the 1,000-franc note (around 1,000 euros) accounts for more than half (57%) of the banknote value in circulation in Switzerland.
This content was published on September 19, 2022 – 15:15
Its predominant color is purple and the image that immediately catches your eye is that of two hands clasping each other. However, what makes the “Ant”, as it was called in the late 1970s because the series then in circulation had three ants on the reverse, unique is that it is the most expensive banknote in the world.
Until recently, this record was held by Singapore and the Sultanate of Brunei. The city-state used to issue 10,000 Singapore dollar bills (about 6,600 euros at today’s exchange rate) but decided in 2014 to stop circulating them. This decision was motivated by the rise of electronic payments and the need to combat money laundering. The Sultanate of Brunei (whose currency is pegged to Singapore’s) took the same action in November 2020 by ending issuance of $10,000 bills. However, both banknotes retain their legal value, although they are gradually being phased out.
History knows other examples of high-quality banknotes. For example, in the United States, although rare, $10,000 bills circulated until 1969, when they were phased out.
A very common banknote
For its part, Switzerland never wanted to do without the 1,000-franc note.
I personally have not often found myself with one or more “ants” in my hands. The only times were a few years ago when payslips were real payslips, with real money (or rather bills) and people still went to the post office with cash and slips to pay at the end of the month. I don’t think I’ve touched a 1,000-franc note since then. It never occurred to me to hide my savings under the bed.
However, according to the Swiss National Bank (SNB), this note remains very popular “not only as a means of payment, but also as a store of value”. The CHF 1000 banknotes account for no less than 57% of the value of all banknotes in circulation. Of this, over 48 million were spent (total value of over 48 billion Swiss francs). For comparison: 140 million 100-franc notes are in circulation – this is the most common banknote in Switzerland.
A million in… 10 centimeters
Similar to Singapore or the European Union, which stopped producing €500 banknotes in 2019, there have also been vague attempts in Switzerland to question the need for banknotes of such a denomination to circulate. When the revision of the federal currency unit and means of payment bill came to the benches in Parliament in 2017, the left and certain organizations such as Transparency International had warned that these banknotes could also easily be used for criminal activities. .
One figure is enough to understand these fears: A bundle of 1,000 banknotes worth CHF 1 million is only 10 centimeters thick and weighs 1 kilogram. For comparison: $1 million in 100 bills weighs about 10 kilograms.
An unfounded fear? For the federal government yes. In response to the interpellation of a socialist MP, the Federal Council pointed out in 2016 that neither the Federal Office of Police nor the Money Laundering Reporting Office had received “reports of suspicious cases in which the use of 1,000-franc notes could make sense”.
While “aware that cash can be misused for criminal purposes,” the government continued, “there is no suspicion that high-denomination banknotes pose a particular risk.”
In short, the “ant” – to adapt to the new graphics, however, we should say the “handshake” – still has a bright future ahead of it.
Translated from the Italian by Samuel Jaberg
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