GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Curious members of the public and tourists can now learn about the Bank of Mexico’s inner workings by visiting the central bank’s new printing plant in El Salto, a city in the western state of Jalisco, where some 500 million bills are produced annually.
The idea behind the visits is to “open the doors of the Bank of Mexico (and explain) the process of supplying bills and coins to the national economy,” Alejandro Alegre, the central bank’s director of currency issuance, told EFE.
The official said that some 126 million people in Mexico use paper bills and coins, while about 40 million tourists also use the Mexican peso.
“We want to share everything that’s behind the manufacturing of bills with them,” Alegre said.
The new plant, which started operating in November 2018, produces about one-third of the 1.5 billion bills made in Mexico each year by the central bank, known as the Banxico.
The El Salto plant has been focusing on printing 500-peso bills (worth about $26 at the current exchange rate), whose design includes an image of former President Benito Juarez, who governed Mexico from 1858 to 1872, for the second time.
One of the plant’s most closely guarded secrets is the image on the new 200-peso paper bill, which will go into circulation in September and is the second bill in the new currency “family” designed by the central bank.
“The plant in Mexico City is celebrating 50 years of operation and was very close to its production capacity, and we had to grow, so the Banxico decided to manage its risk better and have a production facility at another location, that’s why Jalisco was selected for the second plant,” the central bank official said.
The production of a bill is a slow process that can take up to four months from the time the paper goes into the first printing press until the bills leave the vaults of the Banxico and go into circulation, passing from hand to hand.
Before a bill ends up in the hands of the public, it must go through a drying, quality control and security process, the central bank official said.
Anyone who has ever held Mexican currency has noticed that some bills are smoother than others and some are longer, Alegre said, adding that the reason for this was that low-denomination bills were printed using a plastic polymer imported from Australia, while other bills were printed on a cotton base imported from Europe.
Once a bill is designed, the sheets of paper go through an initial printing process similar to offset printing, with a mold and ink, adding the elements on the back side and part of the front side, and letting the sheets dry for several days.
Using a process known as “in taglio,” a special ink is injected into the bills as a security feature to prevent counterfeiting.
Later, the bills undergo another process that adds the watermarks that change color when exposed to light.
The serial numbers and finish that protect the bills are added in the final printing phase before quality control and cutting.
If the bills meet the Bank of Mexico’s standards, they are packed in bags and stored in a special vault until ready to go into circulation.
Alegre said each bill goes through a four-stage quality control process to ensure that it meets all the standards set for printing.
“Once the bills are cut down to size, we have equipment ... through which we verify at a velocity of 44 bills per second that the printing is correct. It’s a very meticulous process, very rigorous in terms of quality,” the Bank of Mexico official said.
Bills rejected because of printing errors or for failing to meet the quality control standards are shredded to prevent anyone from using them.
Alegre said it was important for the public to understand how money is produced because it would help fight counterfeiting.
“We’re interested in talking with them and inviting our users to get into the habit of checking their bills, just like when you check the expiration dates on medicines or perishable products, it doesn’t take an expert,” the Mexican central bank official said.
People interested in taking a guided tour of the money printing plant can make a reservation and register online at the Bank of Mexico website.