FERRARA, Special to the Daily News - Sunday, February 3, 2002
Bednar, a Pennsylvania native, spent 25 years making American documents
foolproof. Now he's hoping to have fun, and inspire philanthropy, with
all the tricks he's developed. Bednar is a document security specialist,
devising secret identifying marks for documents for the U.S. Treasury and
bank-note companies that make stock certificates, passports and stamps.
Incorporating devices such as invisible fluorescent fibers, chemically
sensitive paper and "optically dead pulp" ?which remains dark under ultraviolet
light, offering a distinctive silhouette ?Bednar has developed over the
years a variety of ways to protect official papers against counterfeiting.
he retired in 2000, Bednar came up with an idea to put all that knowledge
of bank notes and counterfeit business to use in a creative way. He started
producing his own bank notes.
me feel good was when I would write a check to a charity, no matter how
small the check was," said Bednar, of Naples. "And what I was good at was
the bank-note business, the paper security, and so forth.
"So I took
these ideas home with me and sat down on the beach looking out on the gulf
thinking, 'Why couldn't I create an art piece and attach it to a charity
and see if there was some way I could use this art piece to raise money
for charities?'" Why not, he decided, design bank notes resembling real
currency that made more artistic use of the medium and also provide a product
for collectors and the potential of raising funds for charitable organizations?
His notes ?trademarked Banknote Art ?commemorate significant historical
events or honor notable personalities and specific organizations, employing
every trick in the trade to be sure each note is laden with hidden secrets
and unique security features.
notes are pretty dull. But there are some smaller foreign countries that
use beautiful colors for their bank notes, and I think our stuff has gorgeous
colors. That's what we're trying to do, show by color that there's a big
difference in what we do," said Bednar.
behind the artistic design of the bank notes is Christopher McCauley, an
artist who designed notes for the American Banknote Co., a main source
of U.S. stock certificates, bonds, checks and other prints.
are done by Richard Baratz, a stamp and currency engraver who, among other
things, engraved the stamp honoring the 25th anniversary of the lunar landing.
Baratz's precision, finely lined engravings are the result of "two irreplaceable
instruments ?his forefinger and his thumb." "He does that all by hand,"
contribution is an expertise in security detail that has given him work
in what he jokingly refers to as his retirement. Only last week, he says,
he met with Guatemalan election officials to incorporate security devices
into the country's ballots to prevent a widespread problem with fraud.
With his Naples
Bank Notes, however, the work is more fun.
Bednar is an
alumnus of the University of Scranton, where he is on the board of trustees,
but one of his first pieces of Banknote Art was the Penn State Million
note. It was an idea of his wife, Barbara, a Penn State alumna; 60 percent
of the note's proceeds go toward his and his wife's Penn State scholarship
of the note is an image of the college's mascot, the Nittany Lion, but
strewn covertly around its face are all kinds of relevant numbers, ultraviolet
images and symbols. For instance, hidden within the lathe work is the number
"1955" and an atomic symbol, referencing the date of President Eisenhower's
Atoms for Peace program: Penn State was the first university federally
licensed to operate a nuclear reactor. The serial number of the note ?
97498 ?represents the largest crowd ever to gather in the school's Beaver
Stadium. Tidbits like these are just a few of the details that Bednar loves
to incorporate into his notes.
"Why put all
these things in there? My answer to that is because I want to," said Bednar.
"For 25 years I had to be very quiet about what I did, and I couldn't talk
about any of these things. But now I can, and people have to know how many
features are in these bank notes and how neat it is. "I do a lot
of background info on my project before I begin," Bednar said.
"Then I pretty
much tell Chris what's in my head, then he comes up with the design and
refines it. We decide after that just what the engraving is going to be,
then we go to Richard Baratz and he goes to work on getting it engraved.
So I tell the two of them what I want and they do most of the talking during
the process. It usually takes about five or six weeks." Baratz and McCauley
both live near Philadelphia, which makes conferring on the project convenient.
Bednar usually stays in contact by phone and meets with his team on occasion.
Bednar also explained some of the features he uses to authenticate his
bank notes. "I really like the microprinting. Really good microprinting
is hard to do.
Not only that,
but when you copy it, it comes up as a broken or distorted line, so it's
a very good security feature. I also like the polyester thread in the paper.
I think we're the first commercial company in the U.S. to be able to put
thread in a paper." Of all his bank notes, Bednar is most proud of one
he created in honor of fallen firefighters, called "Our Everyday Heroes."
After the release
of "Our Everyday Heroes" Bednar came up with another design depicting six
firefighters called "The Worcester Six." in commemoration of another famous
firefighter event of historical significance.
produced 70 pieces of his Banknote Art for the local International College
to help with its "Carry the Torch" fund-raising campaign. The note shows
the college's tower with its pyramid-like Carreras sculpture in the foreground.
Portions of the note are laced with "Laser Lock" ink, only visible through
the use of a special laser pen. Bednar donated the notes at no charge to
"I was just
amazed when I saw them," said Louis Traina, International College's vice
president of institutional advancement. "The security on these is far superior
than our actual currency." Just for fun, Bednar hid Traina's name in the
artwork. "I know he's got my name in there somewhere, I just haven't found
it yet. I think I need a magnifying glass," Traina laughed.
from the Naples Bank Note Co. include a commemorative Million Euro note
(one of the company's trademarked "Banknotables"), a commemorative of race-car
driver Dale Earnhardt and a bank note in honor of golfer Arnold Palmer.
Banknote Art is usually sized 11 by 14 inches, convenient for a frame or
collector's book. Pictures and information regarding Banknote Art and Banknotables
can be found at the company's Web site, www.banknotables.com.
he is dedicated to seeing that his bank notes are recognized for their
charitable value. He has a patent pending for Banknote Art as a fund-raising
tool. He knows he may get skepticism for handling the bank-note endeavor
as a company, but the outgo has far surpassed the income so far.
"And if I charge
$30 to someone for a bank note, they still can make $60 or $80 or $100
for one," Bednar said. "I think that once this idea takes off, there's
no way that people who want to help charities out can ignore this as a
fund-raiser," said Bednar. "I'm hoping that people start to take an interest
in what I'm doing, and maybe someone will even come forward and champion
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