Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Holograms, modern seals on stock certificates

Present technology comes up with 3D vignettes
Old bonds and shares are very rarely seen with holograms embedded in their design. If you do spot them,  then the certificates are probably not older than 20 years. Not surprisingly modern printing technology is needed to produce them.

specimen stock certificate of the Golden Eagle International gold mining company, active in Bolivia, with hologram
Golden Eagle International, Inc., a company active in gold mining and copper mining in Boliva
specimen stock certificate for common shares of $0.0001, 1995
printed by Security-Columbian US Bank Note Co., a company part of the ABN group

The word hologram is derived from the Greek words holos, meaning 'whole' and graphos meaning 'description or image'. A hologram shows a whole object in a three dimensional way. When changing your view angle, new details of the object become visible. As you notice in this post, one can scan holograms just like any other vignette. But such attempts only yield a two dimensional image. Instead, a video should give you a better idea. As these so-called embedded holograms can only be seen under specific view angles, capturing these 'volumes' on video can be quiet challenging. 

Short video of the 'Golden Eagle' hologram

Some historical events
  • 1947 Denis Gabor invents holography (Nobel Prize for Physics in 1971)
  • 1958 Yuri Denisyuk invents volume holography (Lenin Prize in 1970)
  • 1962 first laser transmission hologram in 1962 (Emmett Leith and Juris Upatnieks)
  • 1968 transmission holograms can be seen in ordinary light (Stephen Benton)
  • 1979 Steve McGrew, working with the Diffraction Company, develops an embossing mass production technique for surface relief holograms
  • 1982 MasterCard adds a hologram to its payment cards to combat fraud
  • 1989 Holograms appear on banknotes (the Austrian 500 schilling)
  • 1995 Iraq uses a hologram on its passport
  • 1999 The Royal Canadian Mint issues coins that feature a hologram

share of the American Bank Note Holographics company with hologram
American Bank Note Holographics, Inc.
Stock certificate for common shares of $0.01
printed by American Bank Note Co., issued 2003
American Bank Note Holographics appears on the scene

In the 1980s ABNH is established as a subsidiary of American Bank Note Co. The market for holographic printing to deter counterfeiting looked promising. ABNH's first customers include Visa and Mastercard, Hallmark, and National Geographic. March 1984, the company produced a 3-D eagle, only 300 millionths of a centimeter thick, for the cover of NG magazine. By 1988, ABN Holographics represented almost 30 percent of the company's revenues of $81 million, helping the company move into the black after a net loss of $6.7 million in 1987.

In 1991 the Soviet Union came to an end. As a result, the stock exchanges established in the new countries of the former USSR offered new opportunities for contracts to print stock certificates.

Russian share certificate with hologram
ХОПЁР НЕГОЦИАНТ company ("Hopper Investment")
specimen certificate for 2 shares
American Bank Note Co., end 1990s

By the mid 1990s, American Banknote Holographics was producing more than 500 million holograms per year on credit cards, software and product packaging, drivers' licenses and also national identification cards for countries like the People's Republic of China . In 1998, ABN wanted to sustain growth on their primary businesses, transaction cards and printing services, and decided to sell ABNH.

Holograms, modern seals on today's certificates

Holograms on bank notes and securities are used for both authentication and promotional purposes. By embedding a hologram in a certificate counterfeiting becomes extremely difficult. The often stunning visual effect of a hologram attracts attention and offers unique possibilities for brand differentation. In this respect, holograms can be seen as the modern equivalents of the traditional seals.


My favourite hologram ? As a child, I saw Prinses Leia's hologram in the movie Star Wars (1977). What's yours ?

Reference links


  1. To my readers,

    I was not able to find further information on the ХОПЁР НЕГОЦИАНТ company. Maybe it was related to the ХОПЁР pyramid scheme company. Can anyone tell us more on this ?


  2. A wonderful, and often overlooked area of collecting: stocks and bonds that contain holograms. Their level of security-related embedded coding is absolutely mind-boggling. What the human eye sees is a small fraction of the information that a hologram contains. Like Alice's mirror, one could get lost inside . . .