Jim Mitchell

The mind-boggling optical illusions on the new $50 note

The mind-boggling optical illusions on the new $50 note

While the new Australian $50 note, just released by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), may look similar to the old one, it may just blow your mind. The freshly minted banknote has some very clever optical illusions built into it, designed to prevent forgery.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself, or see others, holding the new note in the air, titling it, and waving it from side to side, transfixed.

Look closely at the vertical clear panel. If you tilt the note, it looks as if a black swan is taking flight.

Below the swan sits a church with the number 50 embossed on it. Move it side to side, and the number reverses.

There are also two floral patches with a “rolling colour effect” – they change colour as you tilt them up and down.

You can see a visual demonstration here:


Apart from being fun optical illusions to play with before you hand over your brand spanking new $50 note, the additions will make it “very difficult for counterfeiters” to reproduce, says RBA Assistant Governor Lindsay Boulton, according to news.com.au.  

The new banknote follows on from the new $5 (released in 2016) and $10 note (released in 2017) with the inclusion of a tactile feature for the vision impaired. The $5 note has one dot, the $10 has two, and now the $50 has four (presumably the upcoming $20 will have four), to help those affected differentiate between denominations.

It’s an important addition given the $50 note is Australia’s most widely circulated banknote (46 per cent of all banknotes) and the one most dispensed by ATMs.

Chris Edwards, who lost his eyesight in his teens, told the website the innovation would make a huge impact on his life.

“When you go to your ATM, the $50 is the note that often gets spit out. While I’ve been confident using a $5 or $10 note to buy a coffee, now I feel much more confident in paying with cash for a meal for the family or a round of drinks for my friends,” he said.

The introduction of the tactile feature has an inspiring backstory. Connor McLeod of NSW, who is blind, decided to take action when he realised that he couldn’t count the money his grandmother had given him. The 13-year-old started a petition, signed by tens of thousands of people, taking his idea to the Human Rights Commission and Vision Australia.

The new $50 note is in circulation from today, with the new $20 and $100 notes due in 2019 and 2020.

Will you be trying out the optical illusions on the new $50 note? Tell us in the comment section below.