DO YOU REMEMBER THOSE SCENES in movies like National Treasure, where there turn out to be hidden clues embedded in innocuous places, like the pyramid with the eye on American money?

Well, in fact there’s something a lot like that in real life.

If you have a 20 dollar bill, 50 South African rand, some Thai baht, Ugandan shillings, pounds, euro, dinar, gulden, zloty, or about 50 other currencies, pull it out and take a closer look at the designs on the note. Chances are you’ll pick up a constellation of five dots repeated over and over in a certain section of the note. Sometimes they appear as empty circles, sometimes they are zeroes (on dollar bills), and sometimes they are disguised as a different kind of design element. But in all cases, they will be there, and ordered in the same basic arrangement.



The pattern is called the EURion, and is used to tell computers and photocopiers that the piece of paper they’re looking at is in fact money, so that devices will refuse to print you a windfall. Yes, apparently there are people who try to print money using photoshop and their own printer to the extent that it warranted adding a pattern to many of the notes in the world that a computer can pick up in order to tell you that you are being naughty and refuse to comply. More importantly, however, is just how widespread the pattern actually is across the world’s paper money, compared to the number of people who actually know it exists.

So the next time you’re stuck in a foreign country, and want to sound pretentious, pull out your biggest bill (the pattern is more prevalent on high-value notes) and explain that the Secret World Government is branding all of our currency in secret with their inscrutable five-pointed thingamabob.