When the German book printer, Christoph Froschauer, took over a Zurich printing company at the beginning of the 16th century, the history of the Orell Füssli company began. Forschauer is also known for the printing of the Zwingli/Froschau Bible in 1531. The name Orell Füssli is established in 1798 after a change of generations and owners – it is made up of the two families Orell and Füssli. As early as 1827, Orell Füssli enters the securities printing business and thus also the printing of security documents. Over the centuries, this tradition gave rise to the two other pillars as a publishing house and bookstore.
Orell Füssli starts with Escher Wyss
In 1827, the first security ever to be printed is a share in Orell Füssli's stock corporation "Escher Wyss & Cie.". At that time, the Escher Wyss company is still a cotton spinning mill. Two examples of the company – from 1838 and 1912 – show the evolution of the style of a company's securities. Both issued shares are part of the collection of the collection Stiftung Sammlung historischer Wertpapiere.
The aesthetics of the securities, the technology of the machines, the methods for counterfeit protection and the demands on securities of the buyers of securities change fundamentally during the 19th century.
In the second half of the 19th century, the securities, which are previously kept rather simple, become more elaborate. Owning shares is still a privilege, but a democratization process is beginning. Only after the Second World War will it be possible for the general population to invest their savings in shares.
The appearance of the share is intended to attract buyers and each industrialized nation has its own style of structuring the securities. Orell Füssli is a pioneer at the turn of the century when it came to colour lithographs (lithography is a flat printing process). In the course of the 20th century, however, the more elaborate designs of securities in Switzerland decrease, as they increasingly no longer stand as representatives of a company to the outside world, but end up in the vault of a bank.
From the beginning of the 20th century, new printing processes were introduced, and counterfeit protection became increasingly important: multi-coloured and multi-layered prints or guilloches were used. Guilloches are highly complex line patterns that are classified as largely forgery-proof – from 1926 to 1970, guilloche machines were used at Orell Füssli for this purpose. Orell Füssli invents its own special line screening process, which is used as the main process for the 6th series of Swiss banknotes from 1970 onwards.
1981 still goes down as a record year in securities printing, as the number then decreases continuously over the years. The Orell Füssli Ltd Security Printing still prints Swiss banknotes, passports and international currencies in District 3 on Dietzingerstrasse in Zurich. The machines run almost non-stop in the approximately 100-year-old building and keep the neighborhood on its toes with the omnipresent buzz, a muffled bass-like noise. Anti-counterfeiting methods have also changed. Today, the security measures are, for example, threads, watermarks or machine-readable security elements. Today, on the other hand, practically no securities are printed, the dry custody account statement must suffice.
And what will the future bring?
2021, Orell Füssli Security Printing, together with a technology company, will present the «Smart Banknote CBDC» solution with Distributed Ledger Technology. A so-called smart banknote is a physical banknote that interacts with a CBDC solution (Central Bank Digital Currency) and serves as a transitional solution between traditional and CBDC-based payment systems. A «Smart Banknote CBDC» should be able to be used like a traditional banknote. What is new is that the value of the note can be transferred to a digital wallet by scanning the QR code.