articles and essays

“The Intrinsic Value of Valuable Paper”


Authentication devices transform cheap paper into legitimate documents. They are the sensory, informational, and computational features that make up valuable papers like banknotes and passports, and they provide the confidence required in moments of exchange and passage. These devices – which include techniques like watermarks and specialized threads, proprietary substrates and inks, or RFID chips – are the product of security printing, an industry that continuously reinvents the possibilities of paper. Importantly, these components protect paper things from counterfeiting, allowing it to function as an original and authentic copy and to do the logistical work of connecting quotidian materials to global networks. The value of valuable papers is therefore not purely extrinsic, socially or discursively established, but is also performed through its intrinsic material qualities. These are the authentication devices that are read, assessed, and trusted as paper things are circulated, and they are what securely connects paper to infrastructures of mobility.

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